(This was originally posted in Hindustan Times by Rezaul H Laskar)
The situation in Afghanistan is fluid and uncertain amid the drawdown of US forces and the Taliban’s “relentless pursuit of power through violence”, including targeted assassinations and capture of territory, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla said on Friday.
Shringla’s comments came against the backdrop of the US having completed the withdrawal of more than 50% of its troops from Afghanistan well ahead of a September deadline, and the Taliban launching a wave of attacks across the country and targeting Afghan officials, activists and journalists in many cities.
The violence by the Taliban has increased despite talks with the group at different forums, whereas India has always backed calls for a ceasefire and talks involving various stakeholders and all neighbouring countries to find a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan, Shringla said during a virtual dialogue organised by the Public Affairs Forum of India (PAFI).
“Afghanistan today is in…a situation of uncertainty with the US withdrawal. On the one hand, [there is] the Taliban aggression, on the other, the Taliban has been steadily expanding its…operations in Afghanistan through targeted assassinations as well as territorial aggression,” he said.
“I think the levels of violence and the fact that despite talks going on in Qatar and other places, their relentless pursuit of power through violence has made it an uncertain environment in any sense,” he added. Shringla further said: “Many of those talks are on but as I said the situation is fluid and uncertain and at this point of time, it’s very difficult to say how things would work out.”
The foreign secretary was responding to questions on the withdrawal of US and foreign forces and the possibility of Indian firms investing in Afghanistan, especially in sectors such as mining. Though there have been some investments in Afghanistan’s mining sector, these have been affected by “uncertainties which are only increasing, not decreasing”, he said. “We hope the time will come when companies can go in and invest and realise their returns on investments appropriately and there is peace and stability in the country,” he added.
India, Shringla said, has always stood for a peaceful solution in Afghanistan. “We have always called for a ceasefire, we have always advocated that there should be talks between the government and the Taliban and others that are involved in this process, involving all the neighbouring countries,” he said. As a friend of Afghanistan and its people, India continues to fervently hope there is peace and stability in the country, he said.
“But as I said, the situation today is very fluid and obviously a large number of US and coalition forces that have maintained a certain amount of stability, when they pull out, it creates an environment of uncertainty and we have to watch and see,” Shringla added.
India is currently the largest regional donor towards Afghanistan’s development and reconstruction, with pledges totalling $3 billion. In recent years, India has completed several major infrastructure projects such as the Salma Dam or the Friendship Dam and the new Parliament building. However, New Delhi has been keeping a wary eye on the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and its implications for the region.