Should India Fall into Taliban’s Trap?
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 29 Sep , 2023

Since coming to power in August 2021, Taliban de facto authorities desperately need to establish their legitimacy and recognition as the legitimate Afghan Government by individual Governments and international bodies such as the United Nations (UN).

Without inclusivity it is difficult for the Taliban to persuade countries to legitimize the Taliban-led government. In the absence of democratic process of elections or any other known methodologies Taliban has not established its legitimacy yet not withstanding that there are embassies of 15 countries currently operational in Kabul.

When the conflict started in Afghanistan, the Taliban congregated terror outfits from all over the world, some from Syria, Iraq, and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) also joined the Taliban to fight and drive the US out of Afghanistan. Can the Taliban ban ETIM or any other terror outfit from Afghan soil?

The Doha Agreement of 2020 between the US and the Taliban, to which the elected Government of Afghanistan was not invited, has yet, not published the full report and a part of the report remains secret.  As reported, “It contained a series of secret written and verbal agreements, including a contentious provision barring the U.S. from helping Afghan troops in their offensive operations against the Taliban. Ghani, who was largely cut out of the process, struggled to understand what the United States had agreed to and why, and, even when he did understand, he objected vigorously. Later, when the Taliban failed to deliver on commitments that it had made to the U.S., the Trump Administration ignored the violations.”

What is the Taliban’s Trap?

Taliban’s effort to position their ambassador in India started in July 2022, when a delegation from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) visited Kabul followed by the announcement of opening a ‘technical mission’ in Kabul. The Islamic Emirate started pushing for stationing of its representative at the Afghan Embassy in New Delhi. The man proposed for the post was Abdul Qahar Balkhi, a controversial spokesperson for the Islamic Emirate’s Foreign Ministry with a history of intimidating journalists with death threats.

The moment India recognizes the Taliban-led Afghanistan; the terror outfit will gain legitimacy resulting in countries recognising Taliban-led Afghanistan besides encouraging various terror groups operating in the world to gain power through the barrel of the gun. Recognition of the Taliban Government will put diplomats all over the world in an embarrassing situation to sit alongside the representatives of the terror groups and participate in debates besides allowing a terror group in the formulation of rules affecting world bodies and individual countries.

The trap they are trying to lay down is to force India one way or the other to recognize the Taliban. For that Taliban wanted to install their representative as an Ambassador in the Afghan mission in New Delhi.

Taliban seems to have realized that as long as the present Ambassador of Afghanistan to India, Farid Mamundzay remains in office, India will not recognize the Taliban-led Government and adopted their mechanization to gain legitimacy by attempting to insert its representative Qadir Shah in April this year.  Ambassador Farid has been appointed by a government elected by the people of Afghanistan and not by the Taliban-led arrangement

Thereafter Qadir Shah was nominated as the chargé d’affaires (CDA) in April this year by the Taliban de facto authorities through a statement made by Suhail Shaheen, head of Taliban’s Political Office in Doha, who called it a “rational move”.

The aim was to somehow or the other force India to accept a representative nominated by the Taliban which would give the Taliban legitimacy. What they want is legitimacy without going in for any elections. Taliban does not have any intentions to conduct elections knowing the fact that if they go for elections, they will lose.

The issue regarding the appointment of Mohammad Qadir Shah, to “supervise all tasks and responsibilities of the Embassy of Afghanistan in New Delhi, India” was dismissed by Ambassador Farid Mamundzay with the Embassy Diplomats and staff and it has been decided unanimously that the very basic issue of inducting a Taliban representative in the Afghan Embassy in New Delhi is unprincipled and illegal which goes against the interests of Afghan people and hence the orders of the Taliban has been rejected and not implemented in May this year.

Afghanistan’s Ambassador to India, Farid Mamundzay also alleged that ‘Taliban carries out such acts to make wider contacts within the international community. Taliban carries no legitimacy. No government has recognised their regime. The motive behind taking over the mission in such a way is to increase their contacts with the wider international community”.

It is important to note that Ambassador Farid Mamundzay’s appointment was sanctified after his credentials were presented to the President of India in March 2021. It is therefore not incumbent on the Afghan Embassy to take orders from the Taliban, a terror organisation.

Second, as far as the Taliban is concerned it has barely any support because it has been very aggressive and rude to the people of Afghanistan and it pursues Islamic punishments for offences committed within the country. So the trap the Taliban is trying to lay down is somehow or the other to force the Government of India to accept them.

The allegations levelled against Ambassador Mamundzay are again with an intention to evict from his office to make sure that the Taliban-nominated man is appointed as a CDA so that the Indian Government would have no option but to bring in a person from Taliban to head the Afghan Embassy in New Delhi. This is the Taliban’s big trap.

