– Shantanu Mukharji
In a dramatic and surprise move, Suhail Shaheen, spokesperson for the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan heading the political wing of Taliban in a statement on May 18 had stated that Taliban was clear that it had no intention of interfering in internal affairs of India. In the same vein, he further clarified that the perception that Taliban was going to join the jihad in Kashmir was wrong and without any basis. Sources from Peshawar where Afghan Taliban’s top decision making body – the Shura is based, is believed to have endorsed the clarification. This comes in the wake of an aggressively postured statement issued earlier by Zabihullah Mujahid which had emphasised that Taliban found it impossible to be friends with India unless the Kashmir ‘issue‘ was resolved.
The statement had also said that Taliban was planning to target Delhi as part of its offensive. While the change in stance by Taliban in its recent clarification reasons for the analysts for heaving a sigh of relief, it deserves to be examined in depth if there is suddenly a U-turn which may have some sinister design underneath the much publicised open revelation. Pakistan ISI must be looking into this in great detail as if it’s really a change in approach, then it’s quite a setback for the Pakistan security and intelligence agencies. As reported in these columns earlier, Pakistan refuses to shift its focus from Kashmir as seen in the intermittent cases of sponsored terror in Kashmir. Also, there are repeated attempts by the ISI to wean India away from its developing bonhomie with India. There is a consistent pattern in the blueprint of Pakistan military to arrest the trend the proximity between Afghanistan and India. It would seem that this is on top of their agenda to unsettle the bilateral ties. This recent clarification by Taliban not to interfere in the internal matters of India with Kashmir thrown in is expected to compel the ISI to draw up a fresh plan in an attempt to derail the warmth prevailing between Afghanistan and India.
Meanwhile, security and geo political experts say that the Indian back channel diplomacy seems to be paying dividends amid reports that Indian professionals have established contacts with the Taliban leadership at appropriate levels trying to neutralise there element of hostility towards India. Responsible quarters are hoping that this should last to isolate Pakistan’s evil designs of destabilising Indian security interests.
Back home in Pakistan, however, things continue to be turbulent and not in total control. Baluchistan the neglected state whose self esteem and independent feelings are not respected by the Federal government and the military in particular, faced fresh terror challenges. On May 19, seven members of the Pakistani army belonging to the Frontier Corps (FC) were killed by use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IeDs). This is a major setback to the army. Out of the seven slain, six were commissioned officers and one a junior commissioned officer. In a separate terror linked incident, one soldier of the Pakistani army was killed in an armed encounter which occurred at Kech (Baluchistan near the Iran border). This spot remains volatile and targets by the terrorists in Baluchistan remain vulnerable and they will remain so in the coming period. Earlier on May 9, six soldiers of the army and one Major were killed in a terror assault in Baluchistan. The Pakistani army is surely on the defensive because of the prevailing spate of terror attacks.
In a bizarre statement condemning the spiralling cases of terror in Baluchistan, the Pakistan minister for Human Rights, Shireen Mazari stated that the terrorists by their dastardly acts were gradually getting isolated, internationally and are increasingly under pressure. In fact it’s the other way round. Pakistan is getting alienated for its failure in containing terror as also for its desperation in not being able to address the genuine grievances of the Baluchis who are being suppressed, voices stifled and incessantly persecuted.
(Writer is a security analyst and a freelance columnist on matters of geo politics. The views expressed are personal.)