Panjshir’s capture

The National Resistance Front

The Panjshir valley has been strategically important for the anti-Taliban resistance forces, the National Resistance Front (NRF) aka the Northern Alliance. The valley has been unconquerable for decades for the Taliban due to the rugged terrains which gave undue advantage to the resistance forces. These forces worked with the US to dethrone the Taliban regime two decades ago and has been supporting the NATO forces with intelligence inputs to help them keep the Taliban suppressed. After realizing the gloomy future for the Afghanistan after Taliban’s takeover, the leaders of the NRF Ahmad Massoud and Amrullah Saleh were preparing for the negotiation with the Taliban but the later deceived them to launch a military assault in the valley. Now, with the fall of the resistance forces, it is the end of the last hope of fighting for the freedom of people of Afghanistan.

National Resistance Front (NRF), what is it?

In the 1970s, when the Afghanistan became a republic, Ahmad Shah Massoud started an uprising in Panjshir against President Daoud Khan with the support of Pakistani intelligence. When the President launched a hunt for him, he fled to Pakistan. But he returned to Afghanistan after the Communists took over Kabul in 1978. The guerilla force, under the leadership of Ahmad Shah Massoud, defended the Panjshir valley successfully against the Soviet Union’s repeated attempt to invade the valley in 1980s. The guerilla force fought bravely against the red army with the support of the US, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. When the Taliban came into power in 1996, Ahmad Shah formed a Northern Alliance (NA) to defend Panjshir valley and Badakhshan Takhar provinces. Badakhshan shares along border with neighbouring countries, including Tajikistan and China. The NA had direct access to Tajikistan which helped them to sustain resistance against Taliban. The NA supported the US in its fight against the Taliban in 2001. Before the 9/11 attack, the Taliban captured Ahmad Shah and he was put to death. His son, Ahmad Massoud, has been leading the forces after his father’s murder.

How could the Taliban beat the ‘invincible’ guerilla forces this time?

Taliban destroyed Ahmad Shah Massoud’s tomb

Soon after US President Joe Biden announced withdrawal of US troops, the Taliban launched offensive attacks targeting the Northern Alliance. The Taliban did not attack Panjshir but it captured the provinces surrounding the Panjshir valley. This way, the Taliban could cut off the valley from the border of Tajikistan to avoid escape. Taliban also cut off the valley from key supplies to weaken the Northern Alliance. Taliban could never beat these resistance forces even when the former was in their ruthless avatar in the 90s but they were able to invade the Panjshir using the weaponry that the US and NATO forces supplied to the Afghan national army.

The NRF is a liberal outfit which always advocated for the upliftment of the women, promotion of education and public participation in elections. Member of these forces also served in the administrations of Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani.  The NRF envisioned for progressive future of the Afghanistan but their dream is in the wane after Taliban captured the Valley. The NRF was more determined and dedicated to resist the Taliban compared the Afghan’s military forces. They were the last hope to save the people of Afghanistan from the Taliban onslaught and now they have been beaten.  

Should India recognize the Taliban regime this time?

India’s ambassador to Qatar Deepak Mittal had meeting with the Taliban leader Sher Mohammed Abbas Stanekzai

India’s ambassador to Qatar Deepak Mittal met with the head of the Taliban’s political office, Sher Mohammed Abbas Stanekzai signaling that India is open to engage with the Taliban. This is the first time the Indian Government has officially acknowledged such a meeting. Even Taliban leaders have expressed their willingness to continue the diplomatic and socio-economic ties with India. Taliban understands India’s belief in peaceful Afghanistan. India’s way of ensuring peace is by boosting trade and cultural connections in Afghanistan, which will be beneficial for the people of Afghanistan. People of Afghanistan have also expressed their deep trust in India’s presence in Afghanistan both in the past as well as in the present. Taliban understands that cooperating with India is going to benefit them economically since India has invested millions for growth and development of Afghanistan.

Avoiding the past mistakes

India did not recognize Taliban in the past and, has been critical of its terrorist activities in Afghanistan and its support of anti-India terror groups. Pakistan openly supported the Taliban regime in the 90s when the later was unleashing brutality and barbarism. Pakistan also misused its cordial relationship with the Taliban to train anti-India militants to wage war in Kashmir. India’s bad perception about Taliban increased further after the dramatic hijacking of IC 814 passenger plane to Kandahar in 1999. India had a long-drawn negotiation with the Taliban to rescue the passengers alive. India should not let Pakistan to have a cordial relationship with Taliban again as it proved to be disastrous in the past. Best way to keep Pakistan at bay is directly engaging with the Taliban through negotiations and India is moving in the right direction in this regard.              

UNSC resolution on Afghanistan issue

The United Nation Security Council (UNSC) moved a resolution that demanded the Taliban to keep their commitments on preventing the rise of terror groups in Afghanistan and the resolution also urged the Taliban to assist for safe evacuation of the foreigners and all afghan nationals wishing to flee the country. They resolution wants the Taliban regime to not allow mushrooming of terror groups in Afghanistan. The Permanent Members(P5) of UNSC comprises of 5 nations-US, UK, China, France and Russia. China and Russia expressed its concern against the resolution and they abstained from voting for it.

The concerns of China and Russia

China and Russia want all the groups especially the Islamic State and Uighur East Turkestan Islamic Movement to be named specifically in the document and accused the other 3 members for being ignorant towards the terror groups that are posing threat to their respective countries in the region. These two countries also criticized the US, UK and France for dissolving the responsibility of the US through such a ‘ill-conceived’ resolution. The Russian ambassador to the UN, Mr. Vassily Nebanzia said that Russia wanted more time for properly framing the resolution and he didn’t support the hasty move in pushing the resolution. Russian ambassador also pointed his figures at the US and its allies for attempting to dissolve the responsibility of the US. The Chinese ambassador considers that the resolution is not balanced well enough and was forcibly moved. Both China and Russia consider that they should have more say for a resolution since they are regionally more vulnerable to terror threats emanating from Afghanistan compared to other P5 nations.

What is India’s stand on the resolution?

India’s only concern is Afghanistan becoming a base for anti-India terror camps. India expects the Taliban to address the security threats in the region that are highlighted in the resolution. Expectedly, India has hailed the resolution because it has addressed its concerns by demanding the Taliban to discourage other terror groups in Afghanistan.

India’s commitment towards climate change. Is it enough?

Glasgow is hosting the Conference of the Parties (COP26) in the month of November this year. The world countries are expected to address the issue of climate change, which is being neglected and procrastinated for very long. And this year marks fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Is the onus on India to lead the initiatives for tackling climate change?

What India has done so far?

India has already proposed the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to fulfill its commitment towards the issue climate change. India has set some key objectives under this initiative. Firstly, India aims to reduce emission intensity by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. India wants to achieve this in following ways:  

  • Introducing more efficient and cleaner technologies in thermal power generation.
  • Reducing emission from transport sector
  • Promoting energy efficiency in industrial and transport sector
  • Developing climate-resilient infrastructure

Secondly, India also aims to produce 40 per cent of electricity from non-fossil; fuel-based energy resources by 2030. This shall be done in the following manner:

  • Installing 175 GW of solar, wind and biomass electricity by 2022.
  • Moving away from thermal power towards hydropower development.
  • Achieving target of 63 GW of installed nuclear power capacity by 2032

Thirdly, India is also eyeing on enhancing additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030 through additional forest and tree covers. For this India has been promoting and implementing the Green India Mission for afforestation activities. India has been making remarkable improvement in enhancing the green cover to achieve one of its key Forest Policy goal, that is to cover at least 33 per cent of the geographical area under the forest.

How India fairs compared to China and US?

