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Lipulekh, Nationalism and Nepali leaders

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Nepal is a politically ‘volatile’ country. Politicians in Nepal uses “nationalism” (aka nationalism is always concerned with safeguarding sovereignty from India) as a double aged sword to flame people in the street for protest. When politicians graduated to regime; all their prior commitment of nationalism i.e. protection from Indian assertiveness becomes “fairy tale”. Then, another political groups takes this scenario as a opportunity and protest by flaming people in the street( as former didn’t stood up for its promise). Ultimately, this new group joins the government and the scenario is again same. It also do nothing for nationalism. This is happening since 1990 with more than 25 government changes. And there is only one prime reason: India had series of “covert” operation on Nepali affairs and Nepal politicians has converted this operation in to their true benefit. But after 2015; Nepal had rejected the “mantra” of New Delhi to re-correct constitutional clauses by addressing the demand of agitating Madhesis. This had made Nepali people happy because Nepal for the first time since 1950; had “kicked” India while doing maneuvering on Nepal. Unfortunately, New Delhi became “silence” player in Nepal since then with the arrival of far more powerful player i.e. West & China. Nepal rejoiced and unknowingly Nepal had given its platform for International Great Game. Who had known by kicking little Tiger it had welcomed bunches of Lion in its political field.

But in 2019 after India’s new release of map, which had shown Kalapani in its side again fired relationship of Nepal-India. In the current context, India had constructed link road that passes Lipulekh( Southern part claimed by Nepal but lacks significant document for this) but India and China bilaterally had agreed to build Lipulekh as a trade hub in 2015 without presence of Nepal. The newly constructed 80 KM Link Road inaugurated by Defense Minister Rajnath Singh of India on 8th May, 2020 could make pilgrims easy to do journey of Kailash-Mansarovar by one week compared to two-three weeks it took earlier. When inauguration news of this link road came out; Nepali political circle boiled up and started protest online and offline front like that of November 2019 protest against India’s new release of map where Kalapani was on the India side.  

Nepali protest against India can’t be understood easily. Mostly student groups in Nepal had protested on the inauguration of this road network. There are some sections of Nepali student groups who die hard for getting Indian Embassy scholarship in Nepal. On the other side, Nepali journalist and leaders are invited on luncheon and dinner of Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. Not all invites are diplomatically charged but might be way of influencing Nepali sections.

Why India is interested in Lipulekh?

Without finding answers of this question, we Nepali are chanting slogan of nationalism without aware of international politics.  It’s all about strategic route that is suitable for military maneuvering.  Only burning streets won’t give us way to understand its Indo-China strategic complexities. In this case, either Nepal need to assure New Delhi against any security threats from Beijing or carefully lobby with Indo-China for granting trade permits to do trade in the proposed Lipulekh trade hub.  

All current political leadership of Nepali Congress and Nepal Communist Party some way or another groomed, took political shelter and had received support( ideological, logistics and financial) from Indian establishment to trigger movement in Nepal. This makes them morally weak, to raise any issue of Nepali nationalism with India. Because bluntly speaking; Indian establishments has ‘invested’ on Nepali leaders to promote New Delhi influence in Nepal. Here, to carefully mention not all leaders became New Delhi puppet while carefully examining history. Praise-worthy leaders includes B.P Koirala; who was born, raised and taught in Varanasi had always stood up for Nepal’s sovereignty and nationalism.

It is estimated that, around 3 million Nepali are working in India mostly general labor. Nepal is more than 80% dependent on India and Nepali currency is pegged with Indian currency. Open border between India and cultural-historical ties makes relationship more complex and connecting. There are several attributes of Nepal-India relationships. This time and several times; we only have issue with politics. All other relationships are working fine. Why only political relationship? Political relationship is high paying relationship comparing to other. It brings certain section of people, groups to power and manipulate and influencing games happens. It involves money, brain and muscles. In addition to this, Nepal’s international position is also influenced by the radar of Indian foreign ministry which has much more lobbying power than our foreign ministry in global institutions like  UN.  Oli government had only taught us to react on Indian assertiveness but makes us every time silence when receiving regular financial and logistic support from India. Border disputes with India is as it is subject and none of the Prime Minister pushes it hard. If pushed, it is only for the namesake. And, we have also found this with Oli government.  

