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India’s engagement with the Taliban set to redefine relations with Tajikistan | world news




The Narendra Modi governments’ swift decision to offer humanitarian aid and development cooperation to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan by sending an official delegation to Kabul has clearly sent shock waves through the neighborhood of the Islamic Emirate.

As the delegation led by Indian Afghan expert JP Singh is due to return from Kabul today, it is abundantly clear that the Indian official met quietly with senior Taliban leaders in the Afghan capital and discussed next steps to make advance bilateral cooperation. The fact is that both sides were looking forward to the meeting which apparently caught Pakistan and China off guard.

India’s pragmatic Taliban engagement is set to spark a new approach from New Delhi to Afghanistan’s neighbor Tajikistan, as it has a deeply contentious relationship with the Sunni Pashtun force across the Amu Darya in Kabul. . After the Taliban took control of Kabul, Tajikistan under its authoritarian ruler Emomali Rahmon conducted military exercises near its more than 1,300 km border with Afghanistan, alongside troops of members of the Security Organization collective led by Russia.

Although India built a civilian hospital at Farkhor in southwestern Tajikistan and virtually across the border from Afghanistan in the 1990s not only to help the local population but also to treat members of the Northern Alliance injured in the Afghan civil unrest, New Delhi is expected to have a recalibration of its relations with Tajikistan as the latter has grown closer to Beijing over the past decade. China is now Tajikistan’s biggest creditor and biggest investor. Given that Tajikistan is largely a remittance-based economy, it is clearly under a Chinese debt trap and has therefore compromised with Xi Jinping’s regime to the point of allowing Beijing to use its military base on its border with the restive Xinjiang region. The fact is that Dushanbe supports Chinese repressive policies against the Sunni Uyghur Muslim community in the Xinjiang region and has allowed Chinese companies to mine gold, silver and other minerals in the goldfield of Upper Kumarg in the province of Sughd. China is also building an airbase in Tashkurgan, which will clearly help the PLA monitor any Uyghur secessionist activity in the Wakhan corridor on the China-Afghanistan-Tajikistan border in the name of counter-terrorism cooperation.

Perhaps it was because of China’s growing presence in Tajikistan and its service provider-customer relationship with Pakistan that India really had a joint military air base across the Afghan border, Dushanbe succumbing to pressure from China and Russia. China has told Tajikistan that it is apprehensive of Indian actions in Afghanistan and Central Asia. This is despite the fact that India has provided grants in the form of aid, food, medicine, vaccines and humanitarian assistance to Tajikistan over the past decades.

As the Northern Alliance enters Afghan history and Chinese presence grows in Tajikistan through the debt trap of the Belt and Road Initiative, India must redefine its foreign policy goals to Dushanbe. Perhaps India’s engagement with the Taliban is the first step in that direction.

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