How Afghan Taliban look at India

K.N. Pandita

From the very beginning of crisis in Afghanistan dating back to Soviet misadventure, India has been playing her Afghan role very discreetly. Lack of direct overland connectivity and reluctance for active initiative, India has stayed away from military involvement in Afghanistan. Notwithstanding this, externally sponsored and abetted armed insurgency in Kashmir is a compulsion for her to keep close watch on Afghan happenings and their bearing on our secularity arrangement.

New Delhi has been sceptic about the purpose behind the rise of Taliban in Kandahar, not trusting the oft repeated statements of Pakistani and USA that Taliban would work as peace stabilizing and moderating force in Afghanistan where anti-Najibullah and anti-progressive forces had taken law into their hands.

Kandahar-based Taliban were created jointly by Pakistan and Saudi intelligence agencies albeit with America’s blessings. Pakistani and American press tried in early 1990s to convince the world that Taliban-led regime in Afghanistan was the natural course of governance in that country.

9/11 gave a lie to all these deliberately nurtured fantasies and surmises. Islamic Theo-fascists, who achieved miraculous victory in their fight against the mighty Soviet power, credited themselves with more than necessary confidence about their invincibility against any powerful enemy.

Osama bin Laden, though at loggerheads with the hardcore of Saudi monarchical establishment, carried forward belligerent Wahhabi agenda soaked more in the ideology of violence than in Islamic jurisprudence. The US retaliated with the vengeance of a super power.

After they were entrenched in Kabul, Taliban showed up in their true colours. Subsequent events vindicated India’s assessment. New Delhi did not mince words in expressing her disavowal of Taliban, something which Pakistan immediately cashed upon.

But in perpetuation of her traditional ties with the Afghans, New Delhi assiduously nourished cordial relations with the Northern Alliance, the Tajik speaking Afghans of Panjshir Valley to the north, who were among frontline resistance forces commanded by the veteran Afghan commander, late Ahmad Shah Masud. India also maintained normal friendly relations with liberal, moderate and progressive elements in Afghanistan, who had to lay low after inhuman execution of President Najibullah in Kabul. Many of the protagonists of Dr. Najibullah left Afghanistan in the aftermath of Taliban seizure of power, and sought refuge in India.

India was very clear and forthright in denouncing imposition of radical and oppressive features of sharia rule in Afghanistan under the Taliban. Indian policy planners saw in it serious threat to the security of the country, besides the ominous prospect of peril to Hindu and Sikh minority émigrés, the naturalized citizens of Afghanistan.  India did not recognize Taliban regime while Pakistan was the first to do so followed by the Saudis.

Pakistan intelligence agency has been in close liaison with some of more powerful Taliban groups, especially of Hekmatyar and Huqqani, whom it extended substantial financial support to continue resistance to US-led NATO forces. At the same time, ISI used their activists to attack Indian embassy in Kabul and hurt or subvert India’s interests in Afghanistan. Ever since, Taliban adopted hostile attitude towards India who they began to consider their joint enemy with the US.

Linking India to US antagonism against the Taliban has been the strategy of ISI ever since relations soured between the US and Pakistan. Islamabad cannot digest the new phase of Indo-US “strategic partnership” as she considers it granting India a status in the South Asian region more than what is due in the opinion of Pakistan.

Pakistan and Taliban have been looking at Afghan scenario from this angle and feel convinced that the US wants to assign fairly important and crucial role to India in Afghanistan in days to come and particularly in post-withdrawal period in Afghanistan beginning 2014.  In her recent visit to New Delhi followed by that of defence minister Panetta, the Secretary of Sate was more emphatic in acknowledging significant role for India in Afghanistan.  This has naturally brought India on the radar of Taliban and ISI combine.

In all probability, the ambiguous statement of Taliban spokesman praising India’s stand on Indo-Iran connection vis-a-vis Indo-US relations are the words of ISI put in the mouth of Taliban. In ISI’s perception, India is unlikely to succumb to American pressure of ceasing import of crude oil from Iran. The US wants to impose economic embargo on Iran and weaken her economy and thus bring her to knees till she declares renouncing her ambition of manufacturing the weapon of mass killing.

A deep lying objective of foreign policy planners in the US has been to neutralise India as an active and dangerous nuclear power in South Asia. Denuclearization of emerging countries is basic to US’ foreign policy. But keeping in mind the size, potential, manpower and level of scientific and technological advancement of India, the US policy planners offered India the mouth-watering option of nuclear facility meaning enriched uranium for civilian use. They wanted India to reduce her dependence on Gulf oil and strive to be self sufficient in energy sector by developing and expanding nuclear power option for non-lethal use.

But India as an emerging power in the region and with the size of population cannot put all eggs in one basket in the matter of energy resource. Hence she would like that her energy-related connection with Iran should not get disrupted. In the past India did vote against Iran in the IAEA under US pressure. Not only that, India is veering to TAPI gas pipeline project after having been discouraged in IPI pipeline.

Taliban message of appreciation, something unexpected for India’s foreign policy planers, is actually what ISI wants to tell India. It is a veiled threat as has been expressed by a former RAW chief. The purport of the message is that if India is agreeing to be a component of US-led strategic partnership in the region, then Taliban will use the option of throwing big challenge to India’s internal security. Taliban and ISI mean what they say. It is so just because India is a soft state with a pro-active pro-Muslim lobby. The dynamics of Indian State may not permit adoption of aggressive posture in challenging the terrorists as has been the case with the US.

The harsh reality is that not waiting for any response from Indian ruling circles to the message of the Taliban, the latter might have initiated their plan for India. Knowledgeable sources say that movement of Afghan Taliban in numbers has been noticed in the forests of Hajira, Tatri in Poonch sector of J&K with very sophisticated detection and assault equipment in their possession. Reports also suggest that at strategic places in PoK like Azad Pattan, near Kahuta and Kotli, deep caves have been dug with the capacity of sheltering up to 1500 persons in each cave. This could be only by way of testing the preparedness of Indian border security forces. Serious observers and analysts foresee massive turbulence in this sector initiated by the lawless brigades using Pakistanerritory for the launch of successive assaults on Indian positions.


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