On Kabul, a united, proactive approach
India’s move to convene a meeting of senior security officials of regional countries on the situation in Afghanistan reflects a proactive approach to shaping the response to developments in the war-torn country following the takeover by the Taliban. Invitations have been extended to China, Russia, Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan for the meeting to be held in November. Security officials of these countries met for talks hosted by Iran in 2018 and 2019 with the objective of fashioning a regional approach to Afghanistan. However, the situation has changed since the Taliban takeover and the focus of most countries has shifted to ensuring there is no spillover of terrorism from Afghan soil. India has signalled it is in no rush to give any sort of legitimacy to the Taliban set-up.
Pakistan has confirmed receiving an invitation to the meeting, but there has been no word on whether it will attend. Over the past two decades, Pakistan’s security establishment has backed the Taliban while successive governments in Islamabad have worked to end New Delhi’s influence across Afghanistan. Under the current circumstances, it is difficult to foresee cooperation between India and Pakistan on Afghanistan, especially when the Pakistani military believes it is in the driving seat. Even if Pakistan opts not to attend the meeting in November, India still has an opportunity to work with regional countries that have genuine security-related concerns and put together a response focused on ensuring the human rights of Afghans and delivering humanitarian aid. Hoping for this meeting to ensure an inclusive government in Kabul would be too big an ask, but it could, at least, help India to get back into the game.