As the prospect of Taliban bands fighting their way to Kabul becomes more likely with the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, there is a growing perception in New Delhi that, as a newspaper editorial put it, for India the situation “holds no glad tidings, good options or even a silver lining.” The concern is that if the Taliban regain power, not only will India lose influence, but also that battle-hardened Islamist militants will turn their attentions to Kashmir, just as they did 30 years ago after the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan.
Well, as much as these fears and concerns are genuine, they are also overblown. International politics is vastly different today from what it was in 1991 or even 2001. The return of the Taliban will be terrible for the people of their unfortunate country, but it does not automatically follow that they will pose the same kind of threat to India as they did in the 1990s. Even then, their hostility towards India was found to be driven more by the agenda of the Pakistani military-jihadi complex and less by any intrinsic animosity towards us. In recent times, their adversarial position towards New Delhi has been in response to India’s support for the Afghan government and, until recently, the refusal to talk to them.