South Asia and Beyond

“‘Technical’ Mission Logical Step; Visas, Consular Services, Channels To Opposition Key To Strategy”

New Delhi: On #TheGist, Ambassador Gautam Mukhopadhaya, India’s Former Envoy to Afghanistan in conversation with StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi.

Ambassador Mukhopadhaya, who also went to Kabul as Liaison Officer and re-opened the Indian Embassy in Kabul in November 2001 as Charge d’Affaires after the ouster of the Taliban in November 2001 outlines the complete change in circumstances of India sending in a ‘technical team’ on June 23, 2022 to do the same with the Taliban now “virtually having a monopoly of power”. The former envoy adds that what has also changed since the takeover on August 15 last year, for India to take this “logical step” is that “the resistance is not yet strong enough to be able to contemplate that option. And this has been accompanied by very strong signals on the part of the Taliban, that they want a relationship with us.”

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While one of the reasons for India to renew its footprint “is that we want to monitor humanitarian aid and we want to have eyes and ears on the ground to know what’s happening”, he warns, “I don’t think we should delude ourselves into thinking that we are not in some ways scaling up the degree of legitimisation or recognition of the government by doing so”. While tactically India’s moves make sense now, he feels strategically “the test case is really going to be whether we are going to follow this up with actually taking some measures that enable or improve the people-to-people flow between Afghanistan and India and equally important keep channels open with the opposition.”

Watch this interview for more on Ambassador Mukhopadhaya’s analysis on the Taliban’s security assurances to India and his cautioning that “you can be sure the moment the Taliban engages with India, Pakistan will have its alternative horses in the race in Afghanistan to keep the pot boiling, to keep Afghanistan unstable, to keep Afghanistan insecure. So that Afghanistan remains their prerogative, their backyard and it does not become an international roundabout for aid, trade or investment. The ultimate Pakistani endgame is to keep Afghanistan backward economically as well as ideologically and turn Afghanistan’s traditional relationship away from India. This is going against geography. It is going against history. It is going to be futile,” he says.