Taliban’s changed stand towards Jammu and Kashmir is an opportunity for India

Taliban’s stand regarding Jammu and Kashmir seems to have changed and reveals that wants to adopt more balanced approach in the region and perhaps doesn’t want to be seen as pawn in Pakistan’s hands

Representative Image
Representative Image

Soroor Ahmed

In a significant development Taliban on August 8, 2019 urged India and Pakistan to refrain from taking steps that could pave a way for "violence and complications" in the region.

They also said the India-Pakistan rift over Jammu and Kashmir should not be linked with the situation in Afghanistan.

"Linking the issue of Kashmir with that of Afghanistan by some parties will not aid in improving the crisis at hand because the issue of Afghanistan is not related nor should Afghanistan be turned into the theatre of competition between other countries," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.

The statement, a significant departure from the earlier policy of Taliban, came after reports that the revival of this outfit after the complete withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan in the near future may give a boost to militancy in Kashmir Valley.

The statement also reveals that Taliban has somewhat changed its stand towards India as well as Pakistan and wants to adopt more balanced approach in the region. It perhaps does not want to be seen as the pawn in the hands of Pakistan.

If the intention of Taliban is honest, this is an opportunity for India and one should avoid adopting such a policy which pushes Taliban into the fold of Pakistan.

If one traces the history of insurgency in the Kashmir, one finds that it started in December 1989 when Dr Najibullah-led Communist government was ruling Afghanistan and it was also true that the Soviet forces had withdrawn from that country by then.

Dr Najibullah was overthrown in 1992. This was followed by a period of uncertainty and clashes among various Mujahideen groups for the control on Kabul. Finally, the Northern Alliance managed to control Kabul and continued to rule till September 26, 1996 when Taliban took over the country. They, however, managed to rule the country from southern stronghold of Kandhar, till they were driven out from power in November 2001 by the American-led NATO forces. This was exactly two months after 9/11 bombing of Twin Towers and a block of Pentagon.

An objective analysis of the Kashmir situation would reveal that militancy was at its peak in the first half of 1990s. The abduction of Dr Rubiya Sayeed, sister of Mehbooba Mufti and the daughter of the then Union home minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in the first week of December, 1989 sparked off militancy in the Valley. In fact, her father became the home minister in the VP Singh government just days before this incident.

This was followed by abduction and killing of the vice chancellor of Kashmir University Dr Mushir-ul-Haq in April 1990 and the killing of Mirwaiz of Kashmir, Molvi Farooq, father of present Hurriyat leader Umar Farooq on May 21, 1990.

In May, 1995 militants-led by a Pakistani terrorist Mast Gul holed in Charar-e-Sharif. The Indian forces launched an operation to flush out the militants. The tomb and adjoining area were gutted in fire. However, Mast Gul managed to escape and fled to Pakistan.

So, terrorism in Kashmir preceded the coming to power of Taliban in Afghanistan. It continued even after their take over. The most glaring example was the hijacking of Indian Airlines plane from Kathmandu to Delhi to Kandahar via Amritsar and Dubai in December, 1999. Earlier in the same year, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee travelled to Lahore. This was followed by Kargil Operation.

The situation worsened just after 9/11 though General Musharraf and Vajpayee met in Agra between July 14 and 16, 2001. While the NATO forces were gearing up to destroy Taliban after 9/11 militants stormed into the building of Kashmir Assembly in Srinagar on October 1, 2001 and killed many people. Later, they attacked the Indian Parliament on December 13 the same year. This incident took place a month after the ouster of Taliban by NATO forces.

Much water has flown since then. The Taliban has a new leadership and another faction called Pakistani Taliban has come up. It is based essentially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and is busy waging war against Pakistan.

No doubt, the Afghan Taliban has the backing of Pakistan. Yet it is also a fact that they have learnt a lesson. They have improved their relationship with Iran as well as Russia.

It is most likely that the Afghan Taliban may not allow international terror groups to operate from their country. They are aware as how ISIS has gained some ground in eastern Afghanistan and may challenge them in future.

Sensing the changed scenario, the former commander of Hizb-e-Islami, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar had sometimes back joined hands with the Kabul government.

He was once considered as the closest ally of Pakistan. If an agreement is made in Afghanistan––as it is likely now––and the US withdraws its forces from that country, a new scenario would emerge. President Donald Trump is keen to focus his attention in Persian Gulf.

Thus, there is some scope for India to explore a new possibility in Afghanistan.

True, a friendly regime in Kabul provides strategic depth to Pakistan, yet Afghanistan cannot be considered as the lost cause for us after the withdrawal of the US forces.

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