Afghanistan was waiting to be taken over by the Taliban ever since the former US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw its troops. Trump’s successor Joe Biden simply endorsed the decision and implemented the pull-out of US forces. The only safeguard against the Taliban for the Afghan Government headed by Ashraf Ghani was gone. President Ghani’s army collapsed and the Government fell. Taliban easily walked in to fill the vacuum.
Afghanistan is a land-locked country with its Southern part bordering Pakistan, a long-time patron of Taliban. The land was inhabited by various tribes and ruled by different kingdoms for over two million years with many religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism.
It is only when the Islam came to Afghanistan in the 7th century, the whole country became Muslim. Readers may remember the two massive sandstone Buddhas of Bamiyan of 3rd and 5th centuries that were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. An act of vandalism to erase the heritage of an ancient civilisation of the country that only Taliban knows why.
I also remember at this time about Rabindranath Tagore’s famous short-story Kabuliwala, a heart-touching, humane story of an Afghan fruit-seller in Kolkata. He befriends a small Bengali girl who reminds him of his own daughter back in Afghanistan. He was a lovable, kind and affectionate man from Kabul, hence Kabuliwala.
Be that as it may, I only feel overwhelmingly sorry for the centuries of misfortune that has been haunting the good people of Afghanistan because of the fundamentalist religious fanatics who have come again visiting them. I was a student of Journalism in Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (BVB) Bombay and one of the girl students was from Afghanistan. She was tall, beautiful and feeble in her speech. If we take this girl or the Kabuliwala to be the models of Afghanistan, then it is impossible to think of Taliban taking birth in Afghanistan. Taliban with their skewed political ideology and harsh treatment of the weaker section of our society — women and children — have become a scourge of Afghanistan.
But then history of Afghanistan has been steeped in violence and blood for centuries. How sad. If the world’s Policeman, the most powerful country, America, cannot provide succour to the good people of Afghanistan having been there for over 20 years as big brother, who could help the good people of Afghanistan? GOK.
By the way, a large number of Muslim invaders of India came from the Central Asia and Afghanistan beginning with Ghazni, Ghori and even Babur, founder of Mughal Empire.
Interestingly, in the ancient times, centuries before Christ and even Buddha, Afghanistan was not how we see it today. Hindu epics