Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

India must rethink ‘wait and watch’ Afghan policy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Panjshir valley

Mains level : Paper 2- India's approach towards Taliban


After the collapse of the government in Kabul, India has adopted a wait and watch approach in its dealing with the Taliban.

Taliban’s position in Afghanistan

  • The Taliban grip over Afghanistan will only strengthen unless there is a popular revolt against it in the cities.
  • The Panjshiri defiance is unlikely to go anywhere without considerable and abiding support from the US and a firm commitment from Tajikistan.
  • After a talk between leaders of the extinguished Afghan Republic and the Taliban on central government formation, there has been no news of the process for more than a week.
  • There is continuous pressure on Taliban leaders and Pakistan from the Western donor community for the formation of a government acceptable to it.
  • Some Taliban leaders would want financial flows to continue to prevent a collapse of the Afghan economy.

The approach of the international community toward the Taliban

  • Assurances would be sought from the Taliban not only by the West but also by Russia and China that there will be no attempt to put in place the 1990s practices of the Islamic Emirate on gender issues and the more medieval manifestations of the Sharia.
  • Commitment to anti-terrorism: US will keep close scrutiny on the Taliban to honor its commitment to al Qaeda and will demand that it continues to cooperate on ISIS-K extermination, an objective shared by Russia.
  • Diplomatic recognition of a Taliban government, including allowing it to occupy the United Nations seat in the forthcoming future will depend on its acceptability.
  • However, the US and EU will not be reluctant to maintain open and direct contact with a Taliban government.

Issues with India’s wait and watch policy

  • India continues to “wait and watch” Afghan developments.
  • What is being overlooked is that “strategic patience” cannot be an alibi for inaction.
  • The invocation of the British Raj policy of “masterly inactivity” by some scholars defies logic for it applied in a completely different context.
  • Recognition v. legitimacy: Besides, while diplomatic recognition or its denial is a specific act of a country in inter-state relations, “legitimacy” is more applicable in the internal jurisdiction of countries.
  • India “waited and watched” Afghan developments from the sidelines, at least since the US-Taliban deal.
  • How long will India continue to “wait and watch”?

Way forward

  • Establish open contact: To explore the Taliban’s approaches towards India there is an obvious need to establish open and direct contacts with it.
  • That will also allow India to convey its red lines.
  • This should not be confused with diplomatic recognition.
  • Welcome Afghans: The establishment of open contacts with the Taliban will not be contradictory to actively welcome those Afghans, irrespective of their faith, who are closely connected with India.

Consider the question “What are the implications of the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan for India? What should be India’s approach in dealing with the Taliban controlled Afghanistan?”


It would damage India’s reputation greatly and into the future, if perceptions grow, as they are growing, that India has abandoned its friends in Afghanistan at the time of their need.

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