A Change In Stance
It is not an internal crisis of the Islamic World, but a clash between two different ideologies. While Islamic Republic of Iran is considered as a progressive nation in West Asia, Islamic Republic of Pakistan is popularly known as the birthplace of Jihad. That is why Iran has slammed Pakistan’s role in Panjshir Valley.
Incidentally, it is not India (considered as Pakistan’s arch rival), but Iran which fired the first salvo against Islamabad’s overt involvement in Afghanistan’s internal matters on September 6, 2021. Tehran questioned media reports of Pakistani military presence in the Panjshir Valley after the Taliban claimed that it overcame resistance to its rule. With this move, Iran became the first country to protest against the Taliban blockading the valley. Tehran also called for negotiations, instead of military action, with Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh saying: “Last night’s attacks are condemned in the strongest terms… and the foreign interference …. must be investigated. We are investigating it.”
On September 5, the Taliban issued a statement, saying that they captured the Panjshir Valley, where the resistance was being led jointly by Ahmad Massoud and former Vice President Amrullah Saleh. Although both sides claimed that they retained control of the valley, the Taliban received military help from Pakistan. Now, it has become one of the world’s open secrets. Earlier, Indian Intelligence officers expressed serious concerns over the close link between the Taliban and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the premier intelligence agency of Pakistan, operationally responsible for gathering, processing, and analysing information relevant for National Security from around the world.
Now, Iran has openly criticised Pakistan for running the show in a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. It may be noted that ISI Chief Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed arrived in Kabul on September 4 mainly to oversee the Government Formation and to ensure key roles for allies, like the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, in the new Government. According to media reports, the ISI chief rushed to Kabul after a clash between Abdul Ghani Baradar, the co-founder and the current Deputy Prime Minister of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Haqqani-supported groups in which Baradar sustained injuries.
After the Taliban took control of the war-ravaged South Asian nation on August 15, Iran initially welcomed the development. However, the September 6 statement indicates that Tehran is still not ready to give up its influence over the Taliban resistance either, comprising as it is of mainly of Tajiks and some other minority groups who are the members of the Northern Alliance. Interestingly, India maintains silence on the ongoing developments in the Panjshir Valley, where Hazaras (Shia) and Dari-speaking Tajiks were tortured and killed.
Meanwhile, Russia has warned India that terrorism in Afghanistan may spread to Kashmir in the coming days! At the same time, Russian Ambassador to India Nikolay Kudashev has assured New Delhi that the two countries would fight terrorism together in such a situation because Russia and India are equally worried.
Indeed, it is an important development, keeping in mind that Russia recently held several meetings on the current political situation in Afghanistan with various countries, including Pakistan. However, the Kremlin did not invite India to join those meetings. Hence, International Observers believe that Russia’s message to India on the issue of terrorism is significant!
Speaking at an event in the Indian capital of New Delhi on September 6, Ambassador Kudashev stressed: “Counter-terrorism co-operation is a key part of the India-Russia dialogue at various levels, and Moscow wants an inclusive Government in Kabul to ensure stability and sustainable development in Afghanistan.” He said: “What is it the two of us need in Afghanistan is security, predictability, and inclusive Government, which will satisfy the needs of the Afghan people. Afghan-owned and Afghan built Government. That’s the basics of the Indian position, (which is) very close to us.“
Commenting on the possible resurrection of terrorism, the Russian Ambassador said that it would be best to prevent these threats. “Whether we are concerned with the promise of the resurrection of terrorism? Yes, we are, same as you do. What is that we could do? We could face this threat and do our best to prevent the situation in and around Afghanistan,” he told the audience.
On the question of recognition of the Taliban, Kudashev stated: “Recognition (of the Taliban-led Government in Afghanistan) is too early to say. Is any Government or any Governing Structure officially available in Kabul now? Not yet. It is admitted by the Afghans, themselves. After decades of war, it hasn’t come as a surprise to us.“
Earlier, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov said that India had no influence over the Taliban. So, India was not invited to the Russia-Pakistan meetings on Afghanistan. A few days after Kabulov made the remark, the Kremlin announced that it would co-operate with India on terrorism in Afghanistan! Defence experts are of the opinion that since one has to enter the Indian soil through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) to carry out terrorist activities in India-administered Kashmir, it has become important for Moscow to hold talks with Islamabad. Else, it will not be possible for Russia to assess Pakistan’s role in strengthening the Taliban and other terror outfits in the region.
Meanwhile, Chief of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) William Burns and Secretary of the Russian Security Council General Nikolay Patrushev held high-level meetings with top Indian officials in New Delhi on September 7-8, as both Washington DC and the Kremlin reached out to India amid the Afghan crisis. Burns met Indian National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval to discuss various issues arising from the Afghanistan evacuation effort and Taliban Government formation. Later, General Patrushev, the former Head of the Russian Intelligence Agency FSB, discussed the developments in Afghanistan with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, NSA Doval and External Affairs Minister of India Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.
The top US and Russian officials arrived in India soon after the Taliban announced an acting or interim Government led by Mohammad Hasan Akhund as Prime Minister and Abdul Ghani Baradar as Deputy Prime Minister. Their visit to New Delhi was also significant because they arrived in India ahead of the SCO and QUAD formations, which would be attended by the Indian PM. While PM Modi attended the SCO meeting on September 16 via videoconference, he would travel to the US for the QUAD meeting to be held on September 24. Just like in the SCO meet, the QUAD meeting, too, would focus mainly on the future course in Afghanistan.
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