Way Forward

Nepal-India political issues are solvable. There are no one-line mantra for this. It is process of continuance evolution. At this time, For Nepali side; it needs to re-strengthen its documentation and lobbying power. For Indian side; it needs to give up “big brother” attitude and sole fully implement “neighborhood first “ policy. Irritating Nepal makes India more complicated to handle foreign powers in Nepal and annoying India by Nepal makes it difficult to secure its interest of regional survival and global lobbying from Delhi establishments for Nepal. India should remember Nepali security leak( open or closed border) could trigger greater security risk in India and Nepal should note; Indian reserves vast market for Nepal ultimately useful for Nepal’s great economic transformation. This is due to the fact that harnessing Indian market is easy for Nepal comparing to China because we all knew Nepal is circled by three sides India( East, South and West). At last, both needs to secure these above objectives to make this very old relationship working efficiently. Seasonal winds in the bilateral relationship comes and go.

South Asia

It’s all about India’s odd but subtle tit-for-tat perception

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India has been known as an actor in world politics that had always chosen to refrain from any comment or interference on matters that do not concern it. But not any longer. The first breaker of this tradition was perhaps New Delhi’s comments on Türkiye’s Operation Peace Spring three years back. As one will recall, Indian Ministry of External Affairs has issued a very rare public statement titled “unilateral military offensive by Turkey”, expressing that “We are deeply concerned at the unilateral military offensive by Turkey in north-east Syria. Turkey’s actions can undermine stability in the region and the fight against terrorism. Its action also has the potential for causing humanitarian and civilian distress. We call upon Turkey to exercise restraint and respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria. We urge the peaceful settlement of all issues through dialogue and discussion.”

If tracing back the subject, what had triggered the reaction of New Delhi, which generally has not interfered in the affairs of other far regions, to the operation launched by Türkiye against terror outfits in its Syrian borders? The answer was clear, Ankara’s Kashmir stance. As far as India is concerned, not Kashmir is just an internal affair, also a matter of prestige. Regarding the developments over the revocation of Article 370 of Indian Constitution, which had been granting the legal basis for the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statements during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting were not a welcome outcome for New Delhi, which firmly sees its Kashmir issue as its internal affairs and strongly opposes the internationalisation of it. Moreover, the interactions of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, amid the same UNGA meeting, with the heads of Greece, Armenia and the Greek Cypriot Administration, who in Türkiye’s neighbourhood which have had historically strained ties and disputes with Ankara, were described as a “swift respond and strong message to Ankara” in the Indian media.

If one comes to three years later from three years ago, this year in late September, hours after President Erdoğan brought Kashmir to the agenda at the UNGA meet, Indian External Affairs Minister Jaishankar’s statement that Cyprus should be resolved in accordance with UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions in his bilateral meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu was again mostly interpreted as a “response to Türkiye” by some Indian circles. However, it is worthy of noting that Türkiye does not necessarily read these developments as a response, because Ankara usually views its each relationship has a feature of its own. Ironically and fortunately, even at times when Türkiye-India ties are at an all-time low, their trade, tourism and cultural relations relatively somehow keep blossoming out. Meanwhile, also this year in late October, at UNSC meet on Syria, India’s deputy envoy to UN R. Ravindra called for withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria, calling for comprehensive nationwide ceasefire in the war-torn West Asian country.

In the context of the latest UNGA’s meet on the human rights situation in Xinjiang, China, earlier in October, (again) in a first, India officially commented on the issue. But not in the UNGA’s meeting, in a government briefing. At a regular news briefing, Indian Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that “The human rights of the people of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region should be respected and guaranteed. We hope that the relevant party will address the situation objectively and properly.”

However, just a day before, New Delhi abstained on a draft resolution at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) seeking a debate on the human rights situation in China’s Xinjiang region. Then why India abstained? If ever such a question is asked, the answer would likely read, that India abstained does not mean India does not support human rights and is not against discrimination against minorities. Rather, New Delhi does not approve interference in domestic affairs, especially in such multilateral platforms, but always remain committed to all human rights and closely seek and note the situation of human rights no matter where.

By abstention India only made sure that domestic issues were not brought at the UN forum, because it would have broken the tradition of either abstaining or voting against resolutions in such platforms, had if acted otherwise. One may be come up with a couple of reasons on New Delhi’s move here such, that India’s national interest desperately includes stable relations with great powers, that a yes vote would pave the way for human rights merchants to play their card inside India, and that New Delhi’s future prospect for permanent UNSC seat.

That may perhaps stem from India’s position to prevent international criticism of domestic issues. Or perhaps an intend that the prevention of the possibility that the United States uses it to advance their geopolitical interests and propaganda beside impartiality and objectivity the UN has. Or perhaps signals the strategy of struggling without offending the rival. In all three cases, if there be any assumption that abstaining is the sort of a mild-No.

