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At the doorstep

The surreal speed at which the Taliban occupied Kabul and the manner in which the Afghanistan government crumbled will go down as one of the big tragedies of this era.

At the doorstep
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New Delhi

It paves the way for this fundamentalist group of insurgents to take Afghanistan back to what it was two decades ago, before the American forces ousted them. While the legitimacy of that American intervention may be questionable, nobody with even a modicum of decency would want Afghanistan to revert to its gory and bigoted past – one in which other religious denominations were persecuted and killed, where girls were barred from schools, where regressive Islamic laws were passed, and where women were robbed of their independence and dignity.

President Joe Biden is being blamed squarely for this mess, and indeed he must take the responsibility for the humiliating exit and for allowing Afghanistan to spin out of control so quickly. But it is important to remember that it was his predecessor Donald Trump who signed a deal to stop warring with the Taliban, a process which saw them growing stronger and bringing more and more territory under their control. The rushed evacuation from Kabul reveals the total lack of any agreement on securing even a semblance of a political deal before the US withdrew.

The Taliban’s resurgence has enormous strategic implications for the region. New Delhi in particular is worried about the strengthening of the jihadi ecosystem in the region. While the Taliban is regarded as having no transnational agenda, the same cannot be said for other groups such as the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which are supported by Pakistan’s deep state and which have carried out attacks on India. Once again, in American eyes, Pakistan will become an important frontline state to keep militant activities in check, something it has done less than half-heartedly. China has already sought assurances from the Taliban, about staying away from the problem concerning its restive and heavily oppressed Uighur Muslim population.

It is not clear yet how New Delhi will play its diplomatic cards. It may be pushed to contact with, even befriend, the new dispensation since other countries in the region have already done so. Whether it will take the high moral ground and declare its support only for a democratically elected government remains to be seen. The smart course may be to watch the situation closely and see how things develop on the ground.

Senior intelligence officials in India as well as the members of defence’s top brass and foreign policy establishment were reported to have reviewed the rapid developments in Afghanistan on Monday, a day following the takeover of the nation by the Taliban.

The world has moved on since 2001 and it is unlikely that the international community will be prepared to allow the Taliban to revert to its violent and ultra-regressive ways. Strategically, it is vital to see that Afghanistan and its border with Pakistan do not become a breeding ground for terror groups. At the same time, New Delhi should stand firm with other nations in opposing all forms of religious totalitarianism.

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