If a query is sent to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) whether the Taliban are in India, or rather lodged in Delhi, there may be no reply or at best an ambiguous response  starting with “we have seen some reports …”. Similar was the MEA response to questions about Chinese villages constructed inside Arunachal Pradesh during the ongoing India-China standoff. Of course BJP MP Tapir Gao telling Parliament that Chinese have intruded 50-60 km inside Arunachal is already in public domain. 

But consider the following:

  • Farid Mamundzai, Afghanistan’s ambassador to India appointed by the erstwhile Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is in Europe without a visa to return to Delhi, for which he blames India.
  • Over 25 Afghan diplomats aligned with the previous Islamic Republic of Afghanistan left India in November this year.
  • A post by Afghan Embassy India reads: “As of Nov 23, there is no Afghan diplomat representing the former Republic in India. Those with ties to the Taliban are aligning themselves with Taliban and also Delhi’s interests”. Another post on X says “From the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan (read Taliban government).
  • Above indicates that the remaining diplomats in Afghanistan’s Embassy at Delhi are aligned with the Taliban Government, and so are Afghanistan’s Consulate Generals and staff at Hyderabad and Mumbai.
  • Taliban Deputy Foreign Minister Sher Mohammad Stanekzai told the media Afghan officials in India, whom he described as “our people”, have taken charge of the embassy.

Whether the MEA wants to admit or not, the writ of the Taliban Government now runs in the Afghan Embassy and the two consulates in India. India has been providing tons in humanitarian aid to Afghan people being ruled by the Taliban although how much of it reached those needing it is a different issue. For example, John F Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, told the US House Committee on Oversight and Accountability on April 18, 2023, “I cannot assure …… we are not currently funding the Taliban.”

India has been allowing families of Taliban medical treatment in India – which does not discount Taliban members accompanying the sick. Also, India did send former Indian envoys to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Amar Sinha and TCA Raghavan respectively, to attend the Russia-sponsored peace conference in Moscow with the Taliban in 2018.

There are two aspects to the above developments. One view is that realpolitik demands India should follow the approach of China since the Taliban Government is not going anywhere. China has appointed Zhao Sheng as its new Ambassador to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and in turn has formally received Bilal Karimi as the Ambassador representing Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to China.

Another view is the pressure being mounted on India by the US, including the accusation of plotting to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, founder of Sikh separatist organization ‘Sikhs For Justice’ despite CIA being behind the killing of not only Dr Homi J Bhabha and many Indian scientists but also Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri as described in the book ‘Conversations with the Crow; The Final Conversations by Robert Trumbull Crowley – Former Director of Clandestine Operation for the CIA’ by Gregory Douglas.

It is being said it took 20 years, US$3 trillion, and four US presidents to replace the Taliban with the Taliban in Afghanistan. But the unsaid part is that abandoning US$92 billion worth of weapons and armament in Afghanistan in 2021 was by design to strengthen the Taliban. The narrative being built now is that global terrorists are assembling in northern Afghanistan but America has already been inducting ISIS cadres from Iraq-Syria into northern Afghanistan via Pakistan over past several years to destabilize Central Asia and curb Chinese-Russian influence.

The focus of global terrorists on Central Asia is being projected to deflect from American designs to destabilize South Asia. The Taliban, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), its affiliates, and The Resistance Front (TRF) are all interlinked to each other  and in turn to Al Qaeda. The US is fooling around by saying ISIS is a threat in Afghanistan when photographs of US Special Forces personnel with ISIS cadres in Afghanistan are available on record.

The TTP and Taliban no doubt want to establish Sharia in Pakistan but both also aim to include India into a regional/global Islamic Emirate – something which suits American designs to re-enter South Asia and gaining base (s) as protectors of the Rule-based Order (sic). This needs to be viewed in conjunction with ongoing American efforts for regime change in Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The recent welcome feting of Pakistan’s Army Chief General Syed Asim Munir and ISI Chief Nadeem Anjum by the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Victoria Nuland, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, both regime change specialists, indicates a sinister design against India. The Army will continue to rule Pakistan directly or indirectly and cannot be expected to capitulate irrespective of the instability because of the TTP, its affiliates and the Baloch independence movement.

Not only has the US released $3.5 billion worth of assets to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan out of the $9 billion frozen assets of Central Bank of Afghanistan, US has been in contact with the Taliban leadership through the Embassy of Qatar from day one of the exit of US troops in 2021. On behalf of the US, Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani visited Kandhar in May 2023 and met Afghanistan’s Taliban Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund and other Taliban officials.

In July 2023, US officials met Taliban leaders in Doha, Qatar – Sirajuddin Haqqani, First Deputy Leader and Interior Minister of Taliban government was reported travelling to Doha on a Pakistani passport. The recent discovery that Pakistani passports were issued to some 30,000-40,000 Afghan nationals was obviously on the directions of America. The US has also been meeting members of Afghanistan’s National Resistance Front (NRF) and Afghan civil society members outside Afghanistan; to keep all options open.

On October 9, 2012, George Friedman wrote for Stratfor: America has entered a period in which it must move from military domination to more subtle manipulation; doesn’t mean US will disengage from world affairs; it controls the world’s oceans and generates almost a quarter of the world’s GDP; disengagement is impossible and controlled engagement will upset the international system, especially US allies; this will change the way the world works.

America’s muscular policy while sitting on the fence is more than visible presently in Ukraine and Israel. However, events in the Middle East may still force the US into ‘limited’ direct action although direct action against Russia or China would amount to digging its own grave. The losses it is suffering in Iraq-Syria (more in Iraq) is making the US look for bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan and perhaps even India if it can realize its dream of an India-China war; therefore, the changed approach towards Taliban. There is speculation about US plans to divide Afghanistan into Northern and Southern Afghanistan but if any division is to happen, more likely it would be the emergence of Pashtunistan, which would not be to the liking of American protégé – Pakistan.

On balance, Delhi’s acquiescing to Taliban appears already underway despite knowing Taliban’s ideological designs on India. This may continue to be shrouded in ambiguity. The proponents of realpolitik say India might as well officially recognize the Taliban government as the talk of forming an “inclusive” government in Afghanistan is trashy utopia. The US would also want India to recognize the Taliban government, assuring America will not permit any Taliban mischief in India (sic). But then if this is all about realpolitik, shouldn’t India recognize the military government in Myanmar, which is not going anywhere with Chinese and Russian support despite the US-led west trying their best for regime change.

The author is an Indian Army veteran. Views expressed are personal.

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