(This was originally posted in Hindustan Times by Shishir Gupta)
Saudi Arabia foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud is expected to visit India this weekend to discuss the unfolding situation in Afghanistan even as Qatar has taken lead in diplomatically engaging Kabul and towards legitimising the Taliban. India’s close allies in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are worried about the security ramifications of the medieval theocratic Afghanistan state and the ties of the global jihadist network with the Taliban regime. The two countries are also perturbed with the active role played by Qatar, Turkey and Pakistan in engaging the Sunni Islamist regime with Islamabad sending its first commercial flight to Kabul. Qatar is handling the technical side of the Kabul airport operations, while the Taliban is still considering handing over perimeter security to the Turkish military.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed the Afghanistan situation with UAE crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on September 3 over the telephone, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar hosted Dr Anwar Gargash, Diplomatic Advisor to UAE President, on August 30 and exchanged notes on the Kabul crisis.
It is in this context that the Saudi foreign minister is scheduled to arrive in India on September 19. Prince Faisal is expected to hold meetings with EAM Jaishankar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and call on Prime Minister Modi. Jaishankar departs for New York for UNGA and QUAD summit the next day.
Even though Qatar has been the lead player in the rise of Taliban in Afghanistan with Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani and Special Envoy Mutlaq bin Majed Al Qahtani visiting Kabul last Sunday, the global community is a long way off in legitimizing the ultra-conservative Kabul regime. It is quite evident to the international community that the present Taliban regime has full military and political support of Pakistani ISI with its chief playing the kingmaker in government formation in Kabul.
However, the international community is worried about the fall-out of Sunni Pashtun force usurping power through military means with no less than 17 out of the 33 ministers designated as global terrorists by the UN and sanctioned against. As per the UN 1267 list, the following ministers of the Taliban cabinet are on the UN list with interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani being the crown prince of terror with a bounty of $5 million on his head by the US State Department. The head of Haqqani Network, the most lethal of terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan, is also the head of intelligence.
While countries like China, Pakistan, Turkey and Qatar are engaging the Taliban, the international community is measuring the Sunni Islamists with UNSC resolution 2593 before taking a call on towards legitimising the male-dominated regime with no space for women and minorities. This time Afghanistan apart from Indo-Pacific and coronavirus will resonate at the UNGA high segment sessions next week.