Engaging the Taliban: On India and the Afghan rulers

India and regional powers should ensure that the Afghan rulers respect their people’s rights

But this is a policy that needs to be pursued more through regional diplomacy than bilateral engagement. Bilaterally, India does not have much clout with the Taliban. But Afghan’s new rulers, who are struggling with an economy on the brink of collapse, are keener this time to engage with regional powers. So the Moscow 10, which includes China, Pakistan, Iran and the Central Asian republics, has some leverage. These countries also have shared interests in seeing the Taliban severing its terror ties and Afghanistan being stabilised. If not, instability could, once again, spread beyond Afghanistan’s border. For this, the Taliban should be ready to open up their government, share power with other political and ethnic communities, and start respecting the fundamental rights of Afghans. The last 40 years of Afghanistan’s history are a brutal example of what could go wrong if one party or group tries to amass all powers in its hands. Despite these historical precedents, the Taliban have shown little readiness to change their ways. In the joint statement, India and the others asked the Taliban to keep their commitment on forming an inclusive government and ensure that their territory is not being used by terrorist groups. These calls should not end with the statements. While India and other regional countries should help Afghans during this period of economic miseries, they should also use their collective economic and political clout to mount pressure on the Taliban to make political concessions at home.

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