Blog

Daily Current Affairs 14.08.2021 (Growth needs steps beyond reforms, Afghan Tragedy)

Daily Current Affairs 14.08.2021 (Growth needs steps beyond reforms, Afghan Tragedy)

28

1.Growth needs steps beyond reforms

While the reform agenda must continue, social cohesion and equity considerations must be guaranteed

The Indian economy has travelled through an eventful period through the last three decades. In the post-independence economic history of our country, 1991 stands out as a watershed year. This was the year in which the economy was faced with a severe balance of payments crisis. In response, we launched a wide-ranging economic programme, not just to restore the balance of payments but to reform, restructure and modernise the economy.

Thus, the crisis was converted into an opportunity to bring about fundamental changes in the approach and conduct of economic policy. A near tragedy was averted and a new path was laid out before the country. The words of Charles Dickens in somewhat reverse order seem appropriate: “It was the worst of times, It was the best of times,… it was the winter of despair, it was the spring of hope.”

The shift, key players

It is important to recognise in what way the new regime was different from the earlier one. The break with the past came in three important ways: in dismantling the vast network of licences, controls and permits that dominated the economic system; in redesigning the role of the state and allowing the private sector a larger space to operate within, and in abandoning the inward looking foreign trade policy and getting integrated with the world economy and trade. The last was particularly important because it was the opposite of what we normally did when faced with a balance of payments crisis.

Dr. Manmohan Singh as Finance Minister spearheaded the new policy. He articulated the need for change and provided not only the broad framework but also the details of the reforms. P.V. Narasimha Rao as Prime Minister gave the valuable political support and shield which were very much needed. It must be noted that as Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao also held the portfolio of Industry which was directly responsible for initiating the changes that led to the dismantling of various types of controls and licences related to the industrial sector. This was indeed a key element of the reform programme. At the ministerial level, strong support came from P. Chidambaram as Commerce Minister who oversaw the transformation of the external sector.

The metrics

There is a common thread running through the various measures introduced since 1991. The objective has been to improve the productivity and efficiency of the system by creating a more competitive environment. Thus, barriers to entry and growth were removed. As the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. It is therefore appropriate to look at three broad parameters to judge the performance of the economy after liberalisation — growth rate, current account deficit and poverty reduction.

Between 1992-93 and 2000-01, GDP at factor cost grew annually by 6.20%. Between 2001-02 and 2010-11, it grew by 7.69% and the growth rate between 2011-12 and 2019-20, was 6.51%. The best performance was between 2005-06 and 2010-11 when the GDP grew by 8.7% showing clearly what the potential growth rate of India was. This is the highest growth experienced by India over a sustained period of five to six years. This is despite the fact that this period included the global crisis year of 2008-09. The recent decline in growth rate which started even before the advent of COVID-19 should make policymakers reflect and introspect.

Foreign reserves

The balance of payments situation had remained comfortable. There were three years in which the current account showed a small surplus. Most of the years showed a small deficit. The exceptions were 2011-12 and 2012-13 when the current account deficit exceeded 4%. This was taken care of quickly. Foreign exchange reserves showed a substantial increase and touched $621 billion as of last week. The opening up of the external sector, which included liberal trade policy, market determined exchange rate and a liberal flow of external resources, has greatly strengthened the external sector. Of course, we still run a high merchandise trade deficit which is offset to a large extent by the surplus in services.

Poverty ratio

Besides growth, the other major objective of economic policy is to reduce the number of people living below the poverty line. There are many problems associated with the definition of poverty and the kind of data required to measure it. Going by the procedure adopted by the erstwhile Planning Commission using the Tendulkar expert group methodology, the overall poverty ratio came down from 45.3% in 1993-94 to 37.2% in 2004-05 and further down to 21.9% in 2011-12. The per year reduction in percentage points in poverty ratio between 2004-05 and 2011-12 was 2.18. The post-reform period up to 2011-12 did see a significant reduction in poverty ratio because of faster growth supplemented by appropriate poverty reduction programmes such as the Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the Extended Food Security Scheme. With the decline in growth rate since then and with a negative growth in 2020-21, this trend must have reversed, i.e. the poverty rate may have increased.

