The Afghan Taliban reclaimed control over Kabul after twenty years of fighting against the United States and their allies. This is a pivotal phase in the politics and history of both Afghanistan and the Muslim world that had found itself upon the theatre of a civilisational clash with the west back in the ’90s.
The fight in Afghanistan wasn’t a strategic or economic one precisely. It had an ideological inkling where the western value system based on democratic principles was set against a somewhat regressive but strong value system based on political Islam. Afghanistan’s problem had since occupied a key place in the Muslim political discourse besides Kashmir and Palestine.
The defeat of US forces in Afghanistan is likely to embolden other resistance movements in the Muslim world particularly in Kashmir. The hypothesis that Kabul and Kashmir are inadvertently connected carries significant weight as the first wave of Kashmir insurgency took impetus from the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan back in 1988. Afghan soil provided sanctuary and training space to the Kashmiri rebels fighting against Indian occupation and even human resources for the insurgency came in a significant number from Afghanistan.
However, history is not likely to repeat itself similarly this time around. Pakistan’s reluctance to engage India militarily in Kashmir and its increased focus on CPEC-China Pakistan Economic Corridor that passes through the disputed Kashmir region has nudged Pakistan towards a geo-economic approach vis-a-vis Kashmir.
The GB-Gilgit-Baltistan part of the erstwhile J&K State — given its sectarian diversity and strategic location — stands vulnerable to external plots of disruption and espionage. This is another reason why Pakistan won’t deem fit fishing in troubled waters inside the Kashmir valley to avoid a blowback in the GB.
The presence of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)-related elements in the GB area is a grave concern for Pakistan and China. Recently, a bus carrying Chinese engineers met a major act of subversion where nine lives were lost. It may be a sign of things to come as Pakistan to secure CPEC is on the verge of placing all the eggs in the Chinese basket.
Although in Kashmir’s hinterland, the Kashmir insurgency may get a boost after the fall of Kabul. Besides, core Indian strategic interests in Afghanistan were compromised after the Taliban seized power and Kashmiris rightly feel that India is at its lowest given the tensions with China on the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh. This may strengthen the call for Islamic jihad in Kashmir drawing inspiration from the Taliban and some strides have already been made in this regard.
Already, in the last five years, Kashmir’s insurgency has witnessed an internationalist jihadi trend amongst its rank and file much due to the withdrawal of Pakistani support to militancy. The situation is ripe for a global jihadi tendency to set foot in Kashmir and make it a new theatre of religious war in South Asia. The presence of such factors in Kashmir valley and Gilgit Baltistan with likely support from Al-Qaeda affiliates based in Afghanistan may jeopardise the essence of Kashmir’s indigenous movement for self-determination.
The presence of such factors in Kashmir valley and Gilgit Baltistan with likely support from Al-Qaeda affiliates based in Afghanistan may jeopardise the essence of Kashmir’s indigenous movement for self-determination.
The international public opinion that derives its legitimacy and universality from a set of democratic values and principles will no longer be sympathetic to Kashmir’s cause if the latter swings towards the Taliban mindset and ideology. The Taliban’s seizure of power won’t go down well with the global public opinion either.
Any government in Kabul irrespective of how inclusive it may be is less likely to gain the trust of international policy institutions. UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres, while presiding over the Security Council meeting over Afghanistan, castigated the Taliban for their offensive methods and ensured every possible support for Afghans fleeing from the Taliban’s ‘terror’. The Security Council also took notice of the ‘grave human rights violations’ in its official statement indicating how the global opinion is shaping up against offensive seizures of power.
Kashmiris over a period have worked extremely hard to delink their movement from the allegations of terrorism. Post 5th August 2019, the Kashmiris cry for justice and political settlement of their dispute made it to the top global policy institutions and civil society. It was a daunting task before the Kashmiris to quell and counter India’s false propaganda. Significant strives were made to register the legitimate Kashmiri opinion on self-determination gaining the desired traction.
Realpolitik suggests a similar trajectory for the success of Kashmir’s movement. The countries in the Chinese bloc have rarely exhibited any interest in supporting Kashmir’s movement. Interestingly, when it comes to Kashmir, the conflict resolution framework of China, Russia and Iran do not go beyond imagining a negotiated political settlement on Kashmir that fails to address the aspirations of the Kashmiri people.
The discord between the national interests of these states and Kashmir’s movement for self-determination is omnipresent and has made Kashmir a ping pong wall in the region’s politics. At times, this applies to the relationship between Kashmir and Pakistan as well so for Kashmiris, aligning with the Chinese bloc alongside Pakistan won’t be of much help.
Drawing upon adventurists and reversing the gains won’t bring any good to the Kashmir cause. Besides, Kashmir is a diverse region housing various ethnicities and religious minorities that do not afford a global political agenda of any sort on its soil. It will only make the situation more complex and render the conflict almost irresolvable. Instead, the focus should be on strengthening the efforts in the diaspora and aligning with the global mass upsurge for democratic rights, equality, and freedom.