Remember, the development comes at a time when India-China ties are at an all-time low because of the lethal military standoff on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that began in May 2020. And recall, that Beijing too (and Washington too) when the same kind debates related to Kashmir issue, has been so vocal, in UN resolutions or otherwise.

But the same India, since the last decade, has been reluctant the ritual mention of its adherence to the one-China policy in its joint statements and official documents as China issuing stapled visas to visitors from Indian Northeastern state Arunachal Pradesh, which Beijing claims as part of Southern Tibet, and as the sort of response to China’s support for Pakistan and attempts at denying New Delhi entry into the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG). Given China’s military manoeuvres after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei, in August this year, as one more sample of the very few occasions India has commented on tensions in out of its region, Indian MEA spokesperson called for exercise of restraint and avoidance of actions that will change the status quo. Earlier in November, before and after rare ministerial visit from Taiwan to India, even if some of Indian circles feel New Delhi should leverage its relations with Taipei to balance its ties with Beijing, as that can become a bargaining chip or a Taiwan card with some deft diplomacy if China misbehaves, India’s traditional long-standing policy that has been keeping parallel ties with both Taiwan and China without compromising it’s one-China policy will unlikely alter.

To getting the final say in, it is becoming slightly difficult for India to be neutral to the full or to stay out of conflicts in today’s fluid and complex world politics, somehow or other. Just like its pro-Russian neutral stance in Ukraine war. Consider, as a breaker Indian tradition of successive abstaining in UN votes, despite all Washington’s and the West’s pressures, since Russian aggression began, New Delhi at UNGA voted in favour of a Russian draft resolution on combating glorification of Nazism on November 4, which was used by Moscow to justify its actions in Ukraine, according to the West. But recollect the consistent Russian reticence to criticise New Delhi’s internal issues.

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South Asia

Narratives and Discourses: Evaluating 75 years of Indian Foreign Policy

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As India celebrates its 75 years of Indian foreign policy and its positioning in the global architecture, it needs to be evaluated that how India has placed itself and whether there is need for course correction to better position India and envision its role in future. One of the articles written by Rahul Sagar states that India has different schools of thought which have placed it as idealists, Hindu nationalists, strategic thinkers better known as strategists, and liberals who have shaped up India’s policy approach over a period of time. India’s foreign policy up to which has been focus primarily on three pillars which includes righteousness, ethics, and forbearance. This also created edifice which is primarily derived from ancient texts, Vedas, and religious discourses. Two aspects Dhamma and peace are the watermarks in Indian policy framework.

In fact, foreign minister S Jaishankar writes in his book that India is increasingly seen as Krishna where it looks into both sides of the coin and tries to decide the best course of action which can meander through difficult choices. Also, it is critical to note that the Nehruvian phase was rooted in idealist notions, and was apathetic to the development of the military forces which can take care of difficult neighbours including Pakistan and China.  The differences between General Thimayya and VK Krishna Menon is well documented and shows the complete disregard for developing capacities of Indian armed forces. There is no denying of the fact that idealism has placed India as the epicentre of discourses relating to priorities of  developing nations and unity among  newly independent Afro-African nations. Nehru tried very hard to build idealist notions of global politics but the problem was not every leader in the global arena was Woodrow Wilson. This approach could not look into the utility of force however Nehruvian thought brought India as a respectable leader among the developing nations.

Three major events shaped up India’s foreign policy- the Panchsheel Agreement 1954, 1971 Indo-Soviet Friendship treaty,  the 1987 India- Sri Lanka Accord and India’s nuclear tests in 1998.. Further, the development of India’s foreign policy was also dependent upon the political leadership, domestic priorities, and international outlook. One cannot deny the fact that national resources, military leadership and intelligence apparatus also shaped the international outlook. Therefore, one can see that engagement of African nations through IAFS meetings, ASEAN countries, Central Asian republics, and better relations with Israel were all part of larger foreign policy footprints. One must all acknowledge that despite having not a big diplomatic core, India’s views have been noted and argued. Specifically, India’s position with regard to sustainable development goals, comprehensive disarmament (Rajiv Gandhi Action plan), consensus on counter terrorism initiatives, South- South cooperation, and crisis management through mediation is well known. One of the important aspects which still requires lot of attention is developing the overall diplomatic history and collecting data and information through interviews, official files, and archives is still a work in progress. Countries like New Zealand have done a wonderful work in this regard.

