The “interim government” announced by the Taliban last week, over three weeks after they captured Kabul on August 15, constitutes the “best” or the ‘‘worst’’ of world news in 2021 (depending which side you are looking from, of course). It’s surely more sensational than the suffering of the world’s seven billion souls since 2019, due to the Wuhan-origin Chinese virus. Simultaneously, it shows where the status of the United Nations’ edicts, resolutions and declarations stand before 194 member states. Has diplomacy and the world’s collective wisdom touched its nadir since the birth of the League of Nations following the First World War? Do the deeds of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Osama bin Laden, et al pale before the Afghanistan of 2021? Has the world seen such bizarre, brazen, gory acts by a band of desperadoes masquerading as the saviours of Afghanistan? A sovereign state on the Westphalia model, recognised the world over, has fallen to terrorist leaders -- lock, stock and barrel. But as the world gasps in disbelief at scenes of violence and massacre, two nations -- Pakistan and China -- stand out, in support of the terrorists. They are simply following Mao Zedong’s dictum: “power comes from the barrel of the gun”. This is akin to making monsters behind mass murder part of the global comity of nations.
Put simply, the Taliban members of the new Afghan “state” have blood on their hands. No matter that the UN hasn’t still been able to define “terror” or “terrorism”. Why? Major countries invariably differ owing to self-interest, thus the cliche: “One nation’s terrorist is another state’s freedom fighter”. When India goes to the UN Security Council to galvanise the world to act against the terrorists backed by the Pakistan Army and its ISI, Communist China’s foreign minister rushes to their defence, invariably shielding the terrorists. To the Islamabad-Beijing gang, foreign-sponsored terrorists in India are “God-sent freedom fighters of the Orient” who can effectively “keep India under check”.
Afghanistan’s present scenario is nothing but a replay of a process going on for the past three decades, and there’s no reason to think the unholy terror alliance of these two will allow India any respite from macabre mayhem soon. Neither Pakistan nor China will leash these terrorists as long as they don’t harm their own nations -- particularly China.
A few facts about the Taliban’s background could be worth revisiting. Born predominantly as a Pashtun group in the mid-1990s with support from Islamic religious schools (madrasas), its primary aim was to impose order and regimentation (like the CPC) with a gun in the hand of each Talib. Created and supported by the Pakistani State and its ISI, it was meant to make full use of Pashtuns as puppet killers in the two fronts of Afghanistan and Hindustan. With a cocktail of various terror groups, and the subsequent entry of Chinese money and the CPC’s backroom brigade, close ties developed between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, the latter giving ideological, financial and military support.
An intriguing aspect of this terror saga is that the United States, at least initially, didn’t oppose the Taliban (even when India bled, and its airliner was hijacked to Kandahar in 1999). In Washington’s eyes, the Taliban was a healthy counterweight to the Tehran-Moscow influence in Kabul. India didn’t matter and in any case the West held India in contempt. They felt that “India’s terror problem is a failure of state law and order”.
American companies wanted to build pipelines through Afghanistan to transport oil and gas from Central Asia and the Caspian to the open sea, girdling Tehran. The Taliban, being an ally of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, both America’s friends, were thought to be capable of imposing order in Afghanistan.
Things started going awry from around 1998 when Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda began running ops from the Afghan-Pakistan “bad lands” hurting US interests.
The UN Security Council soon demanded that the Taliban hand over Bin Laden to US custody, which they promptly refused. Understandably, UN retribution, at the US’ behest, followed, with a ban on flights to and from Afghanistan, economic sanctions and a ban on the sale/transfer of military equipment to the Taliban. This once again proved that until a sovereign state is directly hit by terror, it will never accept the pleas of others hit by terrorism.
It may be politically incorrect to say so, but the United Nations will never be able to fight terror or terrorism till it is defined legally, or the 194 member nations reach a consensus. Otherwise, economics, trade, commerce and business will continue for all those not hit. India should therefore be prepared to go it alone.
Afghanistan shows the fallacy of the cliche “friend in need”. The unbelievable cowardly escape through one door by friend and dramatic drum-beating entry from another door by an unscrupulous and opportunistic hungry stranger searching for land, money, minerals, contract and creating debt trap for all; thereby ending with a monopolist which the world would rarely experience.
Which way does the terrorist-turned-Taliban traverse? The Taliban have undoubtedly usurped power illegally, but there is no law to counter their illegal act, with the so-called big powers still wailing from the rooftops. So let us at least look at a legal dictionary-defined terror/terrorism with the hope that the UNSC’s luminaries will now try to be more serious about this issue than they are now.
To the legal fraternity: “Terror is extreme fear; one or more violent acts that cause extreme fear”. Also: “Terrorism is use or threat of violence to intimidate or cause panic, especially as a means of achieving a political end”. There are, however, several other definitions. “Agri-terrorism, focusing on disrupting/destroying a country’s food supply by attacking agricultural industries with plant or animal pathogens”. “Bioterrorism, involving intentional release of harmful biological agents, such as bacteria or viruses, into air, food, or water supply of humans” (China)?
“Cyberterrorism, committed by computer” (China)? “Ecoterrorism” -- (the developed countries of the West)? “Lone-wolf terrorism” (India as the victim)? “Narco-terrorism, associated with/financed by profits from illegal drug trafficking” (Pakistani Army-ISI bosses; and some greedy Americans during the Fifth Afghan War 2001-2021)? “State-sponsored terrorism to pursue strategic and political goal objectives” (China-Pakistan in landlocked Central Asia)? “State terrorism, practised by sovereign governments” (Dictators around the world)?
Who is a “terrorist”? Try this: “Someone using violence -- bombing, shooting, kidnapping, intimidating to cause panic to achieve political ends” (Pakistan, Taliban)?
Will the UN Security Council act now, even at this late hour? Or will it go the League of Nations way?