Translation Introduction:

The recent moves between Taliban leaders and Indian officials indicate a clear rapprochement between the two parties, and this move comes at a time when the movement is suffering from international isolation against the background of its seizure of power in Afghanistan following the US withdrawal from the country last year.

On that historical rapprochement between the jihadist movement and the Indian government led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, the American magazine “Foreign Affairs” published an analysis prepared by Tricia Bacon, associate professor at the School of Public Affairs at the American University, who previously worked in counter-terrorism at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The US State Department, and Esfandiar Mir, a prominent expert at the United States Institute of Peace.

Translation text:

Since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan last summer, its government has been isolated internationally, and not a single country has recognized it yet.

In recent weeks, however, Taliban officials have made a series of public gestures toward an unlikely partner, India.

At a regional summit on security in Tajikistan at the end of May, India's national security adviser, Ajit Doval, urged Afghanistan's neighbors to provide aid to combat terrorism in the war-torn country.

On June 2, a delegation of senior Indian officials traveled to Kabul to meet with Taliban leaders, and on the 23rd of the same month, India resumed its diplomatic mission in Afghanistan.

In return for this tacit Indian recognition of the Taliban, the movement has expressed its willingness to work in intelligence against a number of major jihadist groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish Muhammad and the branch of al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent, which have always found sanctuary in Afghanistan.

And if the Taliban were to believe their statements to the Indian government, it could represent a major shift in the movement's old approach to its foreign militia allies.

The Taliban's nascent rapprochement with New Delhi stands in stark contrast to the interests of Pakistan, the movement's old ally. For nearly three decades, Pakistani patronage of the Taliban was based on the belief that the Taliban could be relied on to curb Indian influence in Afghanistan.

This portends an astonishing shift in regional dynamics, as strengthening ties with India could eventually drive the Taliban-led Afghan government away from Pakistan.

A sudden shift in Indian politics

Indian delegation met with #Taliban govt officials in Kabul, #Afghanistan and also visited the Indian made projects.

— Regional Warfare (@RegionalWarfare) June 2, 2022

India's change in its view of the Taliban is a surprising shift.

When the movement first rose to power in 1996, India supported the anti-Taliban factions known as the Northern Alliance.

After the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, India was a steadfast supporter of the nascent Afghan republic that replaced the Taliban.

Over the next two decades, India consistently objected to US negotiations with the Taliban, fearing any agreement would undermine Afghanistan's fledgling democratic rule and encourage Islamabad to "increase its support for separatists" in the border state of Kashmir.

On the other hand, the Taliban's desire to work with India represents a radical shift.

For two decades, the Taliban complained about Indian support for the (post-US occupation) Afghan Republic*, and the movement - directly and through its allies - targeted Indian employees and harmed Indian interests in Afghanistan.

The most famous example of this is the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul in 2008, which was carried out by the "Haqqani" network of the Taliban, which, according to the United States, enjoys Pakistani support.

In light of this past, it seems surprising what has been circulated that the recent contact between the Taliban and India included serious discussions on combating terrorism, as all the groups that the Indians want the Taliban to move against are allied groups for a long time with the Taliban, even if their goals and relations with the Taliban differ. the movement.

In some ways, the Taliban's alliance with the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed groups is an extension of the Taliban's relationship with the Pakistani security establishment since the 1990s.

Both groups supported the Taliban insurgency, but they prioritized their plans against India, particularly in Kashmir.

On the other hand, the branch of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent targeted both India and Pakistan, which has had a close relationship with the Taliban since its formation, and has also assisted the Taliban in its general insurgency and its campaign against the Islamic State in Khorasan.

But the Indian government is now hinting that the Taliban government is willing to distance itself from its old allies, at least when it comes to India.

For example, "Mullah Yaqoub", the Minister of Defense of the Taliban government, pledged in an interview with an Indian news channel that the Taliban would not allow India to be attacked from Afghan soil, and he also expressed his interest in sending the movement's cadres to India for military training.

 The logic of rapprochement between Delhi and the Taliban

Indian delegation in Kabul led by JS (PAI) JP Singh visiting Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health there.

First official visit by Indian officials post Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

— Kadambini Sharma (@SharmaKadambini) June 2, 2022

It is likely that the Taliban's new desire to turn the page on hostility with India stems from its international isolation, as no country has recognized the Taliban government yet, and as a result of its pariah status, the challenges and economic difficulties it faces in obtaining humanitarian aid have worsened.

