Will the Taliban move away from their stand on women's rights, freedom of expression and such issues? There have been instances of brutal attacks for coverage of women's demonstrations. Will the Taliban change at all in this respect?
Why will the Taliban shift from the ideology they have been clinging to during the past four decades of their struggle? If they move away from the stand, they will become weakened. They believe religion will show them the way. They have already proven they will not be inclusive of others. If the Taliban move away from the ideology on which they were established, they will collapse.
The return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan has added new dimensions to geopolitics. For example, China's talks with the Taliban in Beijing were significant. What overall impact could this have?
There is a competition between the US and China over gaining a stronghold in the Pacific and Indian Ocean region and the Covid-19 pandemic has also caused disruption around the world. The changes in Afghanistan certainly add yet another dimension to all this. The matter can be viewed from three geographic and geopolitical centres. One is the Afghan-centred Central and South Asia which includes India and Pakistan. The other is South and Southeast Asia comprising Myanmar, its neighbour China, India and Bangladesh. And the last is the Bay of Bengal and the Pacific Ocean.
If adversity between India and Pakistan increases in the first centre and the Taliban fail to bring stability to Afghanistan, there is strong apprehension that instability will increase in the region. Then there is Yemen, Armenia and Azerbaijan. If conflict increases there, this will obviously have an impact on the region. Overall, any conflict will spill over into the region. And the three-nation security alliance the US is creating along with the UK and Australia, is proof of its focus on the Indo-Pacific region. The US created this alliance immediately after it moved out of Afghanistan. They did not mention any resistance to China in Quad or the Indo-Pacific Strategy, but they are directly mentioning this in the tri-nation alliance. It is to be seen how China reacts.
What plans do the Taliban have to address basic issues such as the food crisis?
They think Russia, China and Pakistan will alleviate their food crisis. The Taliban think that Pakistan arranged their food in the past, so why not now! So they are now looking towards Pakistan.
What role will Russia, China and Turkey play in the changes in Afghanistan? The Economic Intelligence Unit had mentioned the role of these three countries in a recent report.
First let me talk about Turkey. It is already clear that Turkey wants to be the alternative to Saudi Arabia in the Islamic world. Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has highlighted Kashmir, Uighur and the Rohingya when talking about the oppressed Muslims of the world. Turkey is a party to NATO and can deploy troops if it wants. But it lags behind in the ability to provide material assistance. Again, if China and Afghanistan join hands, the situation may change. China will want an ally. Turkey is much more acceptable to the Taliban. They have involved Turkey in many matters including running their airport. Turkish troops are even involved in the management of Afghanistan's Bagram air base.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has expressed concern over the rise of extremism in Afghanistan. What equation do you think there will be between India and the Taliban?
The return of the Taliban poses as a threat to India, no doubt. That is why they are trying to build up relations with the Taliban. As president of the Security Council in August, India adopted a balanced stand. It has not taken up any anti-Taliban role.
People even went from Bangladesh to join the Mujahideen fight against Soviet occupation. Later when they returned home, they carried out militant activities here. Do you see any such possibility now?
The rise or resurgence of any ideology in any country, whether in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh, can have an impact. For instance, Al-Qaeda's reach around the world is under various names. So the return of the Taliban can strengthen such forces. The Taliban had delivered a message to the jihadists around the world -- be patient, be calculative, be realistic. It must be kept in mind that the Taliban is not a political movement. It is an ideological struggle. The Taliban are not a political party, it is an ideology that has a sort of global appeal.
The Bangladesh government has still not recognised the Taliban government. It says it will observe the situation.
Bangladesh has adopted a correct stance so far. China and Russia has talked about working with the Taliban, but have not recognised them as yet. Neither has Pakistan. That means the recognition of the Taliban depends on many things.
Bangladeshis who were working in Afghanistan have all returned. Even BRAC has withdrawn its staff there. So how will relations between the two countries be in the future?
Bangladeshi citizens working there had a good reputation, not only in BRAC, but in telecom, infrastructure, socioeconomic and other sectors too. From my experience working with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Afghanistan, I can say that Bangladeshis have credibility there and also have the skill and competence to work there too. We have to continue to use this to our advantage.
Foreigners have left Afghanistan. Now will Afghanistan be able to survive as an independent entity. Does it have the leadership?
It is to be seen whether the Taliban include everyone in running the government. They spoke about women's education but are sending women behind doors. They say men and women cannot work together. If their words don't match their actions, they will not win credibility in the rest of the world. And it will not be easy for the Taliban to remain in power without international support. The question may arise, so what will happen to Afghanistan? Perhaps Beijing will consider the advantages of connectivity between China and Central Asia through the Wakhan corridor. Then again, the Taliban are talking about a nation state based on Sharia. That might mean they will go back to their old stand and find themselves in a fix. That is why there are strong apprehensions as to whether stability will come to Afghanistan or not.
Thank you too.
* This interview appeared in the online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir