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ISSN 2582-2241

Unending Strategic Discords and Emerging Dynamics in Afghanistan-Pakistan Relations: Implications for India

Dr.Akshay Kumar Singh & Akshaya Saroha

The involvement of external powersrarely solves the internal crisis of a nation; instead, it invites the hostility of the local population to aggravate the crisis further.Historically, Afghanistan has always sailed through the turbulent waters, mainly owing to its geo-strategic and geo-political importance. The Nineteenth-Century ‘Great Game’ ended with no winners, but power contestationshaveincreasedthe instability in Afghanistan. From the mid-20th century, Afghanistan has faced a similarlydaunting challenge from its hostile neighbour Pakistan. The latter,which shares a long porous border with Afghanistan, has contributed heavily in the ongoing instability of Afghanistan. Pakistan’s constant search of ‘strategic depth’ in the polity of Afghanistan has proved itself a disastrous policy move for an already war-torn nation. Further, its political and material support to the centrifugal forces like Taliban, who havecreated a sort of ‘proto-state’ within Afghanistan, have been used despicablyby Pakistan against India for settling its strategic score. Moreover, a dramatic shift has taken place in Afghanistan in the first-half of 2020 with the declaration of the US withdrawal leaving behind every stakeholder, including India disconcerted.

Keywords: Strategicdepth, Afghanistan, Instability, US-Taliban Peace-deal, Al-Qaeda


The saga of Afghanistan-Pakistan strategic discord began when Pakistan was carved out of India in 1947. Afghanistan and Pakistan share a 2500 km long border from China to Iran, which is characterised as a “forbidding landscape of towering mountain ranges, narrow valleys, desert plains, and rocky, barren wasteland.”[1]The contiguous borders and shared socio-religious identities could have made the two countries natural allies. Unfortunately, the relationships remain strained since the beginning. There are various factors responsible for this state of hostile relations. Firstly, in the initial years, since Pakistan became independent, the ties remained hostage to the border dispute over the sanctity of Durand Line drawn in 1893 by British surveyors, most prominently, Sir Mortimer Durand.[2]Eventually, it became a persistent discord in the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan since 1947, when Afghanistanobjectedto Pakistan’s entry to the United Nations claimingthe entire Pashtun region on Pakistan’s side of the Durand LineconsideringPakistan a new state rather than “a successor state to British India” and “the past border treaties with the British”not being legally tenable anymore.[3] Such discord led even to snapping diplomatic ties twice, in 1955and 1962, as Kabul advocated a ‘Greater Pashtunistan’, which still reverberates in the contemporary political and security corridors of Afghanistan and Pakistan.[4]Confrontations, often broken sporadically along the Durand Line, have taken violent tinge, followed by intense “mobilizations among sections of Afghan society”. For instance, recently in July 2020, thousands of Pashtuns in Kandahar and Helmand provinces of Afghanistan held protests against Pakistan’s violence along the Durand Line.[5]

Second, Pakistan has thwarted the economic development of the country.Right from the beginning, the economic dependence of Afghanistan upon Pakistan barred its prosperity in the realm of trade and economics. In the absence of coastal boundaries, Afghanistan has always struggled hard to access the sea via Pakistan. Historically, the passes of the Hindukush Mountains were the part of the trade routes that came to be known as the Silk Road.[6]In the times to come, it did not figure prominently even in the regional trade routes, let alone the global ones. The causal factor behind it is instability at home and partially the anti-globalisation stance of Pakistan not facilitating a smooth trade transit to it.Thirdly, clash between power-wieldersat Kabul and Islamabad has been a lasting phenomenon. Islamabad’s role in intra-Mujahideen civil war in the post-Soviet withdrawal era and support to the Taliban has widened the gulf between the political elites of the two societies. “Urban residents and northern territorial groups in Afghanistan have viewed the Pakistani establishment with suspicion because of its intensive political and military support for Hekmatyar’sHezb-e-Islami and, later, the Taliban Movement”[7]

Also, for the last four decades, Afghanistan has been caught in the vortex of great power rivalries.Ugly regional strategic competitions, internecine civil war and proxy violence led by rival ethnic warlords have been emblematic to a power struggle. During this period, millions have been killed, maimed or wounded, including women and children; millions more have been forced to live the refugee life. There has been huge destruction of economic and social infrastructure, including schools and hospitals and continued stalemate over country’s political structure and functioning which has made the future of Afghan people bleak. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US, the Taliban was uprooted from power, but the succeedingAfghan Governments since 2004 have not succeeded fully to coalescethe democratic elements in Afghan society. With the US-Taliban agreement signed on 29thFebruary,2020, speculation is on rise that the US has virtually unleashed the Taliban on Afghanistan to rebound again with all their nefarious designs to intensify the power strugglebetweenrival ethnic fractions. The Taliban’s aim of establishing an Islamic state based on Shariaand according high priority to Pakistan is likely to destabilisethe regional dynamics of South Asia, narrowing strategic space for India which after 2002 has greatly lent support to Afghanistan in its reconstruction. The emerging political and strategic dynamics in Afghanistan in the post-withdrawal phase has thickened the cloud of uncertainty over eventual changes in Afghan-Pakistan relations and India’s prospective role, given the fact that Pakistan and India follow diametrically opposite modus operandidealing with their Afghan policy. As Zachary Constantino writes,Pakistan employs “militant groups, including the Afghan Taliban, as strategic proxies”, while India reliessignificantly on its “soft power influence among Afghans.”[8]

In this background, thepaper seeks to examine the Pakistan-Afghan relations and explains Pakistan’s policy towards the latter as a ‘causal factor’ in the intractable conflict and instability. Besides, the paper analyses the emerging dynamics in Afghanistan owing to the recent peace agreement struck between the US and the Taliban as to how this will impinge to restructure the internal politico-security structure and regional strategic dynamics.

The Durand Discord: A Malaise with Multiple Symptoms

Lord Curzon once said that the “frontiers are the chief anxiety of nearly every Foreign Office in the civilised world….They are moreover the razor’s edge on which hang suspended the contemporary issues of war or peace, life or death to nations”.[9]This acute “oracular pronouncement”[10]is deemed fit with relation to the frontiers of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is to be noted that the relics of the colonial era in the form of reckless demarcation of the borders in the region left heavy tumultuous imprints on the relations between the countries. The Durand Line, which was drawn in 1893 in the aftermath of a boundary agreement between Afghanistan and erstwhile British India, did not consider the ethnography. It has also been argued that ethnography was compromised at the cost of political factors.[11] As a result, this boundary line divided Pashtun territory, putting the same ethnic group (Pashtuns) into two-countries.

Further, the sanctity of the Indo-Afghan boundary agreement was challenged by Afghanistan on the pretext “treaties are binding on governments and not their subjects and that Pakistan cannot inherit the rights of ‘extinguished person,’ i.e., the British in India”.[12]It sowed the seeds of hostility as some Afghan historians argued, Great Britain used coercion to force the Abdul Rahman Khan to sign the Durand Line Agreement and as a result of which he could not call a Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) and thereby could not gain the confidence of his state authorities.[13]This became the premise upon which Afghanistan contested the tenacity of the border. Afghanistan vehemently opposed Pakistan’s entry into the United Nations arguing that Pashtuns inhabited tribal areas of Northwest Frontier area should be given a right to self-determination.[14]Afghanistan, unhappy with Durand Line, did also raise the issue of an independent homeland for Pashtuns i.e, ‘Pakhtoonistan’.When the departure of British inched closer, Kabul tried to persuade the British to declare the frontier areas as separate or, else the option of re-joining their motherland.[15]However, this demand was not met when the Mountbatten partition plan of 3 August 1947 only permitted these territories to join either Pakistan or India. Afghanistan not bereft of the loss, could not reconcile the loss of lands to the East of the Durand Line and went against Pakistan’s admission into the United Nations, arguing that Pakistan’s northwest frontier “should not be recognized as a part of Pakistan until the Pashtuns of that area had been given the opportunity to opt out for independence.”[16]

In the frontier areas, Pashto was the widely spoken language and thus shared an ethnic and linguistic commonality with their brethren living across the Durand Line in Afghanistan. But it was too farfetched for Pakistan to accept the Afghan claim on ethnic grounds because Pakistan itself came into existence based on religion instead of linguistic and ethnic factors, which remain bases for the modern states.[17] The insistence of Afghanistan on the reorganisation of Durand Line while freeing the ‘Pakhtoonistan’ became a guiding principle of Afghanistan’s Foreign Policy towards Pakistan.Afghanistan toyed with the idea of Pakhtoonistanduring much of the Cold War period. During the year 1954-55, skirmishes occurred on the border, and it allowed the Soviet Union to engage Afghanistan in a strategic manner against Pakistan which was defined by General Ayub Khan as the “most allied ally of the United States”. In 1961, following the flaring up on the Durand dispute, Pakistan closed down the border for months, and thus Afghanistan fell into the Soviets’ basket. Most of the Afghanistan fruits were now exported through the territory of the USSR as against the traditional route of Russia. Communist Party mouthpiece, Pravada,“called for a referendum and carried accounts of terrible bombing raids by Pakistan on the people in the tribal territories”.[18]The mutual hostility between these two nations thus invited the Cold War to South Asia, and some experts went on to the extent of saying that eventually it led to the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. From the period of 1947 till the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, it was the issue of the Durand Line that became a major discord in the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan. As a result,not only the political and diplomatic relationships remain sour but economic relations between the two countries also got affected.

