Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing a virtual G20 Extraordinary Summit on Tuesday, called for “urgent and unhindered” humanitarian assistance to Afghan citizens in the unfolding crisis. Saying that “every Indian feels the pain of Afghan people”, he also asked the international community to form a unified response to the crisis in Afghanistan to reach a favourable outcome.
Many sources have said that Afghanistan is about to become an economic and humanitarian disaster. The Taliban, who ruled the country from 1996 to 2001, and are known for ruling with terror and an iron fist.
The 4 years long Taliban regime, which was brought to an end by the US invasion in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, was known for suppressing the rights of women and minorities.
They followed the strict Islamic code of law, or the Sharia, and committed atrocities against anyone they thought not following it, often performing public executions. Education, economy and the culture of Afghanistan suffered greatly and minorities were regularly targeted.
However, for the last two decades since the US invasion, the Afghan people had seen democracy return to Afghanistan. Women had access to education and held important offices throughout the country. The country received billions in International aid every year, and that was important as the Afghan economy was in no position to support its citizens.
One of the major countries providing assistance was India, which invested heavily in rebuilding Afghanistan’s infrastructure and institutions under the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA). Billions of dollars worth of trade happened between Afghanistan and India, and the establishment of the India- Afghanistan Air Freight Corridor in 2017 further provided a boost to this trade.
After maintaining a military presence in Afghanistan for 20 years, the US under President Donald Trump reached an agreement with the Taliban and the Afghan government for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghan soil. According to this agreement, the Taliban and the Afghan government the US had spent 20 years creating and strengthening, were supposed to share the power in the country.
However, in August 2021, as the US was evacuating its troops and personnel from Afghanistan, the Taliban attacked and swooped into power, capturing the country in a matter of weeks and moving into Kabul virtually unopposed. The Afghan president Ashraf Ghani fled the country, and it became clear that the Taliban was not going to share power with anyone.
In the wake of the Taliban takeover, panic spread through the populace who feared a return to the old ways. Many were afraid they would be targeted for helping US forces in Afghanistan, as the Taliban considers the US oppressors. This caused a frantic rush among many to leave the country and led to spine chilling scenes of desperation. The Taliban, on the other hand, promised to create an inclusive government and allow for the rights of women and minorities. However, they have taken measures like using social media to target citizens and removing all women from their posts. Images of atrocities and executions are also coming from the country.
Since the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban through force, the international community is yet to accept the legitimacy of their government. As such the international aid that the fractured Afghan economy depends on has stopped coming. Trade and cash flow have suffered due to the conflict. With the winter coming and many jobless, Afghans are unsure how they are going to survive with the little money they have.
Another point of concern is the potential harbouring of extremist and radical groups within Taliban ruled Afghanistan, as had happened the last time Taliban were in power. Prime Minister Modi stressed this point when he said that “Afghanistan’s territory must not become a source of radicalization and terror”.
Considering all these factors, the countries forming the Group of 20 have decided to collaborate with the Taliban to get humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. They have however stated that this doesn’t mean recognition of the Taliban government. That will come only after their deeds prove they can uphold their promise of a progressive and inclusive government.