Had the growth trend seen up to 2011-12 continued, we would have an unqualified answer to the impact of reforms on growth. Growth requires more than reforms. Reforms are, in the words of economists, only a necessary condition. It is not sufficient. In a developing economy, in the final analysis, growth is driven by investment. It is the decline in investment rate of nearly five percentage points since 2010-11 that has led to the progressive decline of the growth rate. Reforms normally create a natural climate for investment. But ‘animal spirits’ are also influenced by non-economic factors such as social cohesion. Reforms supplemented by a careful nurturing of the investment climate are needed to spur growth again. This should become the sole concern of policy makers.

Need for continuity

The reform agenda must continue. It will be incremental in character. It has to be. Policymakers should be clear about the directions in which they should move. First of all, there is a need to move in the same direction in which we have been moving in the past three decades. Policymakers should identify the sectors which need reforms in terms of creating a competitive environment and improving the performance efficiency. From this angle, we need to take a relook at the financial system, power sector and governance. Centre and States must be joint partners in this effort. Second, in terms of government performance, there should be increased focus on social sectors such as health and education. In terms of the provision of services, the emphasis must be not just on quantitative expansion but also quality. To achieve the latter is even more difficult. The advent of COVID-19 has clearly shown our inadequate health facilities and preparedness.

Reforms are necessary to improve the productivity of the economy and achieve higher growth. But the story does not end there. We cannot ignore equity considerations. Growth and equity must go together. They must not be posed as opposing considerations. They are truly interdependent. It is only in an environment of high growth, equity can be pushed aggressively.

According to recent reports, more than a quarter of the population living in rural areas of India is below the poverty line. Out of the total population living in the rural parts of India, 25.7% is living below the poverty line whereas in the urban areas, the situation is a bit better with 13.7% of the population living below the poverty line.

Poverty Estimation

A common method used to estimate poverty in India is based on the income or consumption levels and if the income or consumption falls below a given minimum level, then the household is said to be Below the Poverty Line (BPL).

  • Poverty Line Calculation: Poverty estimation in India is now carried out by NITI Aayog’s task force through the calculation of poverty line based on the data captured by the National Sample Survey Office under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI).
    • NITI Aayog as a policy think tank has replaced Planning Commission, which was earlier responsible for calculating the poverty line in India.
  • Consumption Versus Income Level: Poverty line estimation in India is based on the consumption expenditure and not on the income levels because of the following reasons:
    • Variation in Income: Income of self-employed people, daily wage laborers etc. is highly variable both temporally and spatially, while consumption pattern are comparatively much stable.
    • Additional Income: Even in the case of regular wage earners, there are additional side incomes in many cases, which is difficult to take into account.
    • Data Collection: In case of consumption based poverty line, sample based surveys use a reference period (say 30 days) in which households are asked about their consumption of last 30 days and is taken as the representative of general consumption.
      • Whereas tracing the general pattern of income is not possible.
      • Reference Period: It is the duration/period during which the survey is conducted by NSSO workers in which they ask certain questions to households.

Key Terms

  • Poverty: According to the World Bank, Poverty is pronounced deprivation in well-being and comprises many dimensions. It includes low incomes and the inability to acquire the basic goods and services necessary for survival with dignity.
  • Poverty Line: The conventional approach to measuring poverty is to specify a minimum expenditure (or income) required to purchase a basket of goods and services necessary to satisfy basic human needs and this minimum expenditure is called the poverty line.
  • Poverty Line Basket: The basket of goods and services necessary to satisfy basic human needs is the Poverty Line Basket (PLB).
  • Poverty Ratio: The proportion of the population below the poverty line is called the poverty ratio or headcount ratio (HCR).