The Cold War knocked the doors of the South Asian sub-continent in the early 1950s with Pakistan joining the military pacts CEATO and SENTO, brokered by the US-led Anglo-American bloc. It contributed an element of distrust amongst both countries and causing rising insecurity in the region as well.[19] However, Afghanistan remained completely non-aligned in the initial years of the Cold War. Still, Pakistan’s move of joining the Western bloc jolted the regional balance and pushed Afghanistan closer to the Soviet Union’s basket.Kabul was anxious about its landlocked position and its dependence upon Pakistan to access the sea was to cripple its economy and its independence in its strategic affairs.Pakistan had periodically impeded the transit of goods from the port of Karachi to landlocked Afghanistanthereby seriously impairing the Afghan economy.[20]It is conspicuous that Afghanistan developmental process has been thwarted by the relentless blows given to its economy by Pakistan state toprove itspivotal importance to the domestic constituencies in the landlocked nation. In the formative years of Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship, the former tried to obtain a sanctioned access to the sea.At the 1958 Geneva conference for the Law of the Sea, “Afghanistan and thirteen other states joined the Soviet Union in sponsoring a resolution which demanded an absolute right of transit across the countries for coast-less countries”.[21]However, it should also be noted that Afghanistan also had a long desire to having access to the sea. Premier Mohammad Hashim during his interview given to The Statesman highlighted Afghanistan’s policy towards disputed Durand Linesaid that “if an independent [Pakhtoonistan] can’t be set up, the frontier province should join Afghanistan. Our neighbour Pakistan will realise that our country with its population and trade, needs an outlet to the sea, which is essential, if the nations of the world want peace and justice……it will be easy for us to get an outlet”.[22] However, this expectation was too far from the political realism as no country would extend such favour in territorial terms. Though, a yielding transit agreement could be brokered, which unfortunately Pakistan did not agree to and made Afghanistan look towards the alternative transit routes through the Soviet Union territory. This is what compelled Afghanistan to negotiate its centuries-oldneutrality which it always held sacrosanct.

Pakistan’s Economic Gambit

The economic gambit of Pakistan pushed Afghanistan to look elsewhere to bail out its economy from the disenchantment. For instance, in the aftermath of the border closure in 1961, Pakistan held back the goods of the United States from reaching to Afghanistan.  The shutdown of borders resulted in the “holding of 346 railway wagons at Peshawar laden with goods in transit to Afghanistan and 2,000 tons of cargo meant for Afghanistan in transit sheds in Karachi”.[23]This sent a message to the Afghanistan that the United States was acting at the behest of Pakistan and drove Afghanistan towards a countervailing power, i.e., Soviet Russia. The Soviet Union was turnedas the natural ally as Pakistan was strategically aligned to the United States. Pakistan has even gone to the extent that it has denied India trade transit to export humanitarian goods from India to Afghanistan.There have been several trade agreements between the two countries but did not culminate into successful trade mechanisms. The first such agreement was signed in 1950 meant to give duty-free access to Afghanistan’s goods via the port of Karachi. In reaction to Afghanistan’s call for ‘Pakhtoonistan’, Pakistan closed down the border in 1950 and again in 1955 on the same ground. A transport and trade agreement was signed in 1958. However, boundaries were closed still in 1961 and 1963 and as mentionedearlier transit goods from the United States were rotting in the Pakistani warehouses. An Afghan Transit Trade Agreement (ATTA) was concluded in 1965 which was renewed in 2010 as Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Agreement (ATTPA) that allows exports of Afghanistan to India via the Wagah border.According to Warikoo, “the Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade Transit Agreement, which was finalised on 19 July 2010 in the presence of the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, while allowing Afghan trucks to carry goods to the Wagah border for onward dispatch to India, does not allow these trucks to carry back Indian goods to Afghanistan.”[24]This clearly shows economic coercion still pervades the foreign policymaking process of Pakistan when it comes to engaging Afghanistan.

Afghanistan: A Testing Ground of Pakistan’s Strategic Depth

“In colonial military terms, the concept of ‘strategic depth’ meant geo-strategic regional depth or influence”.[25]In its 20th century form, it has metamorphosed into a defensive concept. This entails: “Pakistan would adopt a policy to prevent Afghanistan from falling under foreign influence, particularly perceived as adversarial”.[26]Pakistan has been in a perennial search of ‘strategic depth’ across the Durand Line in Afghanistan. Its diplomatic use of the Islam to create an environment which is juxtaposed to the Indian interestshas turned out a bane for Afghanistan.Several terrorist groups sprang up because of the Pakistani state toying with the idea of strategic depth. However, the causal factor behind its policy is its strained relationship with India. Experts have observed that the ‘strategic depth’ inherently gravitates towards reducing the vulnerability against any possible Indian attack,primarily because of the narrow depth and width of the Pakistani territory. Since partition, Pakistan’s foreign policy has been carved out of its “self-imposed paranoia about the Indian state’s strategic moves directed at undermining its territorial existence.”Infact, these miscalculations have given rise to the misperception and distrust in the relationships, which keeps the conflict in the region protracted. By having a territorial depth, Pakistan seeks to have offensive options against India’s military.[27]

Therefore, Pakistan, pursuing its policy of irredentism towards India, seeks to have an influential role in Afghanistan. Because a favourable Islamic dispensation in Kabul will help Pakistan in keeping India at bay inside the Afghanistan that remains key to India’s security and economic prosperity. This also helps in deciphering the Pakistani support to the Pashtuns dominated extremist Taliban grouping as the former sees it an opportunity to sabotage the Indian interests in the South Asian region and beyond.As a result of this, Pakistani military has fostered the seeds of Islamic extremism inside Afghanistan and has made the conflict intractable. In the initial years leading up to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, there was not enough room available for Pakistan to influence the dynamics of the domestic politics of Afghanistan to its favour. However, there were intermittent periods of political instability, which saw the rise and fall of many regimes, especially during the period of constitutional monarchy, from 1963 to 1973.