Therefore, India needs to understand what the Taliban’s intentions are and not to accept the Taliban’s representative inside the Afghan Embassy or that matter in India because that has the risks of terrorism in India. And to make sure that these allegations against the Ambassador need to be seen in a fair light to ensure that this is a trap laid for India to defame the present Afghan Ambassador to India.

Taliban to use their Representatives to create Terror cells in India

The Taliban will attempt to create terror cells in India through their nominated representative.

As reported in BBC news in 2021, Taliban’s Spokesman, Suhail Shaheen commented on Kashmir issue, “”As Muslims, we also have a right to raise our voice for Muslims in Kashmir, India or any other country”. It is important that the Government of India has considered these issues while allowing a representative of Taliban to stay on in India.

Taliban-appointed Qadir Shah’s presence in India is bound to pose a major security threat to India. The contacts, the sources and the channels of finance that the Taliban-appointed man has received from various sources need to be investigated.

It is fairly certain the moment India recognizes the Taliban, it has terror implications as the Taliban failed to guarantee a peaceful and just community in Afghanistan defying the Doha Peace Deal of 2020 by incubating terrorist groups that include the Taliban’s allies al-Qaeda, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and several Central Asian jihadis. The main group of concern that’s opposed to the Taliban is the Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K). As per the Fourteenth Report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, ‘There are indications that Al-Qaida is rebuilding operational capability, that TTP is launching attacks into Pakistan with support from the Taliban, that groups of foreign terrorist fighters are projecting threat across Afghanistan’s borders and that the operations of ISIL-K are becoming more sophisticated and lethal’.

Security Risks

The Taliban, being one of the militant outfits, had taken a lot of obligations from the Al-Qaeda, TTP, Uzbek militants and also Uyghur militants who have safe havens in Afghanistan now.

When the Taliban was fighting against the US and other foreign forces in Afghanistan, all these elements groups joined them including the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan  (TTP) which is also known as Pakistan Taliban in fact at some point in time they were at the same place, Uzbek militants and the elements from Xinjiang- the Uyghurs. TTP has not been extinct from Afghan soil at all despite the international community saying that there should be no militant groups inside the Afghan soil. Similarly, Al-Qaeda is not thrown out, ISIS is present in Afghanistan and it is beyond the control of the Taliban to control them. All these militant outfits aim to carry on with their ‘Jihad’.

What should be India’s Stand on Taliban?

India should have no problem in recognising Afghanistan provided the country is under a legitimate Government. Unfortunately, today Afghanistan is being ruled by a terror organisation. Keeping in mind India’s consistent stand against terrorism and its philosophy of ‘strategic autonomy’, India should desist from recognising the Taliban administration. India should identify the risks to the national interest broadly defined and look for practical ways to mitigate those risks when it comes to the decision to recognise Taliban Government or approving Taliban representative in Afghan Mission in New Delhi.

India having adopted the moral high ground and a principled Foreign Policy, under no circumstances can accept an Afghan Ambassador nominated by Taliban nor can it allow a diplomat nominated by Taliban to occupy an official position in the Afghan Embassy in New Delhi. The Afghan Embassy which today represents the people of Afghanistan, with all the problems the Afghan people are facing today. It may perhaps be in fitness of things to make efforts to bring about a legitimate Government in Afghanistan

India needs to wait and watch how the situation in Afghanistan evolves, “establish its hold in Afghanistan” due to the geographical location of Afghanistan and ensure contiguity. It is because of this reason; that China is advancing its proposal to connect Afghanistan with Pakistan through the CPEC.

Despite the present impasse in integrating Afghanistan with the rest of the world due to its status as an illegitimate Government of Afghanistan, the Taliban has made no effort to become acceptable to the people of Afghanistan after employing violence indiscriminately as the weapon to rule the people of Afghanistan for over two decades. Taliban has deliberately stayed away from an inclusive government besides refusing to give due status to women, treating them as slaves. The majority of the so-called ministers inducted by the Taliban hierarchy into its cabinet have terror backgrounds. The Home Minister in the cabinet Sirajuddin Haqqani is the Emir of Haqqani Network a terror organization blacklisted by the United Nations.

Facilitating the terror organisations to gain legitimacy and thus recognition is bound to encourage and enthuse the terror organisations operating in various parts of the world to intensify their terror activities to overthrow the legitimate government in the country and seize power. Inducting the terror outfit into the United Nations as the legitimate Government of Afghanistan and participating in discussions on world affairs with its larger aim of ‘global jihad’ is a major security threat to the world and blasphemous to say the least. The Taliban is harshly and ruthlessly suppressing its people, particularly, women, and indirectly blackmailing the international community for legitimacy as a ransom by holding its people as hostage.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Neelapu Shanti

is a New Delhi based International Affairs, Researcher, Writer, Journalist and an Indo-Afghan Analyst. MA in International Relations and Post Graduate in Journalism.

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