As the Taliban return to power in Afghanistan, speculations are rife in India about the likely spill over of the violence into Kashmir. There is a fear in India that the Taliban victory would not only lend a fresh impetus to Kashmir’s otherwise waning militancy but also embolden Pakistan to once again support it with arms and manpower.
Would this scenario play out as anticipated? There is a likelihood that it would. Senior BJP leader Ram Madhav who was also in charge of Kashmir affairs until last year was among the first in India to warn of Taliban spillover into Kashmir.
“Taliban has over 30K (30,000) mercenaries trained in Pak by ISI. In power in Kabul, Taliban leadership wl (will) now deploy them ‘elsewhere’ wid d (with the) help of mentor Pak. India shud (should) brace up for serious security challenges. Taliban may eventually consume Pak n China 2 (too), but the immediate threat is 4 (for) India,” Madhav tweeted soon after the Taliban took control of Kabul.
Similarly, well-regarded international publications like The Economist have predicted fresh trouble in Kashmir. “Now, with Mr Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government having stirred its own troubles in Kashmir, by stripping the region of autonomy in 2019, it must face the prospect of a new generation of Muslim Kashmiris inspired by the Taliban’s fanaticism,” The Economist wrote in a piece on the implications of Taliban victory for India.
Writing in the Foreign Policy, Sumit Ganguly wrote: “When they previously held power, the Taliban gave free rein to a host of anti-Indian terrorist organizations within Afghanistan, most notably Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-eTaiba. Safe havens allowed these organizations to regroup, train, and then wreak havoc in Indian-administered Kashmir, the site of a long-running insurgency”.
The former Jammu and Kashmir Police Chief, S P Vaid has also expressed a similar opinion. In interviews with media, Vaid said that the Taliban’s previous rule from 1996 to 2001 had escalated the cycle of violence in Kashmir. “Kargil war, Parliament attack, Assembly attack and major suicide attacks happened then,” Vaid said while warning that a similar situation could play out yet again.
THE FLIP SIDE
Pravin Sawhney, a strategic analyst, however, does not think that the Taliban’s control over Kabul would directly impact Kashmir. According to him, the Taliban would try to endear itself to the international community for recognition Sawhney added that Kashmir would be affected by new regional geopolitics.
“We have our own indigenous problems in Jammu and Kashmir. The biggest problem is that we are unable to differentiate between terrorism and insurgency. The problem there is insurgency. What is happening there has the support of people. The Kashmir situation in any case is volatile and people, in my estimation, feel alienated,” he said.
The opinion is thus divided between those who argue a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan would pave the way for the Islamic group to intervene in Kashmir and those who think the Taliban would not do so.
Among those who say that a Taliban government would not affect Kashmir are the former RAW chief A S Dulat, a Kashmir expert.
“Taliban will now seek international recognition, including from India. Why would they get involved in Kashmir,” Dulat said in an interview he gave a month before the Taliban takeover. “I do not believe that the Taliban will now dance to Pakistan’s tunes; they have their own independent agenda”.
Dulat believes that he didn’t see the Taliban’s interference in Kashmir. “They will have to handle Afghanistan now. US troop withdrawal will only facilitate a political power moment in Afghanistan”.
Similarly, India’s former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal had, in a piece he wrote in July, urged New Delhi to take measures to pre-empt the fallout of the possible Taliban rule in Afghanistan on Kashmir.
“India has experience of Pakistan training jihadis in Afghanistan for terrorism in Kashmir, besides of course the IC-814 incident when the Taliban were in power in the country,” Sibal wrote in the piece. “The most important thing is to strengthen our security shield in Jammu and Kashmir.”
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