India has reopened its embassy in Kabul primarily to coordinate its aid efforts in Afghanistan. This should not be read as according recognition to the Taliban Regime. It is just that Afghanistan’s existence cannot be ignored because of exactly the kind of challenges that the recent earthquake represents. Age old ties with the people of that country and humanitarian compulsions require that the lines of communication remain intact. There has been a quick response, for instance, to the earthquake with dispatch of aid to that country. There are also strategic concerns that require close monitoring as anti-India terrorist groups like the Islamic State, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, al-Qaeda, etc., have safe sanctuary there.
The Taliban, on their part, are struggling to maintain control in the face of insurgencies and rival factions. Although the economy remains largely a subsistence one, as well as based on the exploitation of mineral resources, it still poses a major challenge. Under such circumstances, India’s relatively altruistic concern for the Afghans can be trusted more than of most other neighbours. Of course, democracy and human rights have suffered a major setback and the issues need to be addressed. It will require not just a lot of time, but also the return of some stability around the world after Covid and the ongoing war in Ukraine. The setback to the global economy has made it much more difficult to provide humanitarian assistance except at the very basic level.
Afghanistan and India also have common difficulties with Pakistan and regular consultation will be required on that. Over time, some commonalities will emerge on this and other issues. It will require effort and patience. Unfortunately, it will not be possible to restore proper diplomatic relations as it is unlikely the Taliban will conform to global standards of civilised conduct. So, for the time being, it will be at best a functional relationship based on a daily assessment of mutual needs.