Prospects for India-Saudi cooperation on Afghanistan

By Financial Express

Recent developments in Afghanistan–the US military withdrawal and return of Taliban– has created security concerns for all regional countries in South and West Asia. Not least because of the possible instability in Afghanistan and the fear of escalation in jihadist violence but also because of the doubts created about US reducing its regional commitments.

This means that the regional countries will have to work together to counter the threats emanating from an unstable Afghanistan. Therefore, India is exploring the possibility of cooperation with like minded countries including Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

Both Saudi Arabia and UAE are important regional partners of India in the Gulf and broader Middle East. Unlike in the past, both have come to see the Taliban as a major security threat not only for Afghanistan but for the wider region. For one, the Taliban has a history of giving refuge to Al-Qaeda which eventually led to the later planning and executing the September 11 attacks in the US. Eventually, this became the undoing for the Taliban regime, but the likelihood of both Taliban and Al-Qaeda to revive their partnership and begin from where they had left off in 2001 cannot be underestimated.

The evolving situation in Afghanistan is bound to create challenges for India both in terms of security dilemmas and its commitments towards stability and prosperity of Afghanistan. Taliban are an unfriendly force for New Delhi and they are too closely linked to the Pakistani establishment for India to trust the group. Hence, despite some positive comments by Taliban leaders, the view in India is that New Delhi needs to be circumspect in engaging the group. At the same time, New Delhi has made no bones of working with any Afghan group and regional and international partners who are committed to the security and stability of Afghanistan and the wider Southwest Asia region. In fact, India has already made formal and informal contacts with Taliban and the regional actors involved in Afghanistan.

However, the question for India is to evolve a larger policy vis-à-vis Afghanistan and the Taliban regime without ruling out the possibility of a fast deterioration of political and security situation in the country.

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