In terms of per capita emission, China, United States and European Union are way ahead compared to India. Despite having the highest per capita emission, china has made proposal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. However, China’s increase in reliance on thermal power sector is deeply a matter of concern when the world is already moving away from thermal power. The US is back into the Paris climate pact under the Biden regime after his predecessor disregarded the pact. The US aims to reduce emission by 50 to 52 per cent in 2030. But there is lack of political conscience within the US which can be reflected from its inconsistency in supporting climate pacts. As a part of mitigation, India is implementing one of the most extensive renewable energy initiatives to achieve 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022 and 450 GW by 2030. India also led the International Solar Alliance (ISA) to enhance the potential of solar energy, especially for countries that are in the equatorial region. India did take appropriate measures to compensate its fossil fuel emission after the Paris agreement came into existence. Meanwhile, other big countries haven’t taken any convincing measure yet and they are only proposing over-ambitious promises that has no credibility for implementation.

The new challenge

The coronavirus pandemic has slowed down the global economy very critically. The industrial countries shall find difficulties in making commitment towards climate change. They have to forgo few commercial and economic interests to reduce the emission of fossil fuels, which is difficult to do when the global economy has already slowed down. Meanwhile, Island nations like Tuvalu, Maldives and few others have been jumping for the neck of the developed countries to cut down the emissions. The COP26 is going to be crucial in ‘breaking the shackles’ for various countries.     

Islamic State of Khorasan province (ISKP), the terror outfit behind deadly attack in Kabul

People recovering the body of victims outside Kabul airport

Within week after Taliban captured Kabul, Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP) launched a deadly bomb blast outside Kabul airport which resulted in murder of around 160 Afghan citizens and 20 US troops. Hundreds of Afghans have been waiting outside Kabul airport for evacuation to escape from the Taliban regime. ISKP was launched this cowardly attack to strike fear in the hearts of already demoralized Afghan people.  What is ISKP? How is this outfit different from Taliban?

How is ISKP different from Taliban?

The Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP) was formed in the year 2015 by the chief of Islamic State Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Ever since its formation, the group has been recruiting jihadists in Afghanistan. Taliban has been opposing the ISKP’s attempts of recruiting disgruntled Taliban fighters. Taliban and ISKP are ideologically different outfits though they have a common goal of implementing Sharia, through deadly means if required. The Taliban are tribal group with nationalists’ tendency who want to establish Islamic order within Afghanistan through terror tactics. Whereas ISKP is a terror outfit under the control and supervision of pan-Islamic terror outfit the Islamic State, which wants to establish global Islamic caliphate. Taliban doesn’t like losing its monopoly in Afghanistan. The ideological and operational differences between these two groups have resulted in open clash between them. Soon after Taliban took over the control of Afghanistan, it released many of the ISKP members but executed its leader, Shahab al-muhajir.

What is at stake for Taliban?

Taliban is worried that existence of ISKP would fragment its own groups and weaken them in the process. The ISKP criticized the Taliban for Doha agreement in which Taliban has agreed with the US to not let other terror groups like al-Qaeda and IS to use Afghanistan soil to carry out any kind of terror attacks. Taliban has called out ISKP and criticized it for bomb blast outside Kabul airport. Taliban believes that it can unify Afghanistan despite its history of terror tactics. Taliban is concerned only about their dominance with Afghanistan. They are not concerned about any kind of Islamic Caliphate that IS has been propagating. Meanwhile the US has promised to avenge the death of its service personnel outside Kabul airport. Will Taliban up the ante against ISKP or will they compromise? Will the Taliban uphold the Doha agreement? The next move of Taliban should be closely watched.  

Vested Interests in Kabul’s Fall

The Americans had to exit from the long-drawn war against Taliban with limited success. The US forged Doha agreement with the Taliban as a peace finding measure. But the agreement is more like a withdrawal agreement than a peace agreement. The Taliban did not attack American troops during evacuation as agreed. The agreement was weak and ill-conceived, and it ignored the stakes of Afghan people. The Taliban quickly organized press conferences after the fall of Kabul and promised amnesty for the women, minorities and Afghan citizens who worked closely with US and other western agencies. At the same time Taliban is determined to implement Sharia in full force as expected, which has caused panic and fear among the people of Afghanistan.

