Taliban’s Quest for International Recognition

Taliban Afghanistan

With the announcement of their interim Cabinet, the Taliban hopes to gain international recognition in order to prove their global legitimacy. The country is facing multiple humanitarian crises and near-total poverty due to fallout from the political situation.

With repressive policies meted out towards women and girls, there are already growing calls for international attention and aid to be contingent on ensuring girls’ access to education.

Despite assurances to be inclusive and liberal, the Taliban have yet to allow older girls back to school, have curtailed local media freedoms and resort to brutal practices like killings and torturing government officials and journalists. However,  Afghanistan’s crippling economy and dire need for investments and other forms of financial and humanitarian assistance seems to be the pressing factor for global recognition at this point.

Recently, Taliban had sent out invitations for the inauguration ceremony of its Interim Cabinet to six nations: Russia, China, Iran, Qatar, Turkey and Pakistan.

It is to be noted that during their previous stint in the 1990s, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were the only countries that recognised its rule. However, it appears that for this time, they did not invite Saudi and UAE.

Prince-Faisal-bin-Farhan-al-Saud, the foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia said during an interview while in India, “The Taliban are now in charge in Kabul. They have a responsibility towards the Afghan people to deliver stability, to deliver a government that can provide necessary security for Afghanistan, also the necessary economic, social and other structures.”

He further reiterated on how the Saudis see the Taliban, saying, “they have commitments to the international community…not allowing any transnational terrorist groups to take root. …we need to find a way to hold them accountable to those commitments…”

Such comments clearly indicates a shift in Saudi’s position vis-a-vis the Taliban.  Assumingly, the Taliban’s closer ties with Qatar, Turkey and Iran, all who are geopolitical rivals of Saudi Arabia in the region explains such a perceptible change of Saudi’s position.

Presumably, this time around, the Taliban seems to have found new allies barring Pakistan who have assumed the role of being “custodian” of the Taliban leaders and takes pride in its two decade long friendship. However, the new allies also appear playing a ‘wait and watch’ game in order to assess the current situation and judge on Taliban’s capacity to deliver on its promises.

On the matter of recognising  the Taliban government, the Russian Ambassador to India, Nikolay Kudashev, said that the “Recognition (of government in Afghanistan) is too early to say. Is any government or any governing structure officially available in Kabul now? Not yet.”

China and Russia, who are part of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) grouping find themselves in a tricky situation as members, which also include India, are hesitant about recognising the Taliban government.

Naledi Pandor, South African Foreign Minister, told a radio station following a virtual meet of leaders of BRICS states: “Until we are assured that the government, once it’s in place, intends to observe the prescripts of international law, we wouldn’t proceed with any form of recognition.”

It is very unlikely that China would singlehandedly go in recognising the Taliban government.

In all probability, it will too ‘wait and watch’ along with Russia and the US, not because it’s part of either BRICS grouping or even SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation), but more, for its own national interest.

China is aware that Taliban is in need of its investment and financial assistance.

The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) militants, also known as the Uyghur militants, who threaten Chinese state’s influence and seek self determination of the Uyghur dominated Xinjiang province, is known to carry out highly violent activities. However, they are known to been fighting with the Taliban against the Afghan security forces and using Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province as their base to launch militancy in Xinjiang. The Chinese have asked the Taliban to rein in the ETIM militants.

Pakistan, one of the Taliban’s long-time ally and the first nation to recognize Taliban during their rule in 1996-2001, is also employing a policy of ‘wait and watch’ in extending recognition to this new regime.

Since other countries in the region and its close allies have shown restraint, Islamabad fears isolation and has decided to not go alone in extending recognition, indicating its alignment with the international community’s decision in the matter.

Moreover, Pakistan is also concerned about Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an anti-Pakistan militant organization, which has its base in the eastern provinces of Afghanistan.

TTP’s main objective is to overthrow the Pakistan Military to realise self determination for Pashtunistan. TTP also has close links with the Afghan Taliban and have fought together with them against the Afghan Military. However, Pakistan has asked the Afghan Taliban to restrain TTP.

This puts Afghanistan in a tricky situation. Surprisingly, the Afghan Taliban seem to be in no willingness to oblige either to Pakistan or China. Both TTP and ETIM have fought shoulder to shoulder with Taliban and are also the reasons for some of their successful.

Having stated so, imprisoning or even restraining TTP or ETIM would be a breach of their loyalty and also would not go down very well with the Islamic Community due to the perceived bond of ‘Islamic Brotherhood’.

Interestingly, Pakistan did try to get the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan recognized at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) seeking the UN to allow Taliban representatives to address its session.

Not obliging to Pakistan, the UN invited the representative of the ousted Ashraf Ghani Government, keeping Taliban at bay and clearly signalling that Taliban will have to scale down its extremist and discriminative policies for any sort of talks or international recognition.

Iran, an important neighbour to Afghanistan, hosting nearly 3.5 million Afghans, has welcomed the Taliban regime indicative of its pleasure owing to departure of the US troops.

Tehran has pledged to work with the Taliban regime and hopes to build a stable relation with its new government. However, Iran-Taliban relations do appear quite complex and delicate due to the extreme differences in their ideology and also the past frictions due to Sunni-Shia tensions as well as a growing threat of Sunni militancy, posing a grave threat to Iran’s National Security.

After ousting the Ghani administration and assuming national power, the Taliban regime has been in news for all wrong reasons; from resorting to violence, attacking civilians and journalists, restricting women’s rights, therefore its regressive policies are received with much condemnation from the international community. Hence, the world is cautiously watching the Taliban regime.

It better deliver on its promises and adopt a more flexible form of their ideology that is a reflection more inclined towards the modern day progressing world in order to be accepted by both people of Afghanistan and the international community.

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