Few of the areas where India has lost includes the UN Security Council seat because of uncertainties in its role and the charm of leading the developing nations. India’s ambivalent attitude related to its nuclear power status also created problems very recently, as it has to face sanctions post 1998 nuclear tests despite knowing the very fact that it could have developed its nuclear capacities much earlier.The scientific capacities and acumen was there among the Indian scientists. Nehru was completely against the development of nuclear weapons despite prodding by nuclear scientist Homi Jahangir Bhaba but on the other hand Indira Gandhi was the one who looked into the nuclear power status with much seriousness way back in 1969. There is no denying of the fact the development of the Indian economy opened new gates of cooperation and collaboration with various countries across spectrum. However, it is well known that the 3 pillars of national security which includes diplomacy, intelligence, and military need to be working cohesively to protect the national interest and work with like minded countries in raising pertinent international issues.

India’s approach towards West Asia, its pro- Soviet tilt while at the same time processing non alignment, gave birth to strategic autonomy and at the same time look for possible temporary alignments with major powers depending on compulsions and constraints. If one looks into the nomenclature of its relationships with West Asia it starts with Look West policy and culminates in Think West policy. While in the case of Central Asia, given the buffer region of Afghanistan, it is named as connect Central Asia policy. However, one of the most successful policy pronouncements has been the Look East Policy which transcended in to Enhanced Look East Policy (2013) and now is known as Act East policy(2014 onwards). These policies were primarily aimed at looking for leverage in understanding the larger geopolitics of that particular region. The region wise approach and the subject wise divisions within the Ministry of External Affairs Is a manifestation of how India approach is both from regional perspective as well as its own security perspective.

India has difficult choices right from the start and still is facing challenges with regard to its omniscient patrician stance which looks into the knowledge which have been gained through ages and the wisdom which is acquired through experience. However, at times, all these knowledge-based policy pronouncements came crashing down with the Sino Indian war in 1962 and also challenges that it faced while settling the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan. At times, the dilemma of policy approach in global politics cost dearly to the Indian establishment.  

In terms of India’s neo-realist approach one must acknowledge the role which has been played by Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi which completely digressed from the Nehruvian fundamentals. This led to the better management of military resources and looking into best possible permutation in Indian foreign policy. These experiences which have garnered over the period of seven and a half decades also held India to upgrade its foreign policy establishment abroad which includes bringing in scientific advisors, technical consultants, cultural representatives and also utilising diaspora as one of the elements of foreign policy approach.

If one looks into the leadership subsequently which includes Morarji Desai who was much of an idealist so much so that he compromised few of the covert operations that India was undertaking in Pakistan. At times it has been found that the coalition governments have been so much engaged into domestic compulsions that foreign policy approach have been left in limbo.

In terms of proactive engagement, one cannot forget the role played by Narasimha Rao in working out India’s look east policy and subsequently also looking into the possible nuclear tests (in 1995) which was somehow sabotaged by US constraints and compulsions. Narasimha Rao was much of an erudite statesman who had built very good relationship with the opposition led  by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. This kind of convergence between the ruling party and opposition was one of the periods when there were synergies in foreign policy making and a participative approach of the opposition to work out a congenial settlement. Before Narasimha Rao, the role which have been played earlier by Rajiv Gandhi was also more of a suave and liberal politician who wanted to mend fences with countries like China and also expanded itself into building bridges with the US allies such as Australia.

Following Narasimha Rao, the role played by people like Atal Bihari Vajpayee who were realist but have a liberal inkling which led to the Lahore bus service and also detonation of nuclear device in 1998. Atal Bihari Vajpayee also make sure that India should respond very legitimately against Pakistan incursions in Kargil. Succeeding Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh has been criticised much for his rather reluctant leadership qualities but he was also instrumental into major ways by signing the Indo US nuclear deal in 2005 and also stressing on the need for developing India’s strategic think tanks.

Invariably it has been seen that India’s foreign policy approach has been well rooted in the objective of mediation, peace, building national and international consensus, and also looking forward for better synergies with the countries which agree on common grounds such as global commons for international development, protecting international law, rules based order, promoting international peace, countering terrorism and political violence, and developing the core foundations for South South cooperation.