Need for Poverty Estimation

  • Impact of Welfare Schemes: Poverty estimates are not just important for academic purposes but are also crucial to track the impact and success of various government policies, especially social welfare schemes that are intended to eliminate poverty.
    • BPL Census is conducted by the Ministry of Rural Development (along with the partnership of state), in order to identify the poor households.
  • Poverty Elimination Plan: The Poverty estimates in the form of poverty line are used to formulate poor centric poverty elimination plans.
  • Constitutional Requirement: Poverty estimation paves the way for poverty elimination, that in turn prepares the ground for a just and equitable society.

Measurement of Poverty Line

  • Absolute Measurement of Poverty
    • Absolute Poverty: According to United Nations World Summit for Economic Development, absolute poverty is a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information.
      • It depends not only on income but also on access to social services.
    • Poverty Threshold: The poverty threshold in absolute measurement of poverty is set using the monetary value of the basket of essential products (required for basic needs) and every household whose income is less than this value will be classified as poor.
    • Limited Scope: Absolute measurements of poverty, used by the World Bank and developing countries like India, rely on a poverty line which remains constant across geographies and over time.
    • Criticism: Absolute measurement of poverty overlooks deprivation within countries or the higher cost of living in developed countries.
  • Relative Measurement of Poverty
    • Relative Poverty: It is present when a household income is lower than the median income in a particular country and is used mainly by the developed countries.
      • Those who fall into the category of relative poverty are not necessarily deprived of all basic needs, but may not experience the same standard of living as the majority of society or in other words, they are relatively deprived.
    • Poverty Threshold: In this method certain percentage of economically bottom population is always considered below the poverty line.
    • Criticism: This approach, though, ignores the importance of the absolute standard of living and assumes that relative income is all that matters for welfare.

Data Collection Methods

  • Uniform Resource Period (URP): Up until 1993-94, the poverty line was based on URP data, which involved asking people about their consumption expenditure across a 30-day recall period that is the information was based on the recall of consumption expenditure in the previous 30 days.
  • Mixed Reference Period (MRP): From 1999-2000 onwards, the NSSO switched to an MRP method which measures consumption of five low-frequency items (clothing, footwear, durables, education and institutional health expenditure) over the previous year, and all other items over the previous 30 days.
    • That is to say, for the five items, survey respondents are asked about consumption in the previous one year. For the remaining items, they are asked about consumption in the previous 30 days.

Pre-Independence Poverty Estimation

  • Dadabhai Naoroji through his book, “Poverty and Unbritish Rule in India” made the earliest estimation of poverty line (₹16 to ₹35 per capita per year).
    • The poverty line proposed by him was based on the cost of a subsistence or minimum basic diet (rice or flour, dal, mutton, vegetables, ghee, vegetable oil, and salt).
  • National Planning Committee’s (1938) poverty line (ranging from ₹15 to ₹20 per capita per month) was also based on a minimum standard of living perspective in which nutritional requirements were implicit.
    • In 1938, the National Planning Committee was set up by Subhash Chandra Bose under the chairmanship of Jawaharlal Nehru for the purpose of drawing up an economic plan with the fundamental aim to ensure an adequate standard of living for the masses.
  • The Bombay Plan (1944) proponents had suggested a poverty line of ₹75 per capita per year.
    • The Bombay Plan was a set of a proposal of a small group of influential business leaders in Bombay for the development of the post-independence economy of India.

