Taliban takeover a ‘body blow’ to Indian interests in Afghanistan

The Taliban’s return to power two weeks ago has caused a major diplomatic setback for India, with the South Asian giant now one of the region’s “most disadvantaged” players, analysts say.

Within weeks, the Taliban took over the country in a stunning military sweep, as US-led foreign forces were on their way out after 20 years – ending the country’s longest overseas war.

President Ashraf Ghani, with whom New Delhi had cultivated a close relationship, fled the country as the Taliban surrounded the capital, Kabul.

The sudden collapse of the Western-backed government in Kabul on August 15 precipitated an unprecedented exodus of diplomats, foreign aid workers and Afghans who worked for Western countries and feared reprisals from the Taliban.

India was among the nations that closed their missions in Afghanistan and brought back their staff and citizens. It is still trying to evacuate some citizens left behind amid chaotic conditions at the Kabul airport.

India, under Operation Devi Shakti, has already evacuated more than 800 people from Afghanistan after Kabul was captured by the Taliban.

On Thursday, it could evacuate only 24 of its citizens along with 11 Nepalese nationals in a military aircraft – not the more than 180 it had planned – as others could not reach the airport to board the aircraft.

India’s investment in Afghanistan

New Delhi invested $3bn in development projects, offered scholarships to Afghan students, and helped construct the parliament building at a cost of $90m, earning huge goodwill in the country of 38 million.

Last year, during the 2020 Afghanistan Conference, India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said no part of Afghanistan was “untouched” by the “400-plus projects” that India had undertaken in all 34 provinces of the country.

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