Moscow’s Taliban tilt

Wakhan route to connect Afghanistan with China, Iran

April 05, 2024


The Taliban dispensation is surprisingly winning attention from regional giants.

Though on a weaker streak at home, the double-down from Moscow and Beijing has come as a shot in the arm for Kabul. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, in a change of heart, pronounced that there are some substantial issues to discuss with the reigning militia, and supplemented Taliban’s credentials by saying that “they are the de facto authority in Afghanistan”. It went on to say that Moscow is also working to remove the Taliban from its list of banned terrorist organisations.

This development is worth analysing as it has come just days after a concert was bombed in Russia, and there were claims of IS-K’s involvement in it. Moving a step closer towards Taliban at this juncture means Russia is refusing to buy the theory of the Islamist entity’s involvement in it, and has a broader spectrum to read against it from the West.

Citing geopolitical proximity to strike a deal of convenience with the Taliban is a master-stroke from the Kremlin, and is surely intended at putting Washington in the spot. While the Taliban long for formal recognition since they took over the war-torn country in August 2021, diplomatic backing from China which nominated a representative in Kabul, and now Moscow leaning soft are signs of a thaw with two major regional powers.

Likewise, reports of refurbishing the Wakhan route to connect Afghanistan with China and down towards Iran are in need of being deciphered strategically. Incidentally, these developments have come at a time when the Americans are not happy with the Taliban, and Pakistan too has a wish-list of do’s and don’ts with the leadership in Kabul. It entails that the region is in a flux, and crosscurrents of state-centrism are up for grabs.

These new alliances may be a win-win situation for Kabul, but it has a responsibility to discharge by cracking down hard on terrorism. Rather than once again turning into a launching pad for major powers’ rivalry, the Taliban will be better placed to comb the home from unscrupulous elements and build a stable pluralistic order.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2024.

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