Post-Independence Poverty Estimation

  • Planning Commission Expert Group (1962), working group constituted by the Planning Commission formulated the separate poverty lines for rural and urban areas (₹20 and ₹25 per capita per year respectively).
  • VM Dandekar and N Rath (1971), made the first systematic assessment of poverty in India, based on National Sample Survey (NSS) data.
    • Unlike previous scholars who had considered subsistence living or basic minimum needs criteria as the measure of poverty line, VM Dandekar and N Rath were of the view that poverty line must be derived from the expenditure that was adequate to provide 2250 calories per day in both rural and urban areas.
    • Expenditure based Poverty line estimation, generated a debate on minimum calorie consumption norms.
  • Alagh Committee (1979): Task force constituted by the Planning Commission under the chairmanship of YK Alagh, constructed a poverty line for rural and urban areas on the basis of nutritional requirements and related consumption expenditure.
    • Poverty estimates for subsequent years were to be calculated by adjusting the price level for inflation.
  • Lakdawala Committee (1993): Task Force chaired by DT Lakdawala, based on the assumption that the basket of goods and services used to calculate Consumer Price Index-Industrial Workers (CPI-IW) and Consumer Price Index- Agricultural Labourers (CPI-AL) reflect the consumption patterns of the poor, made the following suggestions:
    • Consumption expenditure should be calculated based on calorie consumption as earlier.
    • State specific poverty lines should be constructed and these should be updated using the CPI-IW in urban areas and CPI-AL in rural areas.
    • Discontinuation of scaling of poverty estimates based on National Accounts Statistics.

Tendulkar Committee (2009)

  • Expert group constituted by the Planning Commission and, chaired by Suresh Tendulkar, was constituted to review methodology for poverty estimation and to address the following shortcomings of the previous methods:
    • Obsolete Consumption Pattern: Consumption patterns were linked to the 1973-74 poverty line baskets (PLBs) of goods and services, whereas there were significant changes in the consumption patterns of the poor since that time, which were not reflected in the poverty estimates.
    • Inflation Adjustment: There were issues with the adjustment of prices for inflation, both spatially (across regions) and temporally (across time).
    • Health and Education Expenditure: Earlier poverty lines assumed that health and education would be provided by the state and formulated poverty lines accordingly.
  • Recommendations
    • Shift from Calorie Consumption based Poverty Estimation: It based its calculations on the consumption of the items like cereal, pulses, milk, edible oil, non-vegetarian items, vegetables, fresh fruits, dry fruits, sugar, salt & spices, other food, intoxicants, fuel, clothing, footwear, education, medical (non-institutional and institutional), entertainment, personal & toilet goods.
    • Uniform Poverty line Basket: Unlike Alagh committee (which relied on separate PLB for rural and urban areas), Tendulkar Committee computed new poverty lines for rural and urban areas of each state based on the uniform poverty line basket and found that all India poverty line (2004-05) was:
      • ₹446.68 per capita per month in rural areas
      • ₹578.80 per capita per month in urban areas
    • Private Expenditure: Incorporation of private expenditure on health and education while estimating poverty.
    • Price Adjustment Procedure: The Committee also recommended a new method of updating poverty lines, adjusting for changes in prices and patterns of consumption (to correct spatial and temporal issues with price adjustment), using the consumption basket of people close to the poverty line.
    • Mixed Reference Period: The Committee recommended using Mixed Reference Period based estimates, as opposed to Uniform Reference Period based estimates that were used in earlier methods for estimating poverty.
  • Tendulkar committee computed poverty lines for 2004-05 at a level that was equivalent, in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms to Rs 33 per day.
    • Purchasing Power Parity: The PPP model refers to a method used to work out the money that would be needed to purchase the same goods and services in two countries.

Rangarajan Committee

The committee was set up in the backdrop of national outrage over the Planning Commission’s suggested poverty line of ₹22 a day for rural areas.

