Only global pressure can make the Taliban fall in line - Hindustan Times
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Only global pressure can make the Taliban fall in line

Jun 19, 2024 11:31 AM IST

This article is authored by Ayanangsha Maitra, foreign affairs scholar, New Delhi.

The trifecta of global turmoil—the war in Ukraine, the Israel-Hamas conflict, and the Iran crisis—has reshuffled the world-order. And, as a result, the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan following the Taliban's seizure of Kabul continues to be overlooked. It's as if the Taliban's takeover got upstaged and normalised by a scheme of things and chains of conflicts. It must not be forgotten that Hamas, among other extremist groups, congratulated the Taliban on successfully sending the Pentagon's forces packing.

A Taliban security personnel watches a tractor squash opium plantations at a field in Arghandab district of Kandahar province. on January 15, 2024. (Photo by Sanaullah SEIAM / AFP)(AFP)
A Taliban security personnel watches a tractor squash opium plantations at a field in Arghandab district of Kandahar province. on January 15, 2024. (Photo by Sanaullah SEIAM / AFP)(AFP)

The fall of Kabul on August 15, 2021 has altered many dynamics, yet certain aspects remain unchanged inside the war-ravaged country. A prevalent misconception is the idea of the Taliban's global recognition. However, under the Montevideo Convention of 1933, it is the country which is recognised, not the regime. It is up to individual countries to decide whether or not to engage with the governing authorities. For example, while New Delhi recognises both Pakistan and North Korea as sovereign States, the extent of its engagement with their governments varies depending on the prevailing geopolitical situation. However, in the case of validating Taliban rule, complexities abound. The transformation from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan signifies a shift from democracy to a totalitarian theocracy, accompanied by the alteration of the national flag. On Taliban, Qatar is not as eager as it used to. Neither Saudi Arabia nor the United Arab Emirates is interested in strengthening ties with the Taliban.

The Troika Plus group, comprising Russia, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan has become very active in engaging with the Taliban, whereas India and United States (US) are both solely humanitarian assistance providers to the people of Afghanistan. China has appointed a full-fledged ambassador, Russia has named a presidential special envoy, Pakistan has assigned a special envoy for Afghanistan, whereas India has maintained a technical team in its Kabul mission to administer limited consular service and humanitarian support. The Taliban administration has welcomed India’s Chabahar project and urged it to place a diplomat after Zakia Wardak’s resignation.

According to an ethnic minority, Hazara contact in Mazar-e-Sharif, the previous government, despite its corruption, maintained organisational norms. Now, however, the government is controlled by a close-knit circle of friends, with no law, authority, or free media to address corruption. The Taliban, coming from impoverished backgrounds and having fought for 20 years, have now developed a taste for luxury, perhaps in the belief that their government may not last too long. However, reports suggest that the security situation has improved in places like Mazar-e-Sharif and Bamyan, leading to an increase in tourist flow.

Under the Taliban, about 80% of the population is finding it very difficult to make both ends meet. A source in Jalalabad recently said his family had to relocate thrice within a short span from Kabul. Inflation remains relatively low, but people's incomes have plummeted drastically due to decreased business activity and a lack of investment opportunities. For instance, a shopkeeper who used to earn 20,000 Afghani a month now struggles to make 5,000. However, the flow of dollars from the US to stabilise the Afghani currency has provided some stability.

Under the Taliban, Afghanistan is becoming a difficult place to call home for the Hazaras, Tajiks and other ethnic as well as linguistic minorities. Pushtun supremacy is very much there. “If you have a case in a court and your opponent is a Pashtun he must win the case,” a friend remarked.

Initially, the influence of the country’s drug lords was confined to Qandahar and Helmand provinces. Now, their influence extends across the country. Haji Bashir Noorzai, often regarded as the Pablo Escobar of Afghanistan, was freed in a prisoner swap agreement with the US. He is now dealing with China’s mine projects in the country. "Noorzai cultivated a great camaraderie with Taliban leadership, providing substantial financial backing to the preceding Taliban administration," an Afghan-American who was involved in the evacuation process of Afghans to the US said to me a week ago.

The Taliban's aspiration for global recognition of their government is hindered by their reluctance to adhere to international standards, notably in governance inclusivity and women's rights. With power now consolidated in Kandahar, the Taliban's stronghold, their defiance on issues like the Durand Line reflects their autonomy from Inter-Services Intelligence or directives from Islamabad. Now, the responsibility lies with world leaders to deal with the regime and ensure it complies with the norms of basic human rights. The Taliban's triumph over the mighty western forces reinforces their belief in Afghanistan as the graveyard of empires, signalling their reluctance to swiftly adopt a global rules-based order.

This article is authored by Ayanangsha Maitra, foreign affairs scholar, New Delhi.

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