The Vested Interests

The China has promised to support Taliban only if it forms an organized Government. China has been critical of the US approach in withdrawal process which has created panic and fear among the Afghanistan people.  Meanwhile, Iran has been waiting for withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan and Iran has been moving closely towards China due to its strained relationship with the US. Russia would rather support a Taliban regime that sees US as an enemy rather than a democratically elected Afghanistan Government that sees US as an ally. Pakistan has not been in the radar of the US since the Trump regime. The new Biden regime is also avoiding engaging with the Pakistan just like his predecessor’s regime. Pakistan has been critical of the US for ignoring Pakistan in favour of India.. China is also eyeing to expand its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in every corner inside the Afghanistan with the support of Taliban. Taliban has been soft and persuasive towards China. Taliban also wants to cooperate with Chinese-led development in Afghanistan. Iran and Pakistan will also benefit from the Chinese presence inside the Afghanistan. Pakistan already has blood on its hand for nurturing terrorists and allowing terrorists camps on its soil. Afghanistan Government even criticized Pakistan for uncontrolled infiltration of terrorists from Pakistan few days before Kabul fell completely. The terrorist outfits will operate smoothly under the Taliban regime. By exporting terrorists to Afghanistan, Pakistan would try to wash its hand of from the bloodshed it has caused.  All the concerned countries like Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan and Taliban-led regime have something in common, that is, anti-US stand. India has been promoting nation-building activities in Afghanistan with the cooperation of US administration.India has also made huge investment in Afghanistan for economic growth. Peaceful Afghanistan is vital for India’s fight against terrorism.  With departure of American troops and shifting of US’s focus towards Asia-pacific region, India should find other ways to establish peace in Afghanistan that even includes cooperating with the Taliban directly.

IPCC predicts weather catastrophe

The International Government Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a Sixth Assessment report highlighting the gloomy future due to alarming rise in the global temperature and increase in frequency of severe weather events. The report even highlighted the policy hesitancy among nations responsible for large emission of fossil fuels. World community needs to be on the same page on the issue of global warming and climate change because the resultant catastrophic impact would impact every living creature on this planet.

The key takeaway from the report

  • Heat waves and humid heat stress will become more intense and frequent over Southeast Asia during the 21st century.
  • Both annual and summer monsoon precipitation will increase, with enhanced internal variability over Southeast Asia.
  • Heat extremes have increased while cold extremes have decreased, and these trend will continue over the coming decades.
  • Glacier run-off in the Asian high mountains will increase up to the mid-21st century, and subsequently run-off decrease due to the loss of glacier storage.
  • Relative sea level around Asia increased faster than the global average, with coastal area loss and shoreline retreat.

The adversaries of climate change is evident from the recent events like bush fire in Australia, forest fire in Greece, heat waves in Canada, flash flood in Germany and Belgium, super storms  in different parts of Indian sub-continent and events of glaciers melting in Antarctica and Arctic region. The human induced climate adverasaries cannot be denied. We are excessively dependent on fossil fuels to meet the energy need. Especially, coal-based thermal power plant is still spewing large chunk of pollutants into the air.

World is about to breach the 1.5 degree Celsius mark

The world is set to cross the 1.5 degree Celsius limit set by Paris agreement within 10-15 years and still we have not seen a political conscience on this issue. Paris agreement seemed promising until US withdrew itself from the commitment leaving behind demoralized member nations. The US is by large, bigger emitter in terms of per capita emission followed by European Union (EU) and China. India is also third largest emitter of Green-house gases but has lower per capita emission.

Agriculture sector directly relies on the climate. Irregular rainfall, drought and flash flood will critically impact agricultural productivity and the food security of the people could also be compromised. The Industrial sector can access the raw materials extracted from the nature only if the climate is in good state. The ecological imbalance triggered by climate change will threaten lives of more species that are sensitive to the change in their habitat. The world community need to be on the same page for wellbeing of the earth which offers and sustains lives on it.    