  • Objectives
    • To review international poverty estimation methods and indicate whether based on these, a particular method for empirical poverty estimation can be developed in India.
    • To recommend how these estimates of poverty can be linked to eligibility and entitlements under the various schemes of the Government of India.
  • Recommendations
    • Methodology Used: The Rangarajan committee estimation is based on an independent large survey of households by Center for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE).
      • It has also used different methodology wherein a household is considered poor if it is unable to save.
    • Normative and Behavioural level: Poverty line should be based on:
      • Normative level of adequate nutrition: Ideal and desirable level of nutrition.
      • Behavioral determination of non-food expenses: What people use or consume as per general behavior.
    • Nutritional Requirement: For normative levels of adequate nutrition – average requirements of calories, proteins and fats based on Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) norms, differentiated by age, gender and activity for all-India rural and urban regions is considered:
      • Calories: 2090 kcal in urban areas and 2155 Kcal in rural areas.
      • Protein: For rural areas 48 gm and for urban areas 50 gm.
      • Fat: For urban areas 28 gm and for rural areas 26 gm.
    • Poverty Threshold: Persons spending below 47 a day in cities and32 in villages be considered poor.
      • Based on this methodology, Rangarajan committee estimated that the number of poor were 19% higher in rural areas and 41% more in urban areas than what was estimated using Tendulkar committee formula.
    • Modified Mixed reference period: Instead of Mixed reference Period (MRP) it recommended Modified Mixed Reference Period (MMRP) in which reference periods for different items were taken as:
      • 365-days for clothing, footwear, education, institutional medical care, and durable goods.
      • 7-days for edible oil, egg, fish and meat, vegetables, fruits, spices, beverages, refreshments, processed food, pan, tobacco and intoxicants
      • 30-days for the remaining food items, fuel and light, miscellaneous goods and services including non-institutional medical; rents and taxes.
  • Criticism: Rangarajan committee missed the opportunity to go beyond the expenditure-based poverty rates and examine the possibility of a wider multi-dimensional view of deprivation.

International Poverty Line

  • The World Bank defines a person as extremely poor if she is living on less than 1.90 international dollars a day, which are adjusted for inflation as well as price differences between countries.
  • Asian Development Bank too has its own poverty line which is currently at $ 1.51 per person per day.

Challenges

  • Components of PLB: Determining components of Poverty Line Basket (PLB) is one of the challenges of poverty line estimation because of the price differentials (of constituents of basket) which vary from state to state and period to period.
  • Demographic and Economic Dynamics: Further, consumption patterns, nutritional needs and prices of components keep on changing as per dynamics of macro economy and demography.
  • Lack of consensus among the states over the acceptance of Tendulkar and Rangrajan committee report.
    • Some states such as Odisha and West Bengal supported the Tendulkar Poverty Line while others such as Delhi, Jharkhand, Mizoram etc. supported Rangarajan report.
    • The current official measures of poverty are based on the Tendulkar poverty line, fixed at daily expenditure of ₹27.2 in rural areas and ₹33.3 in urban areas is criticised by many for being too low.

2.Slanting posts

Social media platforms should have the same standards for the rulers and the Opposition

Several Twitter handles associated with the Congress and its leaders including its former president Rahul Gandhi were blocked by Twitter in the last few days, for violating its user policy and the law of the land. The violation pertains to posts shared by these handles that identified the family of a child who was allegedly raped and murdered in Delhi. The platform has since revealed that the NCPCR brought the violation to its notice. A petition in the Delhi HC seeking legal action against Mr. Gandhi has pointed out that his post was in violation of Section 74 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 and Section 23(2) of the POSCO Act 2012, both of which mandate that any material that might reveal (directly or indirectly) the identity of a child victim of a crime shall not be published. Additionally, the post also violated Twitter’s own rules. The Congress has not addressed the substantive question raised by the platform regarding these violations. It has alleged double standards by the platform, and questioned its impartiality. That is not a mature response. The party transgressed the norms of discussion in a sensitive case in its campaign. It must, without qualifiers, accept that mistake, and commit to better standards in social media campaigns.

