By Sugeeswara Senadhira/Ceylon Today
Colombo, September 6: The Taliban’s announcement last week that they would form a new Government and name the Cabinet of Ministers shows the importance attached by the fundamentalist group to the legitimacy of its rule.
The Government ‘s legitimacy in the eyes of international donors and investors will be crucial for the economy of Afghanistan as the country is grappling with post conflict issues and economic hardships due to the prevalent drought and food shortages.
The United States and Europe will not rush to recognize the regime, but they are aware of the need to engage with the Taliban. European Union officials have admitted that the bloc needs to engage the Taliban, but said it will not rush into formally recognizing the new rulers. However, the EU keeps contacts open to discuss issues such as resumption of evacuation work and delivery of humanitarian aid.
Meanwhile, Sri Lankan foreign policy analysts, like their counterparts in the region, are watching developments in Afghanistan to decide on recognition and bilateral relationships as well as multi-lateral ties under SAARC.
Many smaller countries in the region, including Sri Lanka, wait for clues from global and regional powers to decide on recognition. Of the five permanent members of the United Nations, two – China and Russia – had effectively conferred de facto recognition on the Taliban on 20 August, 11 days before American troops left Afghanistan.
Soon after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged friendly Governments to exercise caution in recognizing a Taliban Government. International law has well-recognized criteria for the recognition of a new State. The 1933 Montevideo Convention test is that a new State should possess i) a permanent population; ii) defined territory; iii) a Government ; and iv) capacity to enter into relations with other States.
Although, some Governments look at issues of democracy and human rights when deciding on recognizing other Governments, international law has no concern about whether a Government is democratically elected or it is a dictatorship. Clearly, there is a permanent population. Yes, many are currently seeking to flee the country but that does not impair the core stability of Afghanistan’s population. The country also has settled borders that are broadly recognized by neighbors.
Furthermore, a new Taliban Government is in the process of being formed. The presence of a functioning Government capable of exercising a certain level of control over the State is an aspect of the Montevideo Convention.
This could extend to the defense and security of the State. However, importantly, the criteria seek to make no judgement, for the purposes of international law, as to how the Government came into existence, the longevity of the Government, or the political system which is the basis for Governmental control.
However, most countries will watch the conduct of the Taliban leadership before recognizing the new Government. Many countries, including India, did not recognize the last Taliban regime led by Mullah Omer 20 years ago, which was responsible for the most obnoxious act of destroying the giant Bamiyan Buddha statues, a world heritage. India is deeply concerned over the developments in Afghanistan, especially because of Pakistan’s connections with the Taliban. Despite those concerns, India too made contacts with the fundamentalist group.
“Ambassador of India to Qatar, Deepak Mittal, met Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the Head of Taliban’s Political Office in Doha,” Indian Ministry of External Affairs announced in a first-ever public acknowledgement of talks between the Narendra Modi Government and Taliban leaders. The meeting took place at the Embassy of India, Doha, on the request of the Taliban side.
However, New Delhi reportedly stated that it was not an acknowledgement by India of the Taliban dispensation and added that India is waiting to see what kind of Government is formed in Kabul. India added that Mittal’s talks with Taliban focused on safety, security and early return of Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan and the travel of Afghan nationals, especially minorities, who wish to come to India.
Avoid anti-Indian activities
The release also added that Ambassador Mittal “raised India’s concern that Afghanistan’s soil should not be used for anti-Indian activities and terrorism in any manner. The Taliban Representative assured the Ambassador that these issues would be positively addressed.” However, it is not clear if this assurance is sufficient to placate New Delhi.
Sri Lanka is evaluating the immediate, mid-term and long-term implications of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
“the Government of Sri Lanka is happy to note the Taliban has offered an amnesty and promised not to harm any foreigners and requests the Taliban to continue honoring that commitment,” a media release by Ministry of External Affairs stated.
It further said that the Government of Sri Lanka is happy to see the pledges given by the Taliban that the women in Afghanistan can work and girls can go to school, following the Islamic tradition.
The Government of Sri Lanka also takes note of the pronouncement made by the Taliban that an All Party Mechanism will be established to take the country forward, the media release said.
Analysts point out that it is in much of the world’s interest to ensure a stable Afghanistan that doesn’t become a haven for terrorists, as it was when the Taliban were in power from 1996 to 2001. They shielded Al Qaeda and its leader, Osama Bin Laden, before and after the 9/11 attacks, leading to the American-led offensive in Afghanistan.
Though the Taliban are presenting a more moderate face this time around, they never broke with Al Qaeda. The Islamic State of Khorasan or ISIS-K, the Afghan branch of Islamic State, established itself during the American occupation, fought with the Taliban and attacked U.S. forces, claimed responsibility of last week’s attack that claimed lives of more than a hundred Afghan civilians and 13 US soldiers outside Kabul airport.
Whether the Taliban can control this group is a matter of widespread concern. The American troop withdrawal alone is unlikely to guarantee peace and stability in Afghanistan.