The assassination on September 20,2011, of Burhanuddin Rabbani, a Tajik leader of Afghanistan, is of strategic significance to India.
Rabbaniwas the President of Afghanistan in the 1990s when Benazir Bhutto was the Prime Minister ( 1993-96) of Pakistan. After the Taliban captured power in Kabul in September,1996, he became a prominent leader of the Tajik-dominant Northern Alliance motivated by the late Ahmed Shah Masood which played an active role in assisting the US post-9/11 in the defeat of the Taliban. It was Rabbani who, with Benazir’s concurrence, allowed Osama bin Laden to shift from Khartoum in the Sudan to Jalalabad in Afghanistan when the Sudan came under pressure from the US to act against bin Laden. When the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996 it took bin Laden under its protection and shifted him to Kandahar where Mulla Mohammad Omar, the Amir of the Taliban, and its Shura were also based.
The assassination has strategic implications for India. It could weaken the Tajik leadership, which has been an objective ally of India. It could weaken Karzai with whom India has built up an excellent working relationship.
In the subsequent fighting between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, Al Qaeda and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) helped the Taliban while a triumvirate consisting of India, Russia and Iran supported the Northern Alliance. The success of Al Qaeda in having Masood assassinated through an Arab suicide bomber a day before the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US Homeland could not dent the fighting capability of the Northern Alliance, which paved the way for the victory of the US forces, which defeated the Taliban and captured power in Afghanistan after freeing the country from the control of the Taliban.
Subsequently under pressure from Gen.Pervez Musharraf, who viewed the Northern Alliance as a pro-India and anti-Pakistan group, the Alliance and its leaders found themselves marginalised in the new dispensation in Kabul—with the blessings of the US.