Twitter had flagged posts on several handles associated with the BJP in May, which were intended to target the Congress, as ‘manipulated media’. The BJP and the Centre took umbrage over the decision, claiming that only a police investigation could establish whether the content was altered. Twitter insisted that it had its own mechanism to check whether files uploaded on the platform were tinkered with. Herein lies the core conflict between the state and private companies over controlling the information flow in a democratic society. Both the state and the companies invoke public order and interest to justify their control over information, but the protocol for exercising that enormous power over lives remains open to question. Additionally, private companies also claim a right to unilaterally decide their user policy. This raises the pertinent question of whether a private company that is providing a service that is essential — connectivity in this instance — can set the terms of usage arbitrarily. The state has often shown itself unable to control speech in a fair and even-handed manner. It does even wilfully misuse such powers, going by experience. The age of acceleration has thrown up many such complicated moral and governance questions that society needs to resolve. In the meantime, state agencies must exercise control over speech only in the rarest instances, for the briefest periods, and in the most transparent manner. Private companies must be more transparent in enforcing their guidelines and reassure users that their standards for those in power and those in the Opposition are one.

3.Afghan tragedy

The Taliban are on the verge of re-establishing their murderous regime

With the fall of Kandahar and Herat, Afghanistan’s second and third largest cities, to the Taliban, the war in the country appears to have entered an irreversible phase. They already seized Ghazni, a strategically important city on the Kabul-Kandahar highway. The speed with which the Islamist insurgents captured the cities — 17 in eight days — is a surprise. Troops from the U.S. and the U.K. are to go back to Afghanistan to evacuate their citizens. The latest U.S. intelligence assessment predicts that Kabul could fall within 90 days. The Afghan government has reportedly offered a power sharing proposal to the Taliban. But neither the offer nor the warning from the U.S. and other countries that they would not recognise a Taliban regime that takes power by force has stopped the militants. In his Id message, Taliban’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada said the Taliban are on the verge of establishing a “pure Islamic system” in Afghanistan. It is clear from his words and the military campaigns that the Taliban want the whole of Afghanistan under their command. Also, why should they make concessions when their offensives are cutting through the government defences at break-neck speed?

What altered the balance of power in the battlefield was the withdrawal of the U.S.-led international forces. While the U.S.-Taliban agreement in February 2020 legitimised the jihadists, the American withdrawal gave them a sense of victory. At no point in talks with the Taliban did the U.S. manage to extract concessions towards a political settlement in Afghanistan. The American focus was on taking its troops out unharmed, and the Taliban stayed away from targeting Americans even when they continued an assassination campaign inside the country. On the other side, the U.S. withdrawal has left the Afghan government, internally divided and lacking support in rural areas, devoid of its most critical advantage in the war — air support. Overstretched across the cities that were under siege for weeks, their defences crumbled like a sandcastle when the Taliban pressed on. The government of President Ashraf Ghani has long tried to ignore the former warlords in an attempt to shore up the national army. But when the national forces failed to defend the cities, Mr. Ghani turned to the ethnic leaders, but it is now too late as the Taliban are already at the gates of Kabul. The Taliban, like in the 1990s, promise stability and security. But the tragedy is that if they take Kabul, Afghanistan’s nearly 40 million population would be subjected, once again, to one of the most barbaric forms of religious totalitarianism. Whatever limited progress and freedoms the Afghans earned over the last 20 years are now at risk of being surrendered to a murderous militia with scant regard for human rights.

It is not a coincidence that the United States of America (US) is exiting Afghanistan at the same time that the focus of its foreign policy is shifting to East Asia.

There is growing consensus that the USA, instead of staying engaged in the lost wars should now urgently prepare itself for the unfolding geopolitical contest with China.

Defeating the Taliban and nation-building were part of the neoconservative ideology (promotion of democracy and interventionism in international affairs) of the US, which has evidently failed.

However, the US can abandon the Afghan government and exit the theatre, but India cannot. It has to protect its investments, prevent Afghanistan from becoming another safe haven for anti-India terrorist groups, and also check Pakistan deepening its influence in Kabul.

