A national consensus on Afghanistan
On Monday, external affairs minister S Jaishankar tweeted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked that all floor leaders in Parliament be briefed on developments in Afghanistan. After a Parliament session marked by a breakdown in ties between the government and the Opposition, this is a laudable step. Events in Afghanistan represent a serious national security threat for India, and it is only right that the government shares information and its policy framework with India’s political class. After hearing Opposition leaders and their views, there must be a national consensus on the Afghanistan policy.
This is even more important because the rise of the Taliban threatens to become an issue in India’s domestic politics. Simply put, it is a threat. India must do all it can to secure its citizens as well as interests and investment in that country over the past two decades; it must lay down its redlines for a future Taliban government; it must continue to ideologically battle the Taliban; and it must gear up to prevent any terror attacks.
The experience of the early 1990s, when jihadi fighters moved to Kashmir from Afghanistan, is all too fresh. There are indications that Jaish founder and terrorist Masood Azhar has already visited Kandahar to meet with the victorious Taliban leadership.
But while dealing with the threat, and cracking down on religious extremism, it is important that the Taliban’s success is not used to demonise Indian Muslims — who have nothing to do with its fanatical brand of Islam and terror machinery. Its rise must not be used to create an environment of fear. Cross-party consultations and resisting the temptation to deepen polarisation can help prevent this.