Tensions are escalating between the movement and Pakistan because of the “Durand Line” (which is the border line separating Afghanistan and Pakistan, which former Afghan President Hamid Karzai declared that he would never recognize it, and it always constituted a point of contention between the two countries)*, as well as because of the Taliban’s support for a terrorist group. "Pakistan Taliban" against the regime in Islamabad.

The Taliban point to its independence from its southern neighbor now for compelling domestic political reasons given how low Pakistan's popularity has been in Afghanistan.

Perhaps those in charge of Indian politics, despite their previous assessments, concluded that there is a sufficient distance between Pakistan and the Taliban to establish a cooperative relationship with the latter.

Perhaps what has reassured the Indians is Islamabad's growing concern about the Taliban's continued commitment to protecting the "Pakistan Taliban".

Moreover, India may calculate that the Taliban can protect it from the escalation of violence in Kashmir, especially by the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed organizations, and also protect it from the threat of international jihadists, especially at a time when al-Qaeda and The Islamic State in Khorasan" their anti-India rhetoric.

A relationship with India may help ease the diplomatic isolation of the Taliban government, and may open doors for much-needed economic aid in Afghanistan.

For example, India might provide aid to earthquake victims, increase its food aid, and revive infrastructure projects that were underway under the former Afghan republic.

Given India's increasing geopolitical weight, it may encourage other countries such as Russia, Iran, and the United States to work with the Taliban.

It is possible that the Taliban hope to persuade India to back down from its support for the effective anti-Taliban armed resistance, given that India is one of the few outside actors expected to bolster the political opposition in Afghanistan.

However, rapprochement with India carries risks for the Taliban.

First and foremost, the Taliban's outreach to India is likely to provoke Pakistan.

If Pakistan looks at the matter pragmatically, it may see the rapprochement between the Taliban and India as being in the interest of Islamabad in the end, which is to legitimize the Taliban regime.

But Pakistan always views India's involvement in Afghanistan as a zero-sum conflict;

Where any gains for India are necessarily losses for Pakistan.

Perhaps Islamabad sees that New Delhi is trying to protect the Taliban from Pakistani pressure, especially with regard to the Taliban's support for the "Pakistan Taliban", a group that Pakistan has long insisted - despite the lack of reliable evidence - is supported by India.

The Pakistani security establishment may view the Taliban's suppression of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed groups as an act against Pakistan and a destruction of Pakistan's policy of denial towards the operations of these two groups.

Moreover, the Taliban will face reputational risk for collaborating with India's ruling party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which has a long record of trading anti-Muslim rhetoric.

And a stronger relationship with India could provoke negative reactions from Taliban hardliners or other jihadists, which could put pressure on Taliban cohesion.

The hard way to trust

Even if the Taliban's intentions can be trusted, the movement's actual ability to rein in foreign militias remains in doubt.


For India, the key question is how much confidence it should have about Taliban pledges to fight terrorism.

Similar to what happened during the movement's previous negotiations with Washington, the Taliban likely tried to reassure New Delhi that Afghan territory would not be used for attacks against India.

But these pledges often come with caveats that virtually allow Taliban-aligned militias—particularly al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent—to conduct operations from Afghanistan in ways that give the Taliban opportunities to practice deniability.

When the movement faced enormous pressure in the past in this regard, Douma demonstrated that it was unlikely that it would turn against allied "foreign militias".

Even if the movement's intentions can be trusted, the Taliban's actual ability to rein in foreign militias remains in doubt.

With regard to the Taliban's ongoing campaign to combat the "Islamic State in Khorasan", which has failed to achieve any tangible results so far, it is likely that the movement will continue to struggle to carry out targeted operations.

AQIS, in particular, has forged strong ties with a number of Taliban members and cooperated with them in operations against the US military, the former Afghan government, and the Islamic State in Khorasan.

This past poses questions about the Taliban's ability to protect the Indian presence in Afghanistan.

India's engagement is emerging at a time when the international community needs a new source of leverage against the Taliban to achieve a number of priorities, and if the Taliban respond to India relatively well, that would be good news.

In addition, if India could indeed broker a counter-terrorism agreement with the Taliban, it would be a major positive step that could open a channel for the United States to put pressure on the Taliban to combat groups that are a source of concern to Washington.

However, India's return to Kabul also exposes it to an enormous new set of security risks, both related to direct attacks on its interests in Afghanistan, and the potential complexity of the Indo-Pakistani security rivalry in Kabul.


This article has been translated from Foreign Affairs and does not necessarily reflect the website of Maidan.

Translation: Hadeer Abdel Azim.