Again, if one looks into inherent omniscient patrician aspect there are flaws in the approach that India has taken multiple times. India has also believed that it has a sense of entitlement given its ancient civilization and the pragmatic wisdom that it has acquired over the ages. Even now India has always been stated as the ‘global guru’ and aspired for building this concept of Vasudev Kutumbakam which buttress on international peace and community building approach. These types of pronouncements are a sense of continuity with the earlier approach taken during the Nehruvian times and India has built upon that. However, one must acknowledge the role has played with regard to Cambodia, Indonesia and other crisis torn regions have been left because of changes in government and the transitory politics which have been played by coalition governments which came in multiple phases during the India 75 years of history.

 India under Modi is working somewhere between the core fundamentals of foreign policy while at the same time looking into the foundations put up by Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi as well as liberalist approach which was promoted by people like Rajiv Gandhi. It would not be wrong to say that Prime Minister Modi is embedding all these core fundamentals and working out the strategy which is best for projecting India as a legitimate stakeholder in the international politics. One must also acknowledge that about a decade back there has been debate and discourses with regard to non-Alignment 2.0. There have been books which have been stated that India is a reluctant power, and the power which is yet to gain it’s potential at the international stage. However, one must also acknowledge that with the changing geopolitical dynamics, the return of the phase which was there during the Cold War with alignment between Russia and China on ideological lines.

The global leadership is prodding India to act as a mediator in resolving the Ukraine Russia crisis, is a manifestation of India’s foreign policy which has reached a stage where everybody looks into India as one of the leaders in the international sphere. In terms of strategic aspects and foreign policy pronouncements as well as priorities it is interesting that India’s foreign policy has now matured and shows the resolved to undertake hard decisions and one of the best biggest achievements that India has made over a period of time is having the best of the relations with Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Israel all at the same time.

Few strategic partnerships with adjective such as special, preferred, desired also shows the gradient of ties and the utility of these partnerships. India now has more than 30 such strategic partnerships with major players across the world.   India’s hard-earned approach with regard to counter terrorism in institutions such as UN showcases that India’s voice is now being hard on important aspects. There has been also been calls from different quarters to say that there should be a resumption of secretary level talks with Pakistan but given the stature that India has achieved, the country has become more inert to the Pakistan’s overtures thereby making Pakistan as one of the pariah states in the international sphere. However, Pakistan is always seen as a bargaining chip by countries such as US and China which believe that Pakistan can be instrumental in keeping India within South Asian space.

One must acknowledge that the 75 years of Indian foreign policy has been a learning curve. But for India to gain a stature which is matching with its ancient civilizational past, and the might of its youthful population as well as economy can be manifested only if India take a cue from its diplomatic past and work out its role in institutions such as UN, IMF, World Bank both through two different blocs  represented by Quad countries and BRICS.

For India in the coming next 75 years is likely to be challenges but one fruitful thing which has happened over a period of time is that India has built its economy, developed military capabilities and astute leadership which can pave way for India. The one challenge that India is being facing is that opposition parties are washing their dirty linen in international space and has been acting in a very strange way where every possible aspect of national interest has been narrated in a different way altogether. One must acknowledge that the synergies which used to exist between Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Bajpai at one point of time is completely missing in the Indian polity. However, one of the reasons is the marginalization of the opposition party and their inability to look into India as a cohesive one unit and rather than settling domestic issues abroad they must also workout cohesive environment for discussion and discourse without hampering India’s interests.

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South Asia

India’s response to Taliban 2.0 and a comparative analysis with Taliban 1.0

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Authors: Vedant Choudhary and Avinav Singh Khatri

An important, albeit now suppressed, international security concern is the exodus of the US from Afghanistan and, consequently Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan. The Taliban came to power in Afghanistan in 2021 after fighting a twenty-year insurgency. Further, the Biden administration’s abrupt declaration ordering a pull-out from Afghanistan without furnishing a definitive political solution led to much instability in the nation. The chaos in Afghanistan has led to a large influx of migrants, escalated regional proxy warfare, and a significant deterioration in its foreign ties, posing regional security challenges.

Taliban’s reign in Afghanistan poses a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. Afghanistan is on the verge of a slow collapse. Moreover, it is only joint international action that can improve the living conditions in Afghanistan. The Afghan people are amid one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Given this, the United Nations has issued a 4.4-billion-dollar financial appeal for Afghanistan, making it the world’s largest-ever single-country humanitarian appeal, highlighting the scale of the situation.

This piece analyzes two crucial impacts of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. First, the impacts of the Taliban’s takeover over the Taliban, India, and regional power dynamics. Second, we study India’s Afghanistan policy and how it differed from its previous engagement with the Taliban in 1996-2001. Finally, we suggest how India can best handle the Afghanistan regime change.

