Monday October 18, 2021

India finding extremely difficult to make a return to Afghanistan

India finding extremely difficult to make a return to Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD: India is finding extremely difficult to make a return to Afghanistan since it has throughout been siding with the anti-Taliban forces in that country for more than two decades. Well-placed diplomatic sources told The News on Sunday that a meeting between would-be foreign minister of Taliban Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai and Indian ambassador in Qatar last week turned up as a non-starter. New Delhi is mulling to appoint a special envoy for dealing with Taliban and for the purpose it has approached Iran and Russia to solicit their support for facilitation.

The sources pointed out that India is approaching China for finding areas of commonality and shared interests with Beijing on the Afghan front, despite the increasingly fraught relations that have constituted bilateral interactions over recent years with China. A war-prone and conflict-ridden Afghanistan can undermine China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative of which CPEC is the flagship project. China must also reckon with Pakistan’s interests and concerns, with Pakistan clearly having an interest in not being compelled to take in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of refugees. A major source of GDP growth in Afghanistan over the years has been aid money but Taliban are not interested in any aid from India.

The Indian government is facing severe criticism on the subject of refugees and humanitarian aid in the country as it has been not doing enough on this count. Indian Ministry for External Affairs (MEA) hastily declared that only Hindus and Sikhs were welcome as refugees from Afghanistan. Such a decision was not only poorly made, but equally poorly communicated. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar now has changed his stance, offering to take in all refugees but the goodwill India had built up over the years amongst the Afghan population has been severely dented. About 140 Indians and members of the Sikh minority still remain in Kabul, and need to be brought back. India has thus far transported 565 people, including 112 Afghan nationals to Delhi. The numbers have been far lower than other countries like the US, which has evacuated 122,000 people, including more than 100,000 Afghan nationals. In some measure, it is due to the fact that the Indian government has security concerns and is strictly regulating any visas, and in some measure as it is unable to ensure the safe evacuation of people wishing to travel.

India is reportedly satisfied that the Taliban leader assured the Indian ambassador that all the issues would be “positively addressed”. Stanekzai, who trained and graduated from the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun, called India to continue its political and trade ties with Afghanistan, and pursue connectivity projects. India has assured Taliban that it will be recalibrating its earlier position on the Taliban as a terrorist group.

India had been expressing concerns about the Haqqani Group, which is a part of the Taliban and Taliban Deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani. Indians have been blaming without any evidence that the Haqqani Group was responsible for the attacks on the Indian Embassy in 2008-2009. The attacks had left more than 75 people, including Indian diplomats, dead.