US’s Changed Priority

  • Changing Priorities From Middle East to Indo-Pacific:
    • The USA may have retreated from Afghanistan as part of a grand strategy to take on China in maritime Asia, in which it needs India’s involvement, and India might find it tempting to join the ranks, especially after China’s aggression on the Line of Actual Control.
    • America’s strategic response to China’s rise is its Indo-Pacific strategy, which is aimed at containing China’s rise and challenging its high-functioning single party dictatorship.
    • The US wants India to play a key role in the Quad bloc. But there is one problem. India, unlike the other members, is the only continental Asian power in the Quad, which shares a contested land border with China and is vulnerable to the geopolitical changes in the Eurasian landmass.
  • Ending Endless Wars: After the costly and prolonged military interventions in Afghanistan, the US has begun to see no more interest in resolving the conflict there.

India’s Presence In Afghanistan

  • Barring a brief pause in the 1990s, India has historically enjoyed good ties with Afghanistan, which go back to the 1950 Treaty of Friendship.
  • Indian interests and influence suffered when the Taliban, backed by Pakistan, captured Kabul in 1996.
  • But India was back in action as soon as the Taliban were ousted from power after the US invasion in 2001.
  • India has made huge investments and commitments ever since, which run into over USD 3 billion, and cultivated strong economic and defence ties with the Afghan government.
  • Now, it is again staring at uncertainty with the US pullback having effectively changed the balance of power in Afghanistan and the Taliban making rapid territorial gains.

India’s Options In Afghanistan

  • Talking with the Taliban: Talking to Taliban would allow India to seek security guarantees from the insurgents in return for continued development assistance or other pledges as well as explore the possibility of the Taliban’s autonomy from Pakistan.
    • At this point, talking to the Taliban looks inevitable. But India should not overlook the deep ties between Pakistan’s security establishment and the Haqqani Network, a major faction within the Taliban.
    • The USA overlooked it while fighting the Taliban along with Pakistan, and it paid a heavy price for it.
  • Taking Afghan Government in Confidence: There is no guarantee that India’s quest for engagement with the Taliban would produce a desirable outcome. So India should broad-base its options.
    • While talking to the Taliban to protect its interests, India should also enhance aid to Afghanistan’s legitimate government and security forces and work with other regional powers for long-term stability in the country.
  • Support Afghan Military Forces: The Afghan military has some 200,000 battle-hardened soldiers, including the highly trained special forces. The only force that is standing up to the Taliban is the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
    • India should urgently step up training Afghan forces and provide military hardware, intelligence and logistical and financial support so that Afghan military can continue to defend the cities.
    • India should also coordinate with other regional powers to support the Afghan government because if the government forces crumble before the Taliban, the prospects for a political settlement would be narrowed.
  • Regional solution: There is a convergence of interests between India and three key regional players — China, Russia and Iran — in seeing a political settlement in Afghanistan.
    • None of these countries would like to see the Taliban taking over Afghan militarily, which means there would be an isolated Sunni Islamist regime in a country with fractured ethnic equations.
    • Thus, there is a need for cooperation from like minded countries on this front.
  • Short Term and Long Term Goal: India’s immediate goal should be the safety and security of its personnel and investments.
    • The long-term goal should be finding a political solution to the crisis. None of this can be achieved unless it works together with the regional powers.
  • Russian Support: Russia has cultivated links with the Taliban in recent years. India would need Russia’s support in any form of direct engagement with the Taliban.
  • Significance of Iran: Iran shares a long border with Afghanistan and has close resemblance of ethnic minorities.
    • The original objective of India’s Chabahar project in Iran was to create a direct access to Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan.
    • This direct access is critical for India in all different scenarios — move supplies to Afghanistan in larger quantities, retain its presence in the event of a civil war or carry out covert operations if the Taliban take power by force.
    • However, the US’s pressure on India is a roadblock in good relations between the two countries.
  • Bonhomie With China: India should talk with China, with the objective of finding a political settlement and lasting stability in Afghanistan.
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on google
Google+
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on pinterest
Pinterest