Impact of Taliban’s Takeover of Afghanistan

The rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan has repercussions for all neighboring states. As a result of the chaos in Afghanistan, there has been a tremendous influx of refugees, an intensification of regional proxy wars, a deterioration of their foreign relations, and regional security risks. India is Afghanistan. India has contributed to Afghanistan’s prosperity and stable governance as the country’s fifth-largest aid donor and most effective partner. Considering the takeover by the Taliban, it is evident that New Delhi is concerned.

Since August 2021, the unfolding of events in Afghanistan has prompted India to adopt a balanced and pragmatic stance toward the country. This has allowed India to participate in regional debates over Afghanistan, contrary to previous beliefs that India had lost all influence in Afghanistan after the Taliban took power. India has not indicated that it will recognize the Taliban government, citing national security concerns. Furthermore, New Delhi has readjusted its Afghanistan strategy by engaging in informal dialogue with the leadership, tackling security risks arising from Afghanistan, and conducting people-to-people engagements. Amidst connectivity limitations and lacking a fully operational embassy in Kabul, it supplied immediate humanitarian aid. Despite their ideological disagreements, India aims to expand its interactions with the Taliban in the near term by capitalizing on the Taliban’s developing disputes with Pakistan.

India has solidified its position as a significant development partner of Afghanistan and garnered the Afghans’ goodwill. It does not depict a tightly defined strategic aim with its investment in Afghanistan; instead, it seeks to contribute effectively to creating a growth-friendly climate for Afghans. This strategy centered on the people is a fundamental advantage India has over other regional states concerning Afghanistan. Moreover, due to its geographical proximity, economic strength, military capacity, and extensive diplomatic network, India is a vital and tangible component in the Taliban’s pursuit of internal and global legitimacy. To display greater autonomy, the Taliban have engaged in activities that undermine Pakistan’s aim to maintain unchallenged control over Afghanistan’s affairs. In reality, the Taliban have openly expressed their displeasure with Pakistan’s efforts to hinder their development and relations with India.

India’s Response

While in Taliban’s previous regime, India distanced itself from the outfit. However, the approach this time is significantly different; India is ready to engage with the Taliban. However, at the same time, India refuses to provide recognition to the Taliban in any manner. It is also to be noted that India is not concerned with the Taliban regime but with its ties with terror outfits and Pakistan.

India’s current approach, while serving the purpose, is walking on a knife edge in many ways. India cannot choose to engage with Afghanistan but also, at the same time, refuse to grant recognition to the Taliban regime. The same is bound to raise questions. Further, in the face of growing pressure to make its stand clear, India would be forced to grant recognition to the Taliban. In this way, New Delhi would be playing into the hands of the Taliban, and India would have to grant recognition to the Taliban, in its desired conditions, with India having very little bargaining power. Therefore, it would be better if New Delhi recognized the Taliban regime before such pressure mounted on it.

India’s different response from 1996-2001

There is a marked difference between India’s current approach to the regime (Taliban), currently when compared to 1996-2001, when the terror outfit took over Afghanistan for the first time. In brief, it can be explained in Sareen’s words, “Engage, do not Endorse.” Sareen argues that Modi’s approach to the Taliban differs from the Vajpayee policy (1996-2001) in as much that the former seeks to engage with Taliban, while the latter was wary of the same.

However, Sareen is also quick to point out that engagement by no means indicates that India accepts or endorses the Taliban regime.

The following are the reasons for India’s current approach.

First, India learned from the IC-814 hijacking incident (1999) the importance of having open and active communication channels. Flight IC-814, en route from Tribhuvan International Airport to Indira Gandhi International Airport, was hijacked, flown to several locations, and finally landed in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Kandahar fell within the regions controlled by the Taliban. In the hijacking, India had no option but to negotiate with the Taliban regime. The same placed India at a severe disadvantage. India, would not want to place itself in such a position again. For this, India must ensure that an active communication channel and diplomacy are open concerning Afghanistan.

Second, since 2001, India has invested significantly in the socio-economic development of Afghanistan. The same has led to very cordial relations between the two nations. The same can be understood from the many interactions between the leaders of the nations. Another decision by India that brought the Indian and Afghani populations to close was the declaration of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee International Cricket Stadium in Lucknow as the home ground of the Afghani Cricket team. The same was a necessary step, given that teams of other nations were wary of playing with Afghanistan on the home ground due to security concerns and inadequate facilities. Through such economic support by India, the Afghani populace continues to expect support from India in times of hardship.

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