If there was one steadfast reliable friend of India in the neighbourhood, it is Afghanistan. But Afghan politician and former mujahideen leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s surprise offer of partnership with the Afghan Taliban will only strengthen China and Pakistan’s power play in Kabul. Pakistan will try its best to ensure that India is forced to roll back its presence in Afghanistan under a Taliban-heavy regime, and China would be more than willing to support this venture.
India’s main worry relates to complicated ground realities in Afghanistan that seem to be favouring Pakistan in its attempts to bring the Taliban back to the corridors of power in Kabul. India’s security environment could be substantially undermined if the new rulers in Kabul allow Pakistan to use Afghan territory for anti-India purposes.
India’s approach should, therefore, evolve in line with the changing strategic environment. Despite pessimism in some quarters, New Delhi can still recover lost ground in Afghanistan. That makes it imperative to understand the Hekmatyar phenomenon in the evolving China-Pakistan nexus.