The fall of Afghanistan

Afghanistan Government had no option but to surrender

Almost two decades ago the US-led NATO forces ousted Taliban regime in favour of democratically elected regime. Under a democratic setup, the state of Afghanistan had a huge scope for growth and development which was being ignored under the Taliban regime. Now the situation has reversed with the pullout of US forces from the Afghanistan as Taliban has captured the Afghanistan completely. How could Taliban defeat the Afghanistan security forces that have been trained and prepared for over a decade to face a scenario like this?

The Taliban captured key provinces like Kandahar and Herat few days ago. Provinces fell under Taliban one after the other like a domino effect. They could not be resisted by the Afghanistan security forces despite receiving years of training and NATO forces spent billions of dollars for it. The Afghanistan forces understand that the Taliban is ruthless and fearless and they never underestimated the power of Taliban in the first place. The Taliban are not scared of Afghanistan forces but the NATO forces. Afghanistan forces couldn’t do what NATO forces did, that is resisting the Taliban onslaught. The Afghan Government also failed to convince the Taliban leadership in the negotiation table. Yesterday, the Taliban took over the capital city Kabul. Expecting a potential invasion by Taliban into the Kabul, the President and Vice-president of Afghanistan fled the country. They came under criticism for not staying in the country for the people of Afghanistan while the former President Hamid Karzai stayed in Kabul despite Taliban take over. The US forces also swiftly evacuated the foreign citizens. Indian Government also rescued it citizens in similar fashion. The US intelligence agencies warned few days ago that Taliban might take over Kabul within 90 days. But Taliban surprised everyone by capturing Kabul very soon. In fact, Taliban captured nearly entire Afghanistan within few months of US declaring pullout from Afghanistan.

The Taliban’s motive is establishing Islamic State. They are known for executing innocent people mercilessly for disregarding the Islamic order. Anyone criticizing the Islamic rule will invite death penalty in the cruelest way.  The Taliban also indulge in atrocities against women. They have been abducting young girls and women from home for marriage purposes. They suppress women by denying them basic human rights and keep them under the shadow of patriarchal order. The minorities like Sikhs, Christians and Hindus also fear the onslaught of Taliban regime. They shall either convert to Islam or face death. Afghan people who were working in coordination NATO forces also face the similar threat. They shall be punished for assisting the foreign forces in suppressing the Taliban for almost two decades. In a nutshell, there is no place for criticism of Taliban regime and no respect for human rights whatsoever.

The fall of Kabul marks the final chapter of America’s longest war. NATO forces should not be blamed entirely for the current turmoil in the Afghanistan because no foreign forces would serve in foreign soil eternally. Afghanistan failed to capitalize on the assistance they were receiving from foreign government and forces. They stalled Taliban issue long enough to bite their neck now.     

India’s Quest for Maritime Security

Credit: PMO India

The Prime Minister (PM) of India addressed UNSC High-Level Open debate on ‘Enhancing Maritime Security”. He asked the global community to deal with contemporary challenges posed by maritime threats. India has second largest peninsula in the world surrounded Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. Historically, Indus Civilization’s trade routes connected with different civilizations like Mesopotamia, Persia, Egyptian etc. India wants to preserve the free and open trade in modern age which has more severe challenges. Besides trade, Christianity and Islam also spread through Maritime route by different foreign travelers. Buddhism also spread to South-east Asia from India through sea route. India has huge stake in the domain of maritime security. The 2008 Mumbai terror attack is a great illustration.  The terrorist travelled from Pakistan to Indian shores through Arabian Sea. The Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guards and Coastal Police forces are collectively working together for the surveillance and security of the Indian shores and Indian waters.

