India fears Kashmir terrorism after Taliban resurgence

India ramped up security in Kashmir after the February 2019 air strikes.   © Reuters

MOYURU BABA, Nikkei staff writer | India

NEW DELHI — The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan has raised alarm in India that terrorist groups will rise up to threaten Kashmir, where New Delhi is locked in a decadeslong territorial dispute with neighbor Pakistan.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed such concerns in a call Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Indian media, saying that terrorism must not be allowed to spread from Afghanistan. Modi also discussed the impact of the Taliban’s resurgence on global security with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday.

The Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan, historically called the “heart of Asia” for its central location, has far-reaching implications for regional security — potentially including the simmering Kashmir dispute.

After the fall of the previous Taliban regime in 2001, India worked with Afghanistan’s U.S.-backed democratic government to build infrastructure. Pakistan, meanwhile, supported the Taliban in its rise to power in 1994, and is believed to have continued aiding the group behind the scenes since then, as a security counterweight to its perennial foe India.

Pakistan has welcomed the Taliban’s replacement of a government that had kept Islamabad at arm’s length with one expected to allow greater Pakistani influence in Afghanistan. Some observers speculate that Pakistan will cooperate with China and Russia to extend its reach in Central Asia.

The scenario New Delhi fears most is the Taliban’s victory emboldening terrorist organizations in neighboring Pakistan, endangering Indian-controlled Kashmir. Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has raised this concern repeatedly in talks with neighboring countries such as Qatar since the U.S. began withdrawing troops in April.

A June report to the United Nations Security Council noted a deepening relationship between the Taliban and al-Qaida. The terrorist group’s membership spans Pakistan, India, Myanmar and Middle Eastern nations, according to the document.

The Kashmir dispute, while quiet lately, has been at the root of three wars between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan, and air strikes were conducted in the region as recently as February 2019.

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