As the Research and Analysis Wing operators hastily evacuate their nest in Kandahar in the wake of the military advance by the Taliban fighters, they leave no stone unturned to taint Pakistan’s international credibility. Irrefutably as the US withdraws from Afghanistan and the Taliban militarizes the Afghan land, Indian influence is receding.
Earlier, it had exercised significant clout in Afghanistan’s political and economic domains through its hefty $3billion investment and a nexus with Afghan leadership. Moreover, by ensuring transit trade feasibility to land-lock Afghanistan through developing the Chahabahar port in Iran, it was able to create the India-Afghan-Iran nexus against Pakistan.
Along with keeping Pakistan engaged in its western border, India was successful in constructing an infrastructure of isolating and targeting Pakistan through its state-sponsored terrorism and mobilizing the Baloch insurgency to disintegrate, discredit and demoralize the state writ.
Fewer options on the table
However, with the accelerating Taliban influence as the US makes its withdrawal, India is left with few options. Led by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the Indian policymakers are ensuring that they are still in the Afghanistan game. Scrutiny on Indian diplomacy and media maneuvering elucidate that India is determined to guard its core national interests to achieve its objectives as the IEA fighters make their advance.
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Essentially, the Indian media is openly condemning the US administration under President Joe Biden for leaving them in the lurch as it had been targeting its hybrid warfare against Pakistan on American shoulders for long.
Taliban giving cold shoulder to MEA at Doha
Indian mood swung significantly when the Taliban gave cold shoulder to MEA in Doha and the increased use of Taliban as “terrorists” in their media is the obvious result. According to some reports, the Indian establishment sent Air Force cargo planes to fetch the RAW operators had ammunitions to help the Afghan military fight the IEA.
Whether the Indian establishment desires a breakthrough with the Taliban or secures its strategic interests by consolidating its nexus with the Kabul government reflects Indian ambiguity or rather its real face.
Additionally, it seeks to play its trump card by inciting regional sensitivities against Afghanistan and turning its neighbors such as Iran, China, and Central Asian Republics against it. Iran is reminded of the Shia-Sunni divide during Taliban rise of power and subsequent Afghan Shia’s plight whilst Russia, China, and CARs are recapped of the spill-over of terrorism across borders.
Playing the Pakistan card
Furthermore, the Indian media is playing the Pakistan card by blaming it to be the source of all problems in Afghanistan and the region. Although the narrative is overrated, it still adds fuel to the fire by spreading propaganda against Pakistan through diverse means. Some Raw sponsored elements and PTM are towing the narrative that the Taliban is the wing of the Punjab army who aim to make Afghans their slaves.
Through deft diplomacy and informational maneuver, Pakistan needs to rebut Indian propaganda. It has to reiterate how India employed her intelligence apparatus in Afghanistan to bleed Pakistan white for the past two decades. Through adept coverage there is a need to explicate how India is a spoiler in the region and has attained disproportionate mileage in Afghanistan to destabilize Pakistan.
By building an extensive intelligence network in spaces provided by NDS and US in Kabul, Kandahar, Herat, Jalalabad, and Mazar-e-Sharif and supporting insurgent factions in Pakistan, it had kept the Pak-Afghan border on fire for years.