The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in December 1979 allowed Pakistan to meddle in the political and strategic affairs. “General Zia-ul-Haq—the front-line man in America’s anti-Soviet war in the 1980s—was determined to overthrow the Soviet-backed regime in Kabul and to establish a Pakistan-friendly government there”.[28]Furthermore, “General Zia-ul-Haq introduced a pan-Islamic vision in Pakistan and sought to reshape its institutions to turn such vision into reality. Zia is widely considered as having been responsible for institutionalising Islam within the state’s military apparatus.”[29]Zia internalised the Islamic extremism within the Pakistan society and forged the inextricable link between the religion and the state cementing thereby the idea of Pakistan.[30]

Moreover, reaping advantage of the Cold War at the doorstep, Zia received political and material support of the West, which was in dire need of sabotaging the Soviet Russia occupation of Afghanistan.[31]It is estimated that approximately $5.2 billion were given to Pakistan by the US, which enabled it tofuel the Afghan insurgency during 1979-1989.[32]It was “under Zia’sIslamising dictatorship; madrasas became ‘supply lines for jihad’ in the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan”.[33] Apart from the West, Zia’s Pakistan also received support from Saudi Arabia, which saw an opportunity in the Afghan turmoil for pushing its puritanical version of Islam. Thus, “the Saudi-Wahhabi enterprise (under King Khalid) found an ally in Pakistan in General Zia ul-Haq, who had initiated an Islamisation campaign.”[34]Saudi Arabia signed an agreement in July 1980 “to match American contributions dollar-for-dollar, and they honoured their commitment—by 1985 each state was paying $250 million per annum in support of the Afghan mujahideen.”[35]

The state of Pakistan directed funds for the establishment of madrasas.For instance, from 1980 onwards, madrasas became the recipient of the ‘Zakat’ which helped them constructing the infrastructural support to preach and propagate the ideology.“In 1984, 9.4% of Zakat funds went to the support of madrasas, benefitting 2273 madrasas and 111,050 students”.[36]  It has been found, “in 1947, Pakistan had 137 madrasas; by 1995, that number had swelled to over 8000 with the Deobandiswith 80,000 Taliban in Punjab alone.”[37] This led to the Islamisation of the Pakistani society that spilled over to Afghan society. The purpose behind Zia’sIslamisationwas primarily threefold. One, Zia wanted to establish the legitimacy of his regime, domestically, after he grabbed power by staging a coup d’état in 1977 against the elected civilian government of Z.A. Bhutto. Second, externally the need for recognition from the West drove him towards fomenting the radical groups at home, to be ready at short notice to wage jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan.In lieu of that, the West recognised his regime and pumped in millions of dollars along with the political support in the realm of international politics. Thirdly, Pakistan also found an opportunity in the garb of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Pakistan sought a government in Kabul that acts in tandem reinforcing the idea of strategic depth, which eventually puts the discords over Durand Line at the back burner,and also“the creation of an independent Pashtunistan state out of its Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly the North-west Frontier Province) and Baluchistan provinces”.[38]

Pakistan’s Vexatious Move: The Rise of Political Islam and Proxy Wars

US President Eisenhower once called proxy wars “the cheapest insurance in the world”, that aptly fitted by the former Pakistani President Zia-ul-Haq“to keep the pot boiling in the Afghan conflict zones”.[39]Proxy wars aim at underminingthe institutional mechanisms that might devise a path to the peace in inter-state or intra-state conflicts. The most excellent example of the proxy war is when the Reagan administration of the United States responded to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 “by arming, funding and training the fledgling Afghan mujahideen”.[40]Pakistan acted as a conduit for the supply of arms and ammunition and the intelligence support to mujahideenfighting the Jihadist battle against the Soviet military in Afghanistan which saw “the notion of strategic depth emerging even stronger.”[41]Pakistan vehemently pursued the policy of Islamic extremism to pursue its interests in Afghanistan. As a result, dozens of Islamist militant organisations have been based in and operating from Pakistan since the 1980s when Pakistan—along with the United States and the several Arab States—mobilised Pakistan’s population and the displaced Afghan refugees to raise “mujahideen” to fight the Soviet Union’s forces in Afghanistan.[42]It is estimated that during a decade long Afghan-Soviet war (1979-89), approximately three million Afghans came as refugees in Pakistan and their children were sent to the Deobandi madrasas, where they received training in a radical interpretation of Islam while growing up as young men.[43]Precariously, “Deobandism is at the heart of separatist and doubly divisive in splitting the Muslim community and driving a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims”.[44] Therefore, the rise of political Islam did threaten not only the social fabric of societies of Pakistan and Afghanistan but also had broader implications for the South Asian region.

Besides, Pakistan has looked at militant Islam as a strategic tactic that could be used in the realisation of its narrowly defined national interests in Afghanistan.The conservative nature of the Afghan society[45]and the penchant desire of getting rid of communism made it a fertile ground to be exploited by Pakistan by throwing its weight behind the insurgent groups. The primary interests during the Afghan-Soviet war (1979-1989) were the consolidation of his regime by President Zia, upping the ante against India in Jammu and Kashmir by igniting the insurgency, seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan by displacing the pro-Soviet communist government in Kabul.These naïve and ill-conceived policies of Pakistan not only destabilised Afghanistan and did irreparable damage to the future peace prospects of the country but it became the cradle of Islamic fundamentalism in South Asia region, from where the transnational terrorist threat emanates to the world. Pakistan’s support to the mujahideenwas premised upon the fact thatmujahideen parties would eventually capture power in Kabul, “a spiritually not territorial minded Afghan leadership was expected to feel deeply indebted to Pakistan and to have little interest in trying to dismember it”.[46] It is against these interests Pakistan came to exist as a factor of instability.

“It was acknowledged by the Pentagon that Pakistan’s commendable role in ensuring the retreat of Moscow and overthrow of the communist regime earned Islamabad a right to decide the fate of Kabul”.[47]Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the Taliban as an extremist political force in 1994 has been a constant irritant in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Relations.After Soviet withdrawal, General Zia redirected the Mujahid to the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir to foment the insurgency. The open expression of the insurgency wedded with secessionist political group like Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), whichwas launched on 31 July 1998, to raise armed struggle against the Indian army.[48] The Pakistani role was apparent in the Kashmir insurgency as, “within two years JKLF had been marginalised, yet pro-Pakistan groups like HizbulMujahideen (HM) took over the campaign, supported by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)”.[49]

Meanwhile, the intra-mujahideen conflict (1992-96) in Afghanistan was over with the Taliban securing power in Kabul. Pakistani establishment preferred to aid and abetthe emerging leadership of the Taliban. “Taliban’s closest links were with Pakistan where many of them had grown up and studied in madrasas run by the mercurial FazlurRehman and his Jamaat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI), a fundamentalist party which had considerable support amongst the Pashtuns in Baluchistan and the North-Western Frontier Province (NWFP)”.[50]FazlurRehman was appointed later as the chairman of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs in order to influence the Taliban.[51]  Furthermore, it was the debilitating effect of the civil war after 1992 whichmade the society of Afghanistan realise that the mujahideen groups were only interested in the brute struggle for power and the mujahideen leaders were corrupt and only interested in destroyingpeace, prosperity and bringing about the strict establishment of Islamic values. Pakistan exploited the frustration of Afghan society by training a new sentinel of religious extremists (Taliban) in its madrasas.These madrasas were also instrumental in emphasising “the failure of the mujahideen leadership, implying that the people were suffering becauseof the power struggle going on between their elder”.[52]

Pakistan’s major success in fomenting the religious extremism across the Durand Line was the metamorphosis of Pashtun territorial nationalism during the days of King Zahir Shah and the PMMohammad Daoud into a religious nationalism. In achieving this, Pakistan thought to be escaping from the daunting threat to its territorial integrity which emanated from the Pashtun nationalism. It is to be noted that Taliban movement was not only a Pashtuns driven affair rather it included non-Pashtuns and non-Afghans as well. In such a background, as Ahmed Rashid argues that in the year 2000, more than one-third of the strong Taliban force that captured Taloqanwas made up of non-Afghans.[53]

However, in the process of sponsoring extremism in neighbouring Afghanistan, Pakistan has witnessed radicalisation of its own society. To its dismay, when the Taliban came to power in Kabul in 1996, they too did not admit the sanctity of the Durand Line. This was one of the objectives for which Pakistan has paid dearly in social, economic and politico-military terms.Ahmed Rashid, a known observer on Afghanistan affairs has observed that “the Taliban’s purist ideology and the Pakistani recruits it has nurtured have had immense cross-border repercussions in Pakistan. An already fragile nation in the midst of an identity crisis, economic meltdown, ethnic and sectarian division, and suffering under a rapacious ruling elite unable to provide good governance, Pakistan could easily be submerged by a new Islamist wave—one led not by established more mature Islamist parties but by the neo-Talibangroup”.[54]Interestingly, Pakistan’s relation with Taliban is not devoid of conflicting interests.Rather, “they have a tension-filled relationship in which Pakistan seeks to simultaneously control the Taliban and hide its activities from the United States, while the Taliban attempts to remain independent, yet responsive enough to keep Pakistan’s support”.[55] Later, in the aftermath of the 9/11 incidents, Pakistan switched sides and allied itself with the United States in its war efforts, its relationship with the Taliban went into a free fall. Pakistan faced a strong strategic-dilemma in going against the Taliban. As a result, it was caught in between the Taliban and the newly installed Afghan government, which had a negative impression of Pakistan. This was well evident, when the interim government was formed in 2001, it “regarded Pakistan as being aggressive, imperialistic, interventionist and in pursuit of a strategy that would undermine the independence and sovereignty of Afghanistan and reduce it to a vassal status.”[56]

