Kabul’s fall to Taliban without any bloodshed has surprised best of the political analysts. The human memory is short-lived. In a similar way, When Americans in 2001 landed in Afghanistan to support Northern alliances to avenge Al-Qaida, Taliban not only gave in without resistance, but vanished quickly from the scene to the surprise of all. The fact is that the modern war is holistic in a sense. Taliban is a tribal army, organically connected. America came with air power, they left to caves and when American air cover was over to Afghan National Army, it crushed like house of cards. There is nothing surprising out of it.
Again, why Doha talks did come to settlement is because US had announced its exit date from Afghanistan without mincing words. Taliban leadership had no incentive left, once it was sure of American exit. Similarly, Pakistan under Imran Khan has well announced foreign policy open recognition to be in China’s basket, there was no reason for President Biden to hasten his call to Prime Minister Imran khan. Now that Taliban is back to power after twenty years, what could be its fall out after it settles down to govern.
Taliban no longer is raw leadership of twenty years ago that were fresh from madrassas and hardened by war camps. This time its leadership has moved to places, enjoyed five star hotel cultures, interacted internationally and has taste of consumerist western culture. This will have impact on them. Besides, their support is a recognised fact that has come from Pakistan and China, precisely.
Unlike in the past, this time they are well informed about the international obligations. It is presumed that the shift will turn to Kabul instead of Doha, where China and Pakistan with inputs from Iran and Russia would be the monitors to set the rules of governance. It could be possible that there could be broad based interim government, Taliban at its centre. Emphasis would be that Taliban refrains from being so rigid and regress to human Rights.
Its violations against women and minorities might not be open to optics. Foreign investments and international agreements might not be scrapped completely, but India’s proximities would be discredited by Pakistan and its hegemon. India has to wait and watch, at least first six months of its governance.
China would seek commitment that its soil is not used for insurgencies by Turkmenistan for Uyghur insurgencies. Its CPEC moves through Afghanistan without any hurdles. Pakistan has agenda to checkmate TTP and overcome Baluchistan rebels finding safe haven in Afghanistan, as it postulates.
It may also feel optimistic about its border solution of Durand line. It may work for new Taliban leadership to outsmart the old guards for space of manoeuvring. Russia desires safe passage for its gas lines to be taken to India and Pakistan. Investments will come to Afghanistan provided interim arrangement delivers and people don’t feel frightened. Afghanistan is a composition of multicultural linguistic populace. In case, Taliban is repetition of the same regime, it won’t be before long that fissures of civil strife, violence on women and minorities, drug menace and increased suppression are back to news.
Taliban second time has to be pragmatic and wilful and responsible partners with international comity of nations. The apprehensions are that the regional politics has first time come in contradiction with the international established world order. Afghanistan becomes a fertile social and political space for such experimentations. In Pakistan, there is augmented belief that among lower middle class and established hegemonic religious circles, like Tehreke Labak of Pakistan, that Islamic governance should be brought in Pakistan. They see a possibility of that in view of a brass of establishment and the governing elite of Pakistan working on anti-India project.
With China’s proximity it finds hard to reconcile with its fundamentalism. It does not hide that it does abhor it, as the very negation to the genesis of religion. While middle class intellectuals do not like US any longer to be wooed and prefers China as its monitor. It justifies its stand against India. While top brass in establishment take preferential side with China but wishes to follow principled friendliness with America. Prime minister Imran Khan has not been able to run such foreign policy.
It has played open game of hate against India and preferences for China to isolate India. India should not be in a hurry to make its judgement. It has learnt one lesion that country does not need discourse to put old wounds on boil, but needs its healing notionally, at least making an effort to erase the bad past. We have diversities, minorities and breadth and depth of cultural pluralism that needs statesmanship not divisive leadership to score points. Our pluralism and resilience of spiritual capital at grassroots level are the blending threads to ensure peace and harmony needed for a civilized developing country. Kashmiri leadership also is not naïve to understand that the comingling politics is self-deceiving and a primordial politics. The last thirty years of wounded history and fragmented society need a fresh start for future generations. The world is in internationalism, market rationale, universal functionality and social adaptability. It tests on the strength of your cultural repertoire that glues moral with materiality. It is where nativity is intrinsic with universality.
Ashok Kaul is Emeritus Professor in sociology at Banaras Hindu University