Taliban Rule: Implications for South Asia

As the Taliban gains power in Afghanistan, the major nations in South Asia are faced with one of two possibilities: recognise the Government and make peace with them, or snap ties completely. For all nations, including China and Pakistan, there are clear dangers posed by the ascension of the Islamist militant group. What does a Taliban rule mean for the immediate neighbourhood, warts and all?


India’s concerns are clear and straightforward. It needs to protect its considerable investments in Afghanistan, which will be in trouble under a Pakistan-backed Taliban regime, and prevent the neighbourhood from becoming a haven of terrorism. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar enunciated as much in the UN. Chairing a high-level United Nations Security Council briefing on ‘threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts’ held under India’s current presidency of the UNSC, said the heightened activities of the proscribed Haqqani Network justifies this growing anxiety. The Haqqani Network’s top leaders, including Sirajuddin Haqqani, will play a major role in the Taliban administration. 

“In our own immediate neighbourhood, ISIL-Khorasan (ISIL-K) has become more energetic and is constantly seeking to expand its footprint. Events unfolding in Afghanistan have naturally enhanced global concerns about their implications for both regional and international security,” he said.

“Whether it is in Afghanistan or against India, groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) continue to operate with both impunity and encouragement,” Jaishankar said. “It is therefore vital that the Security Council does not take a selective, tactical or complacent view of the problems we face,” the External Affairs Minister said. “We must never countenance sanctuaries for terrorists or overlook their raising of resources,” he said.

“When we see state hospitality being extended to those with innocents’ blood on their hands, we should never lack the courage to call out their double-speak,” he said.


Beijing is delighted at the abject US failure in Afghanistan. There is no doubt that the American debacle in Afghanistan has given China’s massive propaganda machine a field day, allowing it to pour scorn on the US decline, but questions remain on the Chinese side vis-a-vis Taliban.

From a Chinese point of view, having US troops bogged down in Afghanistan has far greater geopolitical benefits. Now the American withdrawal will not only create uncertainties and risks in regional stability and the balance of power but will also allow Washington to focus more attention and resources on countering China.

US President Joe Biden made that sentiment clear in his speech this week when he said our true strategic competitors, China and Russia would love nothing more than the United States to continue to funnel billions of dollars in resources and attention into stabilising Afghanistan indefinitely.

On the one hand, Beijing has legitimate worries that Afghanistan could again become a staging ground for terrorists because of the Taliban’s historical links with extremists including the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a group of Uygur militants blamed by China for terror attacks in Xinjiang. But Beijing remains unconvinced and used that meeting and others since then to stress that the Taliban must take concrete actions to make a clean break with all terrorist forces including the ETIM.


The Pakistani Government believes it has struck gold in Afghanistan, seeing the Taliban’s victory as a strategic win over India. Within hours of Kabul’s fall, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said the Afghan people had broken the shackles of slavery to the West. Pakistan has lobbied the international community, close allies China and Russia in particular, to garner support for a collective diplomatic engagement with the Taliban as a means of ensuring that the group keeps its promises to form an inclusive administration, prevent terrorist attacks from Afghanistan and allow women access to education and employment.

Pakistan has the most to gain from peace in its neighbour and the most to lose from strife and instability. Pakistan only stands to gain in terms of stability on its western border if the Taliban were able to govern effectively, accommodate other ethnic groups and establish a lasting peace. Conversely, if they are unable to do so, Afghanistan could face an uncertain and unstable future which will not be in Pakistan’s interest.

Abdul Basit, an associate research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore, said the relationship between Pakistan and the Taliban is a marriage of convenience based on tactical divergences in Afghanistan.

“For Pakistan, it was to keep India out of Afghanistan by helping the Taliban. For the Taliban, it was to resist the US presence and eventually force it out of Afghanistan by availing itself of sanctuaries in Pakistan,” he told The Washington Post.

Beyond this marriage of convenience, the relationship between Pakistan and the Taliban had its own ups and downs, disagreements and divergences, Basit said. For instance, Islamabad was frustrated by the Taliban’s lack of action against the thousands of Pakistani Taliban fighters in eastern Afghanistan, he said.

At a confidential Parliamentary briefing of Pakistan’s politicians on July 2, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed described the Taliban and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group as two sides of the same coin.

Also, the analysts said both Pakistan and China will face a strong push back from the US, which may feel more liberated after withdrawing its troops as it could focus its attention more on China and the region.

Sri Lanka

Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has cautioned the Sri Lankan Government against recognising the Taliban rule in Afghanistan and advocated the snapping of ties with Kabul, saying one should rethink if the country should be a “party to help terrorism” raise its head in the region. In a statement issued on Thursday, the four-time former Prime Minister said: “Everyone fears that Afghanistan would become a centre of and for jihadi terrorist groups under the Taliban rule.”

“No one could condone their actions to threaten states and people. Their ideology based on a wrong interpretation of the Holy Quran is a threat to conventional Islamic states and all other nations,” Wickremesinghe said. “There are no justifiable reasons for us to recognise a Taliban rule,” he added.

Wickremesinghe advocated the snapping of diplomatic relations with Afghanistan by recalling the Sri Lankan Embassy presence there. “We need an embassy in a Central Asian state, so this could be located elsewhere.”

Wickremesinghe recalled that the Taliban had destroyed the world famous and highly venerated Bamiyan Buddhist statues in Afghanistan. The destruction of the Buddha statues by the Taliban in 2001 provoked widespread international condemnation, including in Sri Lanka. The Taliban has now pledged to protect the country’s Buddhist monuments. (The Week)

– Daily News Sri Lanka

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