The most precarious development that emerged is the rise of the Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan),which is readily targeting the several apparatuses like military, politicians, moderate clerics and the women. The contemporary Pakistani society is paying for the misadventures that their governments undertook for decades in inciting the extremism at home to export it abroad amid the conspicuous fact that “the seeds of present Taliban militancy were actually shown during the 1980s when the U.S. and Pakistan supported the Afghan mujahideen (holy warriors) in their successful attempt to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan”.[57]

India has been bearing the scars against the Pakistan policy towards Afghanistan. Ever since General Zia aided and abetted the radical forces like mujahideen, the security of the Indian state Jammu and Kashmir is in shambles. The element of terrorism in Pakistan’s foreign policy has not only debilitating impact on the stability and prosperity of Afghanistan but also targeted mainland India and its assets abroad. The hijacking of ICJ-814 by the terrorists, the ransacking of Indian parliament in terrorist attacks of 2001, 26/11 Mumbai attacks amply justify the Pakistani state behaviour of considering the radical groups like Laskar-e-Toiba (LeT), Haqqani Network, Taliban as the strategic assets which help Pakistan in sabotaging the interests and security of the Indian state. Pakistan’s ISI has been instrumental in facilitating the infrastructural and intelligence support to the terrorist that operate across the border in India andAfghanistan. The bombings of Indian embassy and consulates in Afghanistan have delivered enough evidence about the role of Pakistan ISI in the mounting of these threats. Russia is extremely worried about the irresponsible behaviour of Pakistan in supporting the radicalism which could possibly spill over to Central Asian stability and thence into its own territory. Therefore, it has an inherent interest in the stability of the Central Asian republics. Therefore, Pakistan’s acting in a reckless manner has disturbed the regional peace security matrix. Consequently, it has made South Asia region a hotbed of regional and transnational terrorism.

The US-Taliban Peace Agreement and the Emerging Dynamics: Implication for India

History has repeated itself again in Afghanistan with the US plan of withdrawal through a “peace agreement” signed with the Taliban on 29thFebruary, 2020 in Doha, Qatar. Is the US-Taliban peace agreement a genuine attempt to bring peace to Afghanistan, currently undergoing a protracted conflict, or is it a result of the US desperation to leave Afghanistan in haste given its domestic compulsions, anchoring Taliban as main player and proving them right,what on 28 February 2020, a day before signing the peace deal at the Doha Sheraton hotel, the Taliban’s multimedia chief proclaimed this as “the defeat of the arrogance of the White House in the face of the white turban.”[58]But how does this affect Afghanistan-Pakistan relations and put India in a gust of uncertainty?  As stated earlier, Pakistan’s Afghan policy makeover received a twist in 2001 in the aftermath of 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US, and its special relation with the Taliban in Afghanistan was forced to change its course overnight. The prevailing condition of the 2001 event was very much determined by the sustained link between the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.[59]In 1998, three years before the event of 9/11, the Al-Qaeda led by Osama Bin Laden was behind US embassies’ attacks in Kenya and Tanzania, following this the US attacked terrorist camps in the Afghan town of Khost, but failed to capture Osama. Till September 2001, Pakistan stood firmly with the Taliban and in turn facilitated Al-Qaeda that eventually turned out to be fatal for international peace and security. It is believed, as Baral argued, that Pakistan played dirty by leaking the information of imminent US’ action against Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban if they would fail to surrender him, which was communicated by the US delegate in a meeting attended by the US, Russia, Pakistan and the Northern Alliance in July 2001 in Berlin.[60]  This seemingly prompted the Al-Qaeda to attack the US as a “pre-emptive move”. Not surprisingly, when US attacked Afghanistan to wipe out the terror networks, Pakistan again proved to be of first-rank vanguard state. C. Christine Fair and Sarah J. Watson write: Overnight, Pakistan transformed from yet another ‘‘mango republic’’ into “a much-feted partner of the free world” and an intrepid co-belligerent in what became known as ‘the war on terror’.[61]

The long twenty-year protracted conflict—so far which has taken toll of about 1, 60,000, including 45,000 Afghan troops and police officers, more than 3500 allied forces, driven almost 2.5 million Afghan refugees worldwide, and cost the United States around $ 2 trillion, including money spent on counternarcotics efforts, development projects, and support for Afghan security forces[62]—has been attempted to bring to an end with the 29 February peace agreement.The peace agreement broadly covers four issues:[63] (1) Prohibiting the soil of Afghanistan from using any group or individual against the security of the United States and its allies; (2) A timeline for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan; (3) To release combat and political prisoners as a confidence building measure: Up to five thousand prisoners of the Taliban and up to one thousand prisoners of the other side by March 10, 2020; and (4) To commence an intra-Afghan talks to evolve modalities for the future political arrangements. With this the Taliban has received legitimation as a political force, and that at the expense of the mainstream democratic political forces excluding them from the future framework of planning to institute peace and tranquillity. The Taliban is “celebrating the deal with the US as a great victory”, at the same time calling to maintain “the spirit – and military capabilities – of jihad”, amid pursuit of a peaceful settlement.[64]Last year when the negotiation was going on the Taliban spokesperson, ZabihullahMujahid anticipating upper-hand in the talks claimed that they have succeeded in forcing the “occupiers of 49 countries led by the US out… embarrassed and halted their proud war machine even if the enemy spent over $1.5 trillion dollars to weaken and pacify the Taliban”.[65] Nonetheless, the peace agreement, backed unanimously by the UN Security Council, leaves behind loads of questions: Its non-inclusionary character accords prominence to the Taliban and in turn legitimacy to their claim of being “divinely sanctioned authority”[66] and “invincible” which possibly can stoke deep dissensions among the powerful ethnic and political fractions in Afghanistan. The fear is amplified that this deal may disturb the equilibrium of peace and stability, even though it is scant in present scenario.

Capriciously the present Afghan government didn’t find place in the negotiation except in “intra-Afghan dialogue”, whose fate is uncertain. Afghan President Ghani is averse of pushing for “any settlement that limits Afghans’ rights” and has cautioned against catastrophic implication of Kabul’s exclusion with regard to its genuine interests. President Ghani also forewarned of the return of post-Soviet era and doubted “Taliban’s trustworthiness”, and expressed concern that, “in the absence of U.S. military pressure, the group will have little incentive to comply with the terms of an agreement, the most crucial aspect of which would arguably be concluding a comprehensive political settlement with the Afghan government.”[67] Meanwhile, stalemate over the result of 2019 presidential election between President Ghani and his election opponent Abdullah Abdullah is resolved on 17 May 2020. 

The intra-Afghan talks, however, delayed, as claimed openly due to impasse over prisoners swap for more than 6 months, has started on 12 September 2020 with the climate of uncertainty.[68] Clayton Thomas in a report envisages as: “The talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, with which the Taliban have long refused to engage, are likely to be complex and time-consuming, with no guarantee of a comprehensive political settlement that ends the war.”[69] There are other factors in operation impeding intra-Afghan talks. It is believed that there are Pakistani hands to bolster the Taliban eschew other forces to help it take centre stage in Kabul. There is a clear echo in the media that the peace talks are being misused by the Pak-backed terrorists including the Haqqani network and also used as a facade by Pakistan.[70]Pakistan’s end game, therefore, appears to be “a forcible and complete takeover by the Taliban”.[71]This is evident with the latest bid of assassinating Afghan Vice President, Amrullah Saleh, on 9 September 2020 just 3 days before the scheduled intra-Afghan talks. This is done supposedly by ISI of Pakistan to derail the peace talk.[72]The most pertinent question is how accommodative the Taliban would be to other fractions of Afghan society on political, socio-cultural matters and on the issue of economic reconstruction. A recent report of the International Crisis Group (ICG) writes as:

The Taliban’s ambiguity on their ambitions for a post-peace settlement exacerbates such fears.  Since 2018, representatives have assured diplomats that they seek an “inclusive” government in Afghanistan, but some members still claim to be fighting for a restoration of the Emirate the group established and ran exclusively in the 1990s. The group’s external statements on women’s and minorities’ rights are vague; its internal stances vary greatly, guided less by a universal policy than by local customs and individual commanders’ beliefs. It is even unclear what it hopes for its own fighters’ futures – that is, whether they should be incorporated into new Afghan security forces or gainfully employed elsewhere.[73]

