The US exit from Afghanistan has thrown regional geopolitics in a flux. The biggest uncertainty is about government formation in Kabul—will the Taliban manage it alone or would it take various intra-Afghan grouping along for stability. Unlike the 1990s when the Taliban had come to power in Afghanistan with only Pakistan and the UAE recognising the government, this time around, outside stakeholders like China, Pakistan, Iran, Russia, Turkey and the Central Asian Republics have not uprooted their embassies from Kabul. Encouraged by Taliban’s right pronouncements, these nations are waiting for government formation with a semblance of stability before recognising the indigenous sons of soil dispensation.
India is the odd one out. Having shut its embassy in Kabul, it has not started formal talks with the Taliban, who until recently were branded as terrorists. Of course, low-level and informal engagement has been reported in Qatar. New Delhi continues to believe that the Taliban rule in Afghanistan would provide Pakistan with strategic depth to train terrorists there to be sent to Kashmir. This thinking reflects poor understanding of geopolitical realities. The main issue for Pakistan and other nations with presence in Afghanistan is not terrorism, but connectivity. This is what the BRI and its flagship CPEC are about.
Given how critical Afghanistan is to the future of our region, we have brought together diverse viewpoints in this issue. The moot point is: Even if the future dispensation in Afghanistan is Taliban-led, India must engage with it.
While Afghanistan in top of the mind these days, India has other challenges to address as well. One of them is the looming presence of China in Ladakh. Hence, the cover story this month, is on India’s failed nuclear deterrence in Ladakh. The Vajpayee government in India had done nuclear tests in May 1998 ostensibly with China as the reason for doing so. With China reportedly in control of huge Indian territory in Ladakh, it is evident that Beijing does not think much about India’s nuclear deterrence. Meanwhile, the PLA has started building silos for its inter-continental ballistic missiles. All of this has implications not only for our future relations with China but also for the credibility of India’s military power. The cover story addresses these issues.
In addition to these, we have expert opinions on Indian Army’s artillery modernisation programme as well as the state of coastal defence and security, which continues to be work in progress. Then there are our regular features and updates on a number of military programmes. This is one power-packed issue. Read on.