Kashmir – Spillover beyond Afghanistan


The dramatic swift victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan defied all prior analyses of the Afghanistan peace process. It has rekindled apprehensions about the possible spillover beyond Afghanistan borders. As news about the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul streamed on screens, a wave of jubilation swept through the Kashmir Valley. Kashmiris are gripped by a sense of euphoria that now, Taliban fighters will come to free them from the besiegement of Indian occupation forces. There remains a fear within Indian political circles that the syndrome would embolden Pakistan to once again support freedom fighters with arms and manpower. Would this scenario play out as anticipated? Will there be a spillover of the violence from Afghanistan? Will history repeat itself in the Kashmir Valley? There is a likelihood that it would, but with a different tone and tenor. The Taliban may eventually influence the internal politics of Pakistan and even a portion of China but the immediate threat is for India held Kashmir.
The Taliban takeover is a body blow to Indian interests in Afghanistan. India, the South Asian giant, is now one of the region’s most disadvantaged players. The geopolitical shift that the Taliban victory prompted is bound to change the regional political environment in unpredictable ways. For India, the collapse of the 20-year-old Afghan democracy typifies a strategic setback and a hurtful humiliation. Since 2001, India has spent a non-trivial US$ 3 billion or so to bolster the American-installed regime. It built roads, dams, power lines, clinics and schools across the country. It trained Afghan officers, including women, in its military academies and gave away thousands of scholarships. It even presented a fancy new parliament, complete with fountains and a giant bronze dome, which was inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, himself in 2015.
Would the Taliban successes set precedence for Kashmiris? The people of Kashmir have been fighting the war of liberation against the Indian occupation for more or less seven decades. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan would further inspire the indigenous freedom struggle in the disputed valley. The Modi-Doval doctrine has reduced the Kashmir question to a religious one; repeatedly exploited to appease the hardcore Hindutva base. It has often been claimed that repeated rigging of ballots drove Kashmiris further away from electoral politics and disillusioned them into doing something that resulted in repeated bloodshed. Even though the iron-fisted security forces have orchestrated the manipulation of political discourse, belligerency and hostility continue as a challenge in Kashmir. People in Kashmir are completely alienated today and it manifests in so many ways – one of which is the elation and delight that Kashmiris feel when there are adverse situations for India on the Chinese border or in Afghanistan.
A few predictors, however, do not think that the Taliban’s control over Kabul would directly impact Kashmir. The opinion is divided between those who argue a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan would pave the way for the Islamic groups to intervene in Kashmir and those who think that the Taliban would not do so and will strive to seek international recognition. The biggest problem is to differentiate the terrorism, freedom struggle and insurgency. What is happening in Kashmir is indigenous and has the support of people? Certain potentials can have a profound bearing on the long-lasting freedom struggle in Kashmir. It is difficult and also premature to predict anything at this time, but there is little reason to rule out the resurgence of the freedom struggle. It goes without saying that the Taliban victory will have vast geopolitical implications for the AfPak region. When the erstwhile USSR pulled out from Afghanistan in 1988-9, Kashmir witnessed a deluge of battle-hardened Mujahedeen from not just Pakistan and Afghanistan, but also other countries, making their way into Kashmir. And India might be at a disadvantage here considering it has opposed the Taliban from day one till last.
Will India-Pakistan dialogues on cooperation and collaboration on the Kashmir dispute come about shortly? The answer is “unlikely.” There are reflections that the larger regional strategic equation has changed in favour of Pakistan and is in a greater position of influence. However, the diplomatic and economic pressure on Pakistan is going to dramatically intensify in the developing scenario. Though a general impression is that the Taliban are a creation of Islamabad, both Taliban and Pakistan have strongly rejected it. Pakistan has, however, helped the US to negotiate with the Taliban for arriving at a workable peace agreement.
As far as the motivation to political crowds within Kashmir is concerned, it is important to understand that the freedom struggle is not only about sentiments. You need many other enablers and they may not exist in the manner they were at one time. The people of Kashmir are undoubtedly unhappy with the prevailing political and economic shape in the valley and have lost all hopes in the ongoing democratic process and are more inclined towards continuing combativeness. The wave of resentment in Kashmir is further catalysing into support for violence and aggression.