Analysts have even gone far to predict the possible situation in the post-withdrawal era. “Democracy and political pluralism will be consigned to the rubbish bin the day the Taliban get into the driving seat in Kabul”, writes an ORF report.[74]  However, little is known about the specifics of what the Taliban wants the future Afghan state to look like with but it does appear that they want to enforce Sharia laws – possibly akin to the theocratic government in Iran.[75]

With the withdrawal of the international troops, the security situation will worsen further. As a matter of fact, the Taliban has agreed to prevent Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations from planning, organising and operating attacks against the US and its allies in areas under its control, but the world at large doesn’t agree with Taliban’s confession of abdicating ties with the Al-Qaeda and abjuring violence. Contrary to the pact, in a week of June 2020, the Taliban carried out more than 400 attacks in 32 provinces, killing 291 Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) members and wounding 550 others.[76]During this period at least 42 civilians, including women and children, were also killed and 105 others wounded by the Taliban across 18 provinces.[77]The latest data provided by the NATO Resolute Support (RS) mission reveal that civilian casualties in Afghanistan have increased by nearly 60% between April and June 2020 in the post-deal period as compared to the January-March of 2020 in the pre-deal period. What is more worrying is that with about 60,000 combatants, the Taliban is a formidable force to reckon with.  Most likely, Afghanistan may again drift into civil war with their active links with the Islamic State (IS) branch in Afghanistan and the Al-Qaeda. For instance, in May 2020, the United Nations reported that “Al Qaeda has welcomed the US-Taliban agreement, celebrating it as a victory for the Taliban’s cause and thus for global militancy.”[78]

The post-withdrawal phase will pose a daunting challenge as to how to compensate Afghanistan’s reliance on financial support it receives as international aid. This will bring back the reminiscence of the Soviet withdrawal era as the former Soviet-backed Afghan government survived the Soviet military withdrawal in 1989, but fell down after three years in 1992 when Moscow pulled out its financial support. Burnett R. Rubin writes, in 1988, “26 percent of the Afghan government budget was financed by foreign contributions and another 7 percent by sales of natural gas but now more than 75 percent of the government budget is financed by foreign contributions and foreign aid.”[79] This, as Rubin maintains, “currently amounts to nearly 20 percent of Afghanistan’s total gross national income, making it the fourth-most aid-dependent country in the world except for five island micro-states.”[80]The biggest donor, the US, as of 30 June 2020, had appropriated approximately $137.86 billion for reconstruction and related activities since 2002, out of which $86.38 billion was for security.[81]  In the case of decline in the readyavailability of military and developmental grants, the Afghan government will stagger to meet even the basic needs of the Afghan society.[82]

Besides, the regional dynamics in the emerging scenario is bound to be restructured: Pakistan, which has hitherto played a negative role, Iran, Central Asian republics, China and India will reshuffle their geopolitical cards in Afghanistan. Conventionally it is believed that there is a strong connection between Iran and the Tajiks and Hazara, Uzbekistan and Turkey’s with the Uzbeks, and Russia, other Central Asian states, India and the US with the Northern Alliance parties; while Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and now Qatar share strong linkages with the Taliban. Lately, Tehran has opened contacts with the Taliban.

China’s entry into Afghanistan is also seen as a replacement of the US, but China, “suspicious of the Taliban’s links with Uighur radicals in the Afghan-bordering Xinjiang Autonomous Region may use its proximity to Pakistan to insulate this vulnerable territory from these links”, besides, building independent ties with the Taliban.[83]  However, in the recent past China has moved forward “to seal projects of worth $3.5 billion, including foreign investment project for exploration of copper ore at Aynak and oil and gas in the north-eastern provinces of Sari Pul and Faryab by the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC)”.[84]China’s ambitious Border Road Initiatives’ (BRI) expansion may find inroads in Afghanistan via Pakistan.  Whereas, Iran has now opened a channel of communication with the Taliban through Mawlawi Mahdi Mujahid, an ethnic Hazara Shi’a cleric and Taliban’s newly appointed northern district governor; besides, regularly interacted with Salahuddin Rabbani, the head of Afghanistan’s Jamat-e Islami, and Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, the chief of the Islamic Dawah Organization of Afghanistan.[85] Russia’s overture with the Taliban has grown in post-2014 NATO withdrawal phase. However, Russia’s two prime interests’ vis-à-vis Taliban dictate its current Afghan policy: Taliban’s opposition to the Islamic State and also the US. Putin’s special envoy to Afghanistan, ZamirKabulov, acknowledged in 2015 that “Moscow’s interests in Afghanistan ‘objectively coincide’ with those of the Taliban in fighting the extremist Islamic State (IS) militants, whom Moscow was battling in Syria.”[86] American media has claimed, taking clue from the US intelligence assessments, that “Russia had provided the Taliban with bounties to attack U.S. and coalition troops”, yet denied by both Russia and the Taliban. As the New York Times writes: “Russia had been working to hedge its bets with the Taliban for years. The Russians saw the Afghan government as entirely controlled by the United States, and at worst so fragile that it would struggle to survive the U.S. withdrawal.”[87]

Wither India?

The script of Afghan politics has been overturned, virtually battering the goodwill of the countries like India which has indefatigably worked to transform the fate of Afghanistan for about two decades. The Taliban’s attempt of anchoring the political development will be detrimental to India’s interest and a great threat to peace, security and stability in the South Asian region. Broadly, India’s Afghanistan engagement on the long term strategic parameters has three crucial mainstays: Firstly, being a vibrant democracy, India has always championed the cause of democratic order within South Asian region; Afghanistan’s riddance from internecine conflict and its reconstruction require a stable democratic order. Therefore, since 2002 India’s strong support to democratic forces especially the elected governments through “soft-power tools” is the strong case in point. The very symbol of Afghan democracy, the national parliament building in Kabul was built by India. India’s support with about $3 billion investment in Afghanistan which include support in the areas of health, agriculture, education, water management, housing, sports, and tourism, trainings of Afghan civil servants, soldiers, law enforcement personnel and educational scholarships to one thousand Afghans annually.[88] On the opening day of the intra-Afghan talks in Doha on 12 September 2020, India’s External Affair Minister, S. Jaishankar stressed on the bond of two civilisations they share and India’s current engagement in reconstruction of Afghanistan. He asserted: “The friendship of our peoples is a testimony to our history with Afghanistan. No part of Afghanistan is untouched by our 400-plus development projects. Confident that this civilisational relationship will continue to grow,”[89] and reiterated the stand of India on the ongoing peace process that this must be “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled”.[90]With the Taliban in driving seat, how the inclusive governance structure reconciling interests of multiple political entities be agreed is yet to be seen in the ongoing intra-Afghan talks; nonetheless, a fraction of Taliban’s assertion that “they will “never go along with preserving the 2004 constitution”, given its origins at the behest of foreign powers; nor do they seem willing to “simply change Afghanistan’s system using constitutionally prescribed processes of amendment”.[91]The Taliban deny accepting Afghanistan’s government as legitimate, though it has passed the test of electoral legitimacy for four times, in 2004, 2009, 2014 and 2019.[92]The Afghan government sticks with the current political arrangements, while the Taliban wants to impose its version of Islamic law as the country’s system of governance.

