India has always played a “Good Samaritan’s Role” in Afghanistan, whether it is rebuilding its infrastructure, construction of its Parliament House, and free wheat and vaccine supply to the innocent Afghani citizens amid Corona and now when the rogue Talibani regime has expressed their earnest desire that India should re-start its stalled projects, there seems to be a distant hope, a light at the end of the tunnel that the country may soon see the emergence of a civilized, citizen-centric government – at least to some extent. The author of this article anticipates more such benign initiatives from the Taliban Government in place.
Afghanistan used to be one of the most prosperous and progressive countries in the entire area in the 60s and 70s. The late 70s and early 80s saw the advent of the Soviet Union and its Lenin-Stalin ideologies formed an important part of Afghanistan’s customs and practices including governing policies. Privileges with women empowerment with equal rights in education, job security, and health services were promoted by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, an alliance which ruled in the early 80s with the proactive support of the USSR. The PDPA also carried out socialist land reforms and moved to promote state atheism. The PDPA invited the Soviet Union to assist in modernizing its economic infrastructure (predominantly its exploration and mining of rare minerals and natural gas). The Soviet Union also sent contractors to build roads, hospitals and schools and to drill water wells; they also trained and equipped the Afghan Armed Forces. But, over a period of time, the modernization initiatives of the Marxist–Leninist secular nature of the government as well as its heavy dependence on the Soviet Union made it unpopular with a majority of the Afghan population. Repressions plunged large parts of the country, especially the rural areas, into open revolt against the new Marxist–Leninist government. By 1979 unrest had reached 24 out of 28 Afghan provinces including major urban areas. Over half of the Afghan army would either desert or join the insurrection. Most of the government’s new policies clashed directly with the traditional Afghan understanding of Islam, making religion one of the only forces capable of unifying the tribally and ethnically divided population against the unpopular new government, and ushering in the advent of Islamist participation in Afghan politics.
The end of Soviet domination and the beginning of ultra-radical elements followed by the US
The end of Soviet domination in the late 80s led to the entry of new power-hungry bigots. The Islamist involvement in Afghan politics established a new rule in Afghanistan with Islamic State (ISIS), Taliban, Osama Bin Laden and Ayman-Al Zawahiri setting their foot to sell their agenda of ultra-radical Islamic fanaticism. By that time the Pakistani-led Spy agency ISI was also trying to prowl into Afghanistan-had its own agenda of consolidating its position in this disturbed neighbourhood. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), headed by Hamid Gul at the time, was fascinated by a transnational Islamic revolution which would cover Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia. For this purpose, the ISI masterminded an attack on Jalalabad in March 1989, for the Mujahedeen to establish their own government in Afghanistan, but this failed in a short span of time.
Mujahedeen forces could not unite to form a stable government
This followed the regime of Najibullah which disintegrated in 1992 and Afghanistan fell into total disarray and a civil war followed. An UN-assisted attempt to establish a coalition government with all Mujahedeen parties and the army also fell apart as unity between Mujahedeen forces soon dissolved and six militias were seen fighting against one another in Kabul.
A bright period for Afghanistan with Prof Burhanuddin Rabbani as President
Thereafter, Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, a well-known professor from Kabul University was chosen and elected as the President of Afghanistan by the ‘Shurai Mujahedeen Council’ ruled from 1992 to 2001. During his 9 year tenure, the Pakistani Army and the ISI played a major role in various secessionist activities in the southern provinces by aiding with funds and arms and abetted Gulbuddin Hekmatyar for an armed rebellion – the role of ISI and Pakistani Army has been explicitly explained by Prof Amin Saikal in his book “Modern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and Survival”.
Pakistan has always supported rebellious forces in Afghanistan to secure its covert designs
Pakistan was always keen to see a disturbed and disintegrated Afghanistan for pursuing their trans-border regional ambitions and with a strong Central Government in place in Kabul could not possibly help their covert designs to meet the terms. Instability in Afghanistan was an opportunity for Pakistan to secure their ulterior political agenda and the Army of Pakistan with ISI was always on a mission to destabilize the country by aiding and instigating local militias against any established government in Kabul. At times the Pakistani regular army went inside Afghanistan and waged a war against the government while keeping the militias and rebel groups at the forefront.
Who were the Talibanis – How Taliban was created?
Talibani forces are the product and amalgamation of various militias and rebel groups sponsored, aided and abetted by Pakistan. And the agony today for Pakistan is – the rebellious forces they nurtured against Afghanistan for destabilizing the country in order to secure their long-term ambitions to hold sway on a larger area – their regional ambition with Pakistan, Afghanistan and a few parts of Central Asia in their hold, fell apart with the Taliban establishing a strong hold on entire Afghanistan. Initially, when the Talibani forces reigned over in Afghanistan in 2021 after the US army left the country abruptly, the one country that was ecstatic and supported Taliban’s occupation was Pakistan, because it carried an illusion of using Talibani militia forces for destabilizing India through Kashmir. Till now the Talibani Government and militias in Kabul have not fallen prey to Pakistan’s sinister designs, instead, they have stayed away from Pakistan in a way that has unnerved the Pak establishments much more than anticipated.
Taliban Government has expressed their willingness that India should re-start its stalled projects
Meanwhile, the Taliban government in Afghanistan has expressed their desire and willingness to support India, so that the 20 stalled projects in several provinces of the war-torn country can be re-started. In June, India re-established its diplomatic presence in Kabul by deploying a “technical team” at its embassy in the Afghan capital. After the Taliban seized power in August 2021, India recalled its officials from the embassy following concerns about their safety.
In August this year, Afghanistan’s foreign ministry optimistically stated that India’s diplomatic presence in the country would result in the completion of “incomplete projects” initiated by New Delhi and new beginnings may also be on the anvil. Recently Afghanistan’s Ministry of Urban Development and Housing (MUDH) announced that the Indian charge-in-charge, Bharat Kumar, has expressed interest in improving ties and resuming stalled projects in the country. Kumar made the remarks during a meeting with Urban Development and Housing Minister Hamdullah Nomani.
According to MUDH, India is expected to resume work on at least 20 projects in several provinces of the country – Mohammad Kamal Afghan, a spokesperson for the MUDH said and added that the projects India was implementing during the previous government but were delayed due to political changes or other issues—they are now resuming those projects. The latest move of the Indian government is in the right earnest to increase employment opportunities and spur development in the country.
The resumption of developmental projects in Afghanistan by India is not only a litmus test – will pave way for more nations to join
The resumption of these projects will not only create employment opportunities for the people and it will also boost the income of the people and save Afghanistan from political isolation. It is also important that a major nation like India take such initiatives and such bold steps will surely carry a very strong message to the world that has largely stayed away from Afghanistan’s development. More humanitarian organisations would come forward to assist Afghanistan and its poverty-stricken population, with back-room diplomatic support from India.
India’s humanitarian approach has many takers in the world and Kabul
Although India has not recognized the new regime in Afghanistan and has been pushing for the formation of a truly inclusive government in Kabul, it has been advocating for providing uninterrupted humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan to address the humanitarian crisis facing the country. Leading from the front, India has provided humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people by sending 50,000 metric tons of wheat, 13 tons of medicines, 500,000 doses of Covid vaccine and winter clothing.
Now all eyes will be on the re-starting of the projects by India, the security aspects of Indians resuming work and the unconditional support that the Taliban government has assured.