The maritime trade disruption caused by Suez Canal blockage by a Japanese Vessel early this year did create economic shock. This explains the significance of maritime trade for global economy. Every country’s economic interest lies on sea trade in some way. India has expressed its stand for freedom of navigation.  Indian also upheld the UN Convention on Laws of Sea (UNCLOS) for a rule based order in the ocean to settle disputes peacefully. India could peacefully resolve maritime dispute with Bangladesh while China has rejected UNCLOS’s verdict in favour of Philippines. Natural calamities like Tsunami, Cyclone and flash floods also pose threat to lives of people. India collaborates and coordinates with her neighbours like Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in weather forecasting and meteorological surveillance to prepare them in facing weather adversaries. India is also enhancing its regional connectivity with platforms like SAARC, Quad grouping and BRICS etc. All these member countries have their own maritime interest and enhancing cooperation in the areas of mutual interest is vital. PM Modi also emphasized on the healthy maritime environment. Plastic wastes and abandoned fishing nets have crippled the aquatic habitat. India has undertaken beach cleanup initiatives to avoid intrusion of plastic into the ocean. Banning plastic permanently is the way forward to fight the menace of plastic pollution. Abandoned fishing nets are killing many aquatic organisms and there is need for cleanup operation to save aquatic lives.

India’s ambition not only lies in Indian Ocean but also in the Indo-pacific region.  India has reiterated its vision for open sea every time in the international platform. India wants global community to be on the same page for common good.

Dark Web- ‘The Hub for Criminal Activities’

What Is Dark Web?

The dark web is the encrypted part of the internet that is not accessible through the normal browsers. Dark web comprises of unexplored section of internet that is hidden from the accessibility as it is not indexed by regular search engines like Google. The dark web can be accessed only through specialized browser like The Tor browser. It provides privacy as well as anonymity to the users who prefer utmost secrecy. The dark web was built by two research organizations in the US Department of Defense to protect sensitive communication of US spies. It definitely served the purpose for which it was built, that is, providing privacy and anonimity.

How The Dark Web Facilitates Criminal Activities?

Before going ahead with criminal activities, it is important to understand the difference between Deep web and Dark web. Deep web comprises of information and contents that are too old or outdated that are sidelined by the browsers and they can be accessed by regular browsers. Accessing them is not necessarily an illegal act. The dark web is a part of the deep web. The dark web, unlike deep web, provides absolute anonymity. Dark web could also be used for reasonable purposes. But the use of dark web for undertaking illegal act is of criminal nature. The anonymity and the privacy provided by the dark web are also misused to carry out illegal activities. It facilitates criminal activities like smuggling and sale of drugs and narcotics, hit man service, black-marketing of human organs, and making videos of child abuse etc. The pedophiles have their own dark net websites to promote child pornographic contents. Terrorist organizations use this platform to buy weapons and explosives by avoiding scrutiny of law enforcements. The drug and weapon dealers use his platform to enforce illegal transactions for sale of drugs and weapons. In 2011, drug dealers widely used Bitcoin, a leading cryptocurrency, for transacting drug deals over dark web. Many criminal gangs also operate in the dark web to sell stolen human organs in the black market. These criminal gangs also kill innocent people to extract human organs. They mostly operate in countries that are hit by violence and war because it is easy to escape legal scrutiny in these countries. The dark web is also used to run hit-man or mercenary services to carry out assassinations of important public figures. The cyber criminals also buy and sell malware, exploit tools and cyber-attack services to initiate cyber war. For the law enforcement agencies and the Governments, tracing these criminal activities and cyber criminals is very difficult, especially due to the anonymity provided by the dark net.

Is The Darknet Entirely Bad?

Dark web serves as an important platform to protect the right to privacy and freedom of expression. The anonymity and privacy is vital for people in authoritarian countries like North Korea, where citizens are prosecuted and executed for leaking any sensitive information that even includes information of human rights violation. Dark web is the safe haven for whistle-blowers as it serves as a platform for safe communication in these countries. However, the drawbacks of dark web seems to outweigh the positives of dark web.