India Unlikely to Agree to Taliban 'Embassy': Expert
18:44 24.01.2023 (Updated: 19:27 25.01.2023) Subscribe
The Taliban* stormed to power in Kabul on August 15, 2021, but the Islamic movement has yet to receive international recognition.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is unlikely to agree to the Taliban's request to let it post a diplomatic representative in New Delhi, says an Indian expert on terrorism.
As per Indian media reports, Afghanistan's Taliban recently approached New Delhi for permission to open an office and post a diplomat in Delhi in a bid to improve its credibility within the international community. Among the candidates whom the Taliban wanted to post in New Delhi was reportedly Abdul Qahar Balkhi, who stands accused of threatening Afghan journalists with death edicts.
New Delhi has already reopened its embassy in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, but has yet to recognize the Taliban government led by Haibatullah Akhundzada.
Kabir Taneja, a fellow at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), India's largest think tank, who specializes in terrorism and transnational jihadist groups, spoke to Sputnik about the chances of the Taliban helping India in its fight against cross-border terrorism, how New Delhi could leverage from the ties between Moscow and Kabul and much more.
Sputnik: If India agrees to the Taliban's request to let it appoint a representative in Delhi, do you think it could be close to the official recognition of Taliban rule?
Kabir Taneja: I don't see India agreeing to official representation of the Taliban in the Afghan mission here happening. While other countries have made it work, New Delhi's outreach through its "technical office" in Kabul is what is going to remain as the main bridge between the Islamic Emirate and Delhi for the foreseeable future.
Sputnik: How would this development be viewed by the Indian public, given Prime Minister Modi's hardline stand on all forms of terrorism and the Taliban's record in this regard?
Kabir Taneja: It's a non-starter, specially in India which has been keeping countering terrorism as an important global issue despite CT (counter-terrorism) not being prioritized so much anymore in international discourse. Considering India's hardline and correct stance against CT, any "official" opening with the Taliban will be counterproductive and very hard to justify in the public discourse.
Sputnik: Do you think the Taliban are sincere in their declared commitment to not supporting terrorists abroad, and could a Taliban representative in the country be trusted with sensitive information?
Kabir Taneja: The Taliban will go after groups such as ISKP since they threaten the Taliban's own supremacy. However, there are many others such as al-Qaeda**, LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba)**, East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM)**, and so on, where the Taliban has not been transparent in taking them on. It is unlikely that they will, as many of these groups fought with the Taliban against the US now, and the USSR earlier, for decades.
Sputnik: Do you think the Taliban could help India in its fight against cross-border terrorism, particularly against Pakistan-based militants?
Kabir Taneja: I don't think it is wise to think of this as a possibility. The Taliban has long-standing issues with Pakistan but that is a separate issue.
However, it would not be fully surprising if the Taliban acts against some Pakistan-based militant groups to show their seriousness. But this is cherry-picking at best for strategic and tactical reasons, not a fundamental pushback against ideology.
Sputnik: Russia was among the first countries to establish diplomatic ties after the events of August 15, 2021. How could Russia help India in its relationship with the Taliban?
Kabir Taneja: India and Russia have been working together on Afghanistan through the Moscow format. However, even from a Moscow perspective, the Taliban has not delivered yet in trying to build an intra-Afghan, inclusive political consensus.
Unless that happens, Russia will maintain good ties with the Taliban as it is in its interest of making sure the West does not return to that region, but beyond that Moscow will not support a resurfacing of the Taliban of the same style as the 1990s.
*Taliban is under UN sanctions for terrorism
**terrorist organization banned in Russia and/or other countries