The Improvement Of Russian-Taliban Ties Opens Up New Opportunities For India

Improving Russian-Taliban ties has created significant opportunities for India to influence Afghanistan’s economic development, counter China’s regional influence, and strengthen its strategic position through collaborative infrastructure projects.

The Improvement Of Russian-Taliban Ties Opens Up New Opportunities For India 1

With the elimination of the Taliban’s status as a domestic terrorist organization imminent, Russia is well-positioned to strategically collaborate with them, thereby transforming its bilateral relations with Afghanistan. The complementary aspects of this strategy are explained in more detail here and here for readers. This essay assumes that readers have a basic understanding of Russia’s objectives and motivations, especially about the intertwined security and economic forces that have led to these most recent developments.

To put it briefly, Russia hopes to strengthen the Taliban’s position in Afghanistan so that they may eventually contain and, ideally, eliminate the ISIS-K militants who have taken root there. Transnational connective infrastructure projects from Russia to South Asia via Afghanistan can finally start to take shape if the security situation is settled. These include a railroad, which can work in tandem with the gas pipeline, and an overland oil export route made possible by a proposed terminal in Afghanistan.

Once these lofty objectives are realized with the realization of Russia’s linked Ummah Pivot and Greater Eurasian Partnership concepts—the final two components of which are Afghanistan and bordering Pakistan—multipolarity processes are anticipated to intensify. If Islamabad has the political will, which is unclear given the rise of US influence there, then a comprehensive extension of strategic connections with Afghanistan will in turn allow a symmetrical growth of those with Pakistan.

If relations between Russia and Pakistan develop too quickly, it may also unintentionally fuel fears in India, where some analysts and decision-makers worry that China is starting to exert more and more influence over Russia. Readers can read more about this concern here and here. If the concrete repercussions of intensifying this impression strengthen India’s pro-US faction if recently strained ties with the US improve, multipolarity processes could be dramatically disrupted.

Preemptively countering this situation would best be achieved by Russia leading an Afghan development quartet with India, Iran, and Uzbekistan, to completely integrate that war-torn nation into the North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC). This would expand on the Russian-Indian-Iranian Troika in Afghanistan that was established in November 2022 under the new circumstances of Moscow designating the Taliban as the nation’s official authorities and Russia transforming Uzbekistan into a hub for regional logistics.

President Putin’s recent promise to assist Uzbekistan in expanding its economy by helping it access new markets may be incorporated into this quartet that is being suggested to maximize multilateral collaboration amongst all parties along the NSTC. Even while it might take some time for Islamabad to resolve its issues with Kabul and seal related agreements with Moscow, it seems probable that Afghanistan will eventually make trade between Russia and Pakistan easier. This could comfort India, nevertheless, that its power won’t be diminished in that scenario.

India is concerned that a strengthening of links between the Taliban and Pakistan, facilitated by Russia and encouraged by the aforementioned connectivity projects, may result in a rise in Chinese influence in the region when the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is extended northward via Afghanistan and into Central Asia. To allay these fears, India must outpace China and ensure that the NSTC forms the cornerstone of Afghanistan’s rebuilding and future economic growth before the CPEC does.

Given the structure of Afghan society, the trade opportunities created by the NSTC may result in the unofficial development of local patronage networks that aid India in retaining its sway there in the face of potential future increases in Sino-Pak influence driven by the CPEC. India’s concerns that China is benefiting from the most recent Russian-led processes could be greatly allayed if efforts were made to stay ahead of the curve by developing obedient elites through sustainable economic methods.

In pursuit of this goal, Russia could also rely on the massive rupee stockpile that it has amassed in India over the last two years, largely due to their unprecedented energy cooperation brought about by generous oil discounts, which last year saw a record $65 billion in bilateral trade. With India’s help, these rupees might be used to establish the first commercial corridor between Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Iran, which would include the proposed oil hub in Herat and significantly increase trade between Russia and India.

Simplifying this NSTC branch might open up a plethora of lucrative prospects for all parties involved, particularly for Russia and India. It could also expedite the establishment of the proposed Afghan patronage networks as a means of proactively countering the influence of Sino-Pak in that region. By using these strategies, India would undermine China’s pro-US faction by making it less likely for that nation to view the strengthening of Russian-Afghan and eventually -Pakistani connections as advantageous to their Chinese competitor.

Yesterday, GreatGameIndia reported on recent developments, such as Russia’s invitations to the Taliban to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum and debates on removing them from the terrorist list, raising questions about strategic partnership intentions.

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