Secondly, India’s apprehension of revivifying Pakistan-Taliban nexus exacerbates to a great degree with its marginal role in the ongoing peace process. New Delhi’s role has not been manifest. This is partly due to “India’s diffidence about engaging in a process in which it sees Pakistan playing to install the Taliban as its proxy in Kabul.”[93]Moreover, the threat of terrorism is still present, with more than twenty terrorist groups operating inside the country, and many of the groups are aligned with the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, amidst imminent resurgence of the Islamic State.[94]India’s scepticism vis-à-vis Taliban is well founded. According to Aiden, Pakistan always viewed the Taliban as an ideal strategic instrument to frustrate India’s influence, believing the Taliban as an “imperfect reflection of a fragmented society, and their predominant Pashtun composition and conservative Islamic practices conformed to Pakistan’s pan-Islamic objectives”.[95] The Taliban is likely to return into their previous avatarand Pakistan can use them for abetting instability by fuelling militancy in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan’s ISI relocated many of its Kashmir-focused proxies into eastern Afghanistan to evade US pressure on Pakistan to curb militant infiltration.[96]The very traditional threat from the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda militants to the free world, including India is still imminent. Recently the National Investigative Agency (NIA) has busted a Pakistan sponsored Al-Qaeda module planning to attack vital installations in India.[97]According to a Time report, “Al-Qaeda has 400 to 600 operatives active in 12 Afghan provinces and is running training camps in the east of the country and they assure that the Taliban would honour their historical ties to the terrorist group.”[98]Apart from Al-Qaeda and Haqqani Network, the Tora Bora Front, Hizb-i-IslamiKhalis, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Harakat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) continue to pose enormous challenge to India’s interest.[99]For instance, “LeT influx into Afghanistan enables ISI to gather intelligence on the militant state of play across the border.”[100]The very purpose of the peace deal is the permanent ceasefire between the warring groups, of course that is to help India’s cause. But India needs to play pragmatic.  

Thirdly, even after the US withdrawal, Pakistan is to stay strongly in Afghanistan in future. During the entire period of the ongoing peace process, Pakistan has warily used its strategic cards. The US leveraged Pakistan’s influence on Taliban before the peace negotiation started. Mullah Baradar, the deputy leader of the Taliban, was released by Pakistan in October 2018, became instrumental with ZalmayKhalilzad, a Special Representative of the US for Afghanistan Reconciliation, by bringing the Taliban to the table ultimately making the deal sealed. On the other, as General Votel, the chief of US CENCOM acknowledged in March 2019, the US also promised to accommodate Pakistan’s equities and to address them in future too.[101]  In future Pakistan’s relevance for the West is not going to diminish. Pakistan will be preferred over Iran for all logistic purposes in meeting humanitarian needs supported by the West. Besides, on the Chinese strategic chessboard after the US withdrawal to expand beyond Pakistan its BRI projects will also maintain Pakistan as a critical factor. Yun Sun, a director at the Stimson Centre, writes: “The enhancement of Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan will not only indirectly contribute to China’s influence but also potentially improve the negotiation positions of both Islamabad and Beijing vis-à-vis Washington.”[102]Analysts view that the time is ripe for India to “diversify its equities in Afghanistan”, including to open a channel with the Taliban as“Indian intelligence agencies have long had contacts with [its] various factions” which can suitably be used.[103]SuhailShaheen, spokesperson Taliban Political Office, Doha said to Indian media: “Based on our national interest and mutual respect, we would like to have positive relations with neighbouring countries, including India. We welcome their contribution and cooperation in the reconstruction of future Afghanistan.”[104]  Almost all key regional players have reshuffled their cards, opening to have dialogue with the Taliban be they Russia, Iran or China. Carnegie India’s report writes: “To minimise risks to its long-term engagement in Afghanistan, and with a view to further developing its own equities before the withdrawal is completed (potentially sometime in late 2021), India could deepen a number of existing relationships.”[105]


Expecting Pakistan making a policy reversal is tantamount to drop its decades-old policy that it pursued to gain strategic space in Afghanistan. However, with the emergence of Central Asia as a source of energy security for nations like China, India, United States, Russia and other countries, the instability in Afghanistan and the Talibanisationof the Pakistani society have emerged as grave concerns for a tranquil and stable region. It is quintessential from the fact that threats like terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism and conflict-induced poverty do not respect the international borders and are capable of making their repercussions felt across the globe.Any political solution for the resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan requires the international community to take cognisance of the source from where it emanates. As has been pointed out by Carlotta Gall in her well-researched book, The Wrong Enemy, that the United States in particular and the world, in general, has been behind the wrong enemy in Afghanistan, i.e. Taliban.[106]Instead, it is the Pakistan which to serve its interests back home continues to aid the Taliban and alike terrorist groups. The source should be tackled with diplomatic precision and political heft, if we are in pursuit of a peaceful Afghanistan.

The peace agreement signed between the US and the Taliban is a double edged sword. On the one hand, this will facilitate the desperate exit plan of the international troops resting the responsibility of delicate security arrangements with the frail ANDSF which without adequate resource support wouldn’t be able to face formidable threat incessantly posed by the ferocious Taliban and other militant operatives.On the other, however, the intra-Afghan talks hold great optimism but trepidation, whether a comprehensive political framework for peace settlement among warring groups including Taliban on mutually agreeable and workable groundwill be struck, continues. Besides, owing to the US withdrawal, the regional powers have to navigate in new strategic climate. India can’t remain impervious to the changes unfolding in Afghanistan. Unlike other regional powers, India’s stake is high, as it has genuinely worked to deepen the trust of the Afghan people by selflessly expanding the wings of cooperation in all walk of Afghans’ life.Taliban’s utter repugnance of constitutionalism, and institutionalised democratic processes sanctions intolerant, none-inclusive, and militant forces which certainly will inbreed the political scenario toxic and sabotage entire effort India has taken so far. In this case India can bet on a united front of two strong political fractions one led by President Ashraf Ghani and other led by High Council for National Reconciliation leader, Abdullah Abdullah. Yet to be pragmatic to guard its interest, India has to adroitly handle the precarious future. Recently, India’s warming up with Iran on diplomatic turf leaves a bold sign that if that be required to tame the Taliban, it will move ahead but not at the expanse of democratic forces.


* Dr.Akshay Kumar Singh is Assistant Professor at the School of Law, Justice & Governance, Gautam Buddha University.

** Akshaya Sarohais Ph.D.Scholarat the Department of Political Science and International Relations, Gautam Buddha University. Postal address: Room no. 320, ChhatrapatiShaujiMaharaj Hostel, Gautam Buddha University, Greater Noida, U.P. 201312.ContactDetail.: Mob. No. 08373980180, 06396380091, Email:  sarohaakshaya@gmail.com.

[1] Thomas H. Johnson and M. Chris Mason, “No Sign Until the Burst of Fire: Understanding the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier”, International Security, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Spring 2008), p. 43.

[2] See: Louis Dupree, Afghanistan(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980).

[3]Sumita Kumar, “Pakistan’s Strategic Thinking”, Strategic Analysis, Vol. 35, No. 3, 2011, pp. 480-481.

[4] See: Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia (United Kingdom: I B Tauris, 2002); Stephen Tanner, Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the Fallofthe Taliban (New York: Da Capo, 2002); Peter Hopkirk, The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia (New York: Kodansha America, 1992).

[5] ANI, “Pashtuns in Afghanistan hold anti-Pakistan protests to condemn firing at Durand Line”, URL: https://www.aninews.in/news/world/asia/pashtuns-in-afghanistan-hold-anti-pakistan-protests-to-condemn-firing-at-durand-line20200806200025/, Accessed on September 12, 2020.

[6] Wolfgang-Peter Zingel, “The Economics of Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations: Implications for the region”, India Quarterly, Vol. 70, No. 1, (March 2014), p. 3.

[7] Khalid HomayunNadiri, “Old Habits New Consequences: Pakistan’s Posture toward Afghanistan since 2001”, International Security, Vol. 39, No. 2 (Fall 2014), p. 166.

[8] Zachary Constantino, “The India-Pakistan Rivalry in Afghanistan”, A Special Report by USIP, No. 462, January 2020. p.1. URL: https://www.usip.org/publications/2020/01/india-pakistan-rivalry-afghanistan, Accessed on August 12, 2020.

[9]BijanOmrani, “The Durand Line: History and Problems of the Afghan-Pakistan Border”, Asian Affairs, Vol. 40, No. 2, (June 2009), p. 177.

[10] Ibid.

[11]Mohd.AhsenChaudhari, “The Relations of Pakistan with Afghanistan”, Pakistan Horizon, Vol. 8, No. 3, (September 1955), p. 496.

[12]Khurshid Hasan, “Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations”, Asian Survey, Vol.  2, No. 7, (September 1962) p. 14.

[13] Ahmed ShayeqQassem and and H. M. Durand, “Pak-Afghan Relations: The Durand Line Issue”, Policy Perspectives, Vol. 5, No. 2 (April 2008), p. 95.

[14]Mukesh Kumar Kayathwal, “Pak-Afghan Relations: Durand Line Issue”, Indian Journal of Asian Affairs, Vol.7, No. 2, (December 1994), p.38.

