The specter of the Taliban returning to power in Afghanistan or having a key role in the Afghan government has the Indian strategic brass worried to its bones. Brajesh Mishra, who was India’s National Security Advisor for six years during Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s time, painted a grim picture of Indian challenges ahead at the two-day VIF-hosted seminar I’ve talked about in previous posts this week.
Mishra predicted that the Taliban will be in control of a major territory of Afghanistan with the help of Pakistan in the next two to three years and India will be troubled by this. India does not have the luxury of too many options in dealing with the situation, except for strengthening its defence preparedness for a two-front situation in the west and the north-east and adopting a 21st century model for acquisition of defence equipment that is fast and uncomplicated.
What is worse, India does not have any covert capability to influence events either in Pakistan or in Afghanistan. In comparison, Mishra pointed out Pakistan’s covert capability can be gauged by the claim made by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Chief Gen. Shuja Pasha three months ago in an interview wherein he said that the ISI could deliver the elusive Taliban Chief Mulla Omar and other senior Taliban leaders for talks with the Americans. Mishra stressed that it will be a mistake to believe that the Taliban will be accommodated without Mulla Omar being accommodated.
Also, interestingly enough, the return of a Taliban regime in Afghanistan will not be bad for the Chinese interests in Afghanistan as Pakistan will make sure that China, which has invested five billion dollars in Afghanistan copper mines, does not lose out in any way, though China’s interests will suffer in Central Asia.
As for who will be the losers and gainers in Afghanistan, Mishra said that gains would be for Pakistan only. According to him, the US, NATO, the Hamid Karzai regime of Afghanistan, India and Iran have not gained much in the Afghan theater since the US launched Operation Enduring Freedom against the Taliban government in October 2001. Thus, terrorism continues to be a malady.