FILE – In this Feb. 5, 2020, file photo, protesters in Karachi, Pakistan burn an effigy of Indian prime minister during a rally to express solidarity with Indian Kashmiris struggling for their independence.
SRINAGAR, India () — India’s leaders are anxiously watching the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, fearing that it will benefit their bitter rival Pakistan and feed a long-simmering insurgency in the disputed region of Kashmir, where militants already have a foothold.
Former military commander for northern India, Lt. General Deependra Singh Hooda said that militant groups located across the border from Pakistan “certainly tried to push men” into Kashmir following the victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Hooda stated that it was impossible to predict whether any inflow of fighters would cause a disruption in the security situation and force the region into a military conflict.
India and Pakistan are neighbors and have fought two wars in Kashmir. Both countries control a portion of the Himalayan region and claim it fully.
Indian officials fear that Afghanistan under Taliban control could become a base for Islamist militants in Kashmir. Many of these militants are allies with Pakistan in the fight against New Delhi.
New Delhi called Taliban Pakistan’s proxy terrorist group. It also supported the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan before it was overthrown in august.
Syed Salahuddin was the leader of an alliance comprising Kashmiri rebel groups. He called the Taliban’s victory “extraordinary, historic” in a voicemail shared on social media just days after the fall from Kabul. Salahuddin, a Pakistani-controlled Kashmiri, stated that he expected Afghanistan to help Kashmir’s rebels.
He said, “Same thing, in the near future India too will be defeated By Kashmir’s Holy Warriors.”
In the last few years, anger in Kashmir has deepened after the Indian government — led by a right-wing Hindu nationalist party — stripped the Muslim-majority region of its semiautonomous status.
According to Indian officials, the Taliban’s rise may attract more weapons and recruits from Pakistani forces for Kashmiri rebels. According to government regulations, the officials spoke under anonymity.
Pravin Sawhney (a military expert who is also the editor of FORCE, an Indian monthly magazine focusing on India’s security and national security) stated that Pakistan’s geopolitical standing has increased with the advent of Taliban. This will lead to Pakistan’s position on Kashmir becoming more hardened.
According to some reports, Pakistan’s powerful spy chief Lt.-Gen. Faiz Hamed traveled to Kabul in September amid speculations that he was helping to form the new Taliban government.
Harsh Vardhan Shrilla, India’s foreign minister, ran to Washington at the same time. He stated that the United States and his country were closely monitoring Pakistan’s actions.
India was the first country to evacuate its diplomats in the wake of Taliban fighters entering Kabul on August 15. This was due to its safety and security.
Indian officials claim that Pakistan-based militants like Jaish-e-Mohammad (both believed to be behind the Taliban campaign against America) could use Afghanistan as an operational base and training ground.
In 2019, Jaish-e-Mohammad took credit for the deadliest bombing in Kashmir’s insurgency — a blast that killed 40 Indian soldiers and brought the two nuclear-armed neighbors to the brink of war.
India’s top diplomat Shringla expressed concern about Afghanistan’s free ingress.
He said that Pakistan’s role must be seen in this context.
Pakistan also accuses India for inciting violence within its own borders. Islamabad claimed that Indian intelligence agents were operating from Afghanistan and using anti Pakistani groups such as the Baluchistan Liberation Army for attacks.
India, which invested around $3 billion in Afghanistan’s development aid program, was the largest donor to the country. Even though it had no military boots on the ground, India trained Afghan army and police and supplied military equipment — while Pakistan maintained links with the Taliban.
India met with the Taliban representative in Qatar for the first time on Aug. 31, while there was no diplomatic presence in Kabul.
New Delhi expressed concern that Afghanistan’s territory should not be used to support anti-Indian activities or terrorism.
Experts and policymakers from India believe there is no guarantee that Afghanistan will not be a safe haven for militants.
“Afghanistan could be poised for becoming a bottomless pit for all shades and radical, extremist, and jihadi outfits somewhat like Iraq and Syria, but closer to India,” stated Gautam Mukhopadhaya who was India’s ambassador to Kabul from 2010 to 2013.
He stated that the Taliban victory could have an “inspirational affect” not only on Kashmir’s rebels, but also for other religiously-driven organizations operating in the wider region.
In 1989, Kashmir rebelled against Indian control partly due to the defeat of Soviet troops in Afghanistan by Afghan guerrillas. Many Kashmiri rebels were trained and trained in Afghanistan over the years.
Many Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goals of a united Kashmir, which would be either independent or governed by Pakistan. Tens of thousands have participated in protests and the funerals for rebel leaders, including Pakistani-based militants, over recent years.
The crackdown on civil liberties and dissent in Kashmir grew after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave Kashmir a special status in 2019. Indian prisons hold hundreds of resistance activists.
Experts claim that this environment is partly to blame for insurgency, and allows foreign militant groups to flourish.
Although the Taliban has said it wants India’s development projects in Afghanistan to continue, the Taliban have also criticised New Delhi.
Suhail Shaheen a Taliban spokesperson recently said to the BBC that they had the right “to raise our voice for Muslims Kashmir, India, or any other country.”
People who fought for India in Kashmir are seeing renewed hope.
Ahmed, a former Kashmiri rebel who led a few Afghan militants through the mountains to Kashmir in the 1990s. He remembered them as “good fights” who “motivated, trained, and supported” young men who joined the armed struggle.
Ahmed, who kept his middle name secret out of fear of reprisal from Indian authorities, stated that he expected local militants would be able to receive “latest weapons” from Afghanistan two decades later.
Their victory has given me tremendous hope. He said, “It’s a shot to the arm, at an age when we aren’t even allowed to talk openly.”