[15]Surendra Chopra, “Afghan Pakistan Relations The Pakhtoonistan Issue”, The Indian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 35, No. 4, (October- December 1974), p.312.

[16]A.Z. Hilali, “Contemporary Geopolitics of FATA: An Analysis of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Border Region”, TheJournal of Slavic Military Studies, Vol. 26, No. 4, 2013, pp. 595-638. See also: Khurshid Hasan, “Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations”, p.16.

[17] Ibid.

[18]BijanOmrani, “The Durand Line: History and Problems of the Afghan-Pakistan Border”, p. 189.

[19] See: Peter Hopkirk, The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia (New York: Kodansha America, 1992).

[20]Marvin G. Weinbaumand and Jonathan B. Harder, “Pakistan’s Afghan policies and their consequences”, Contemporary South Asia, Vol. 12, No. 2, (2003), p. 28.

[21]Khurshid Hasan, “Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations”, Asian Survey, Vol. 2, No. 7, (September 1962) p. 14

[22]HafizullahEmami, “Durand Line and Afghan-Pak Relations”, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 25, No. 28, (July 1990), p. 1515.

[23]Surendra Chopra, “Afghanistan Pakistan Relations and the Pakhtoonistan Issue”, The Indian Journal of Political Science, vol. 35, No. 4 (October/December 1974), p. 320.

[24] K. Warikoo, “Central Asia and South Asia: Opportunities and Challenges” India Quarterly,Vol. 72, No. 1 (March 2016) p. 13.

[25]Aidan Parkes, “Considered Chaos: Revisiting Pakistan’s ‘Strategic Depth’ in Afghanistan”, Strategic Analyses, Vol. 43, No. 4 (2019), p. 298.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Marvin G. Weinbaum, “Pakistan and Afghanistan: The Strategic Relationship”, Asian Survey, Vol. 31, No. 6, (1991), pp. 498-499.

[28]JagmohanMeher, “Pakistan’s Strategic Obsession and the Road to catastrophe: Is There a Way out?,India Quarterly, Vol. 68, No. 4, (January 2013), p. 347.

[29]Aidan Parkes, “Considered Chaos: Revisiting Pakistan’s ‘Strategic Depth’ in Afghanistan”, p. 299.

[30]Nasreen Akhtar,  “Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Taliban”, International Journal on World Peace, Vol. 25, No. 4,  (December 2008), p. 52.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Marvin G. Weinbaum, “Pakistan’s Afghan Policies and their Consequences”, p. 35.

[33] Hussain Haqqani, Reimagining Pakistan: Transforming a Dysfunctional Nuclear State (New Delhi: Harper Collins, 2018), p. 97.

[34]ShivanMahendrarajah, “Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism, and the Taliban of Afghanistan: ‘Puritanical reform’ as a revolutionary war program”, Small Wars and Insurgencies, Vol. 26, No. 3, (April 2015), p. 394.

[35] Alex Strick Van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn, An Enemy We Created: The Myth of the Taliban-Al Qaeda Merger in Afghanistan (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), p. 121.

[36] S.V.R. Nasr, “The Rise of Sunni Militancy in Pakistan: The Changing Role of Islamism and the  Ulama in Society and Politics”, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 34, No. 1, ( February 2000), p. 145.

[37]ShivanMahendrarajah, “Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism, and the Taliban of Afghanistan: ‘Puritanical Reform’ as a Revolutionary War Program”, Small Wars and Insurgencies, Vol. 26, No. 3, (April 2015), p. 394.

[38]JagmohanMeher, “Pakistan’s Strategic Obsession and the Road to catastrophe: Is There a Way out?,India Quarterly, Vol. 68, No. 4, (January 2013), p. 347.

[39]Andrew Mumford, “Proxy Warfare and the Future of Conflict”, The RUSI Journal, Vol. 158, No.2, (May 2013), p. 40.

[40]Ibid, p. 41.

[41]V.R. Raghwan, “Strategic depth in Afghanistan”, The Hindu, November 7, 2001, URL: https://www.mea.gov.in/articles-in-indian-media.htm?dtl/18510/Strategic+depth+in+Afghanistan, Accessed on July 6, 2020.

[42]Victor Asal et al., “Consenting to a Child’s Decision to join a Jihad Insights from a Survey of Militant Families in Afghanistan”, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 31, No. 11, (November 2008), p. 974.

[43]Sanjeev Kumar Mohanty and JitendraNathMohanty, “Military-Madrasa-Mullah Complex: Promoting Jihadist Islam in Pakistan”, India Quarterly, Vol. 66, No. 2, (October 2010), p. 138.

[44] Charles Allen, “Wahhabism and the Origin of Fear”, India Today,July 31, 2008, URL: https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/cover-story/story/20080811-wahhabism-and-the-origin-of-fear-737128-2008-07-31, Accessed on July 6, 2020.

[45]Pervez Hoodbhoy, “Afghanistan and the Genesis of the Global Jihad”, Peace Research, Vol. 37, No. 1, (May 2005), p. 20.

[46]Marvin G. Weinbaum and Jonathan B. Harder, “Pakistan’s Afghan policies and their consequences”, Contemporary South Asia, Vol. 12, No. 2, (2003), p. 29.

[47]Suhas Chakravarty, “The Taliban Phenomenon”, India International Centre Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 1 (2002), p. 73.

[48] Alexander Evans, “The Kashmir Insurgency: As Bad As It Gets”, Small Wars and Insurgencies, Vol. 11, No. 1, (2000), p. 69.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia (United Kingdom: I B Tauris, 2000), p. 56.

[51]Suhas Chakravarty, “The Taliban Phenomenon”, India International Centre Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 1 (2002), p.71.

[52] Daniel P. Sullivan, “Tinder, Spark, Oxygen and Fuel: The Mysterious Rise of Taliban”, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 44, No. 1, (January 2007), p. 98.

[53] Rashid Ahmed, “The Taliban: Transformation from Pashtuns Nationalism to Religious Nationalism”, Pakistan Horizon, Vol. 67, No. 2, (April 2014), p. 88.

[54] Ahmed Rashid, “The Taliban: Exporting Extremism”, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 78, No. 6, (December 1999), p. 27.

[55]Tricia Bacon, “Slipping the Leash?Pakistan’s Relationship with the Taliban”, Survival, Vol. 60, No. 5, (October/November 2018), p. 160.

[56]Fesal Khan, “Why Borrow Trouble for yourself and Lend it to your Neighbours? Understanding the Historical Roots of Pakistan’s Afghan Policy”, Asian Affairs: An American Review, Vol. 37, No. 4, (December 2010), p. 177.

[57]NasreenGhufran, “Pashtun Ethnonationalism and the Taliban Insurgency in the North Western Frontier Province of Pakistan”, Asian Survey, Vol. 49, No. 6, (October/November 2009), p. 1094.

[58]MujibMashal, “Taliban and U.S. Strike Deal to Withdraw American Troops From Afghanistan”, The New York Times, URL: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/29/world/asia/us-taliban-deal.html, Accessed on August 14, 2020.

[59]Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia.

[60] J.K. Baral, “The Afghan Game: Interests and Moves”, Strategic Analysis, Vol. 37, No.6, p. 702.

[61]C. Christine Fair and Sarah J. Watson, Pakistan’s Enduring Challenges (Philadelphia: University Of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), p.2.

[62]Lindsay Maizland, “Taliban: What to Know”, Council of Foreign Affairs, URL: https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/us-taliban-peace-deal-agreement-afghanistan-war, Accessed on August 15, 2020.

[63]US State Department Document, “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognised by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and the United States of America”, URL: https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Agreement-For-Bringing-Peace-to-Afghanistan-02.29.20.pdf, Accessed on August 15, 2020. The document goes as: “The United States, its allies, and the Coalition will reduce the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to eight thousand six hundred in the first one hundred thirty-five days and proportionally bring reduction in the number of its allies and Coalition forces take the following measures within the remaining nine and a half months.”

[64]International Crisis Group, Taking Stock of the Taliban’sPerspectives on Peace”, Asia Report N°311, 11 August 2020, URL: https://www.crisisgroup.org/asia/south-asia/afghanistan/311-taking-stock-talibans-perspectives-peace, Accessed on August 18, 2020.

[65]Ashok Behuria, YaqoobUl Hassan &Sanya Saroha, “US-Taliban Talks for Afghan Peace: Complexities Galore”, Strategic Analysis, Vol. 43, No. 2, p. 128.

[66]Michael Semple, Rhetoric, Ideology, and Organizational Structure of the Taliban Movement”, United States Institute of Peace, Washington, DC, 2014,  20037, p.7, URL: https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/187121/PW102-Rhetoric-Ideology-and-Organizational-Structure-of-the-Taliban-Movement.pdf , Accessed on September 1, 2020.

[67]Clayton Thomas, “Afghanistan: Background and U.S. Policy: In Brief”, A Report of the Congressional Research Service, 1 May 2020, p.4.

[68]The intra-Afghan talks were to be held on March 10, 2020, but due to a number of reasons postponed to September 2020.

[69]Clayton Thomas, Afghanistan: Background and U.S. Policy: In Brief, A Report of the Congressional Research Service, Updated 25 June 2020.p. 1, URL: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R45122.pdf, Accessed on September 5, 2020. 

[70]Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, “Pakistani Army-ISI hand evident in attack on Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh” The Economic Times, 10 September 2020, URL:

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/pakistani-army-isi-hand-evident-in-attack-on-afghan-vice-president-amrullah-saleh/articleshow/78031043.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst, Accessed on September 18, 2020.

[71] European Foundation South Asian Studies, “Pakistan’s behind-the-scenes role in thwarting intra-Afghan talks is shrouded in intensified Taliban violence”, 17 July 2020 Commentary, URL:  https://www.efsas.org/commentaries/pakistani-role-in-thwarting-intra-afghan-talks-intensified-taliban-violence/, Accessed on September 5, 2020.

[72]Nirupama Subramanian, “Afghan-Taliban talks in Doha: What to expect, key players and prospects for India”, The Indian Express, 11 September 2020, URL:https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/afghanistan-taliban-talks-explained-6591535/, Accessed on September 12, 2020.

[73]International Crisis Group, “Taking Stock of the Taliban’s Perspectives on Peace”, p. ii.

[74]Sushant Sareen and Shubhangi Pandey, “Rethinking the post-withdrawal strategy in Afghanistan”, ORF Raisina Debate, 16 March 2020, URL: https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/rethinking-the-post-withdrawal-strategy-in-afghanistan-63371/, Accessed on September 12, 2020.

[75]International Crisis Group, “Taking Stock of the Taliban’s Perspectives on Peace”.

[76] Aljazeera, “Taliban killed 291 Afghan”, URL: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/06/taliban-killed-291-afghan-security-personnel-week-gov-200623063140659.html, Accessed on 15 September, 2020. 

[77] South Asian Monitor, “42 Afghan civilians killed by Taliban in past week”, 22 June 2020, URL: https://southasiamonitor.org/index.php/afghanistan/42-afghan-civilians-killed-taliban-past-week, Accessed on September 15, 2020.

[78] UN Security Council,ReportNo.S/2020/415, 19 May 2020, URL: https://www.securitycouncilreport.org/un-documents/document/s-2020-415.php, Accessed on September 16, 2020.

[79] Barnett R. Rubin, “An Ailing America Must Not Abandon Afghanistan, Foreign Policy, 26 March 2020, URL:https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/26/afghanistan-aid-taliban-ailing-america-must-not-abandon/, Accessed on August 5, 2020.

[80] Ibid.

[81] Clayton Thomas, Afghanistan: Background and U.S. Policy: In Brief, A Report of the Congressional Research Service, Updated 25 June 2020.p. 1, URL: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R45122.pdf, Accessed on  September 5, 2020.

[82] Sushant Sareen and Shubhangi Pandey, “Rethinking the post-withdrawal strategy in Afghanistan”, ORF Raisina Debate, 16 March 2020, URL: https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/rethinking-the-post-withdrawal-strategy-in-afghanistan-63371/, Accessed on September 12, 2020.

[83]Shubhangi Pandey, “Understanding China’s Afghanistan policy: From calculated indifference to strategic engagement”, ORF Issue Brief No. 305, August 2019, URL: https://www.orfonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/ORF_Issue_Brief_China_Afghanistan.pdf, Accessed on September 4, 2020.

[84]Mushtaq A. Kaw, “Exploring Cause–Effect Relationship”, Strategic Analysis, Vol. 40, No. 4, p. 282.

[85]Vinay Kaura, “Iran’s Influence in Afghanistan”, Middle East Institute, 23 June 2020, URL: https://www.mei.edu/publications/irans-influence-afghanistan.

[86]Abubakar Siddique, “Explainer: What Does Russia Want In Afghanistan?Radio Free Europe, 29 June 2020, URL: https://www.rferl.org/a/explainer-controversy-over-alleged-russian-bounties-for-taliban-to-kill-u-s-troops-puts-spotlight-on-moscow-s-motives-history-in-afghanistan/30697171.html, Accessed on September 15, 2020.

[87]Mujib Mashal and Michael Schwirtz, “How Russia Built a Channel to the Taliban, Once an Enemy”, The New York Times, 13 July 2020, URL: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/13/world/asia/russia-taliban-afghanistan.html, Accessed on September 15, 2020.

[88]Zachary Constantino, “The India-Pakistan Rivalry in Afghanistan”, A Special Report by USIP, No. 462, January 2020.

[89]ANI on Twitter, URL: https://twitter.com/ani/status/1304686691534462976, Accessed on September 15, 2020.


[91]International Crisis Group, “Taking Stock of the Taliban’s Perspectives on Peace”, p. 28.

[92]Misha Ketchell, “Afghanistan peace talks begin – but will the Taliban hold up their end of the deal?”,The Conversation, 12 September 2020, https://theconversation.com/afghanistan-peace-talks-begin-but-will-the-taliban-hold-up-their-end-of-the-deal-146081, Accessed on September 12, 2020.

[93]Nirupama Subramanian, “Afghan-Taliban talks in Doha: What to expect, key players and prospects for India”, The Indian Express, 11 September 2020, URL:

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/afghanistan-taliban-talks-explained-6591535/, Accessed on September 12, 2020.

[94]Lindsay Maizland, “Taliban: What to Know”, Council of Foreign Affairs, URL: https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/us-taliban-peace-deal-agreement-afghanistan-war, Accessed on August 15, 2020.

[95]Aidan Parkes, “Considered Chaos: Revisiting Pakistan’s ‘Strategic Depth’ in Afghanistan”, p. 307.


[97]The Times of India, “NIA busts Pak-sponsored al-Qaida module; 9 terrorists arrested from West Bengal, Kerala”, URL:https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/nia-busts-pak-based-al-qaida-module-9-terrorists-arrested-from-west-bengal-kerala/articleshow/78198877.cms, Accessed on September 19, 2020.

[98]Time, “Defying Trump's Landmark Peace Deal, Taliban Continues to Back Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, UN Report Says”, URL: https://time.com/5844865/afghanistan-peace-deal-taliban-al-qaeda/, Accessed on September 19, 2020.

[99]Zachary Constantino, “The India-Pakistan Rivalry in Afghanistan”, A Special Report by USIP, No. 462, January 2020.


[101]Ashok Behuria, YaqoobUl Hassan &Sanya Saroha, “US-Taliban Talks for Afghan Peace: Complexities Galore”, Strategic Analysis, Vol. 43, No. 2, p. 132.

[102]Yun Sun, “China’s Strategic Assessment Of Afghanistan”, Texas National Security Review, 8 April 2020, URL: https://warontherocks.com/2020/04/chinas-strategic-assessment-of-afghanistan/, Accessed on September 10, 2020.

[103]Rudra Chaudhuri and ShreyasShende, “Dealing With the Taliban: India’s Strategy in Afghanistan After U.S. Withdrawal”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, June 2020, URL: https://carnegieendowment.org/files/Chaudhuri_Shende_-_Afghanistan.pdf, Accessed on August 10, 2020.

[104]WION, “Would like to maintain positive relations with India, says Taliban”, 9 May 2020, URL: https://www.wionews.com/india-news/would-like-to-maintain-positive-relations-with-india-says-taliban-97708, Accessed on September 15, 2020.

[105]Rudra Chaudhuri and ShreyasShende, “Dealing With the Taliban: India’s Strategy in Afghanistan After U.S. Withdrawal”, p. 24.

[106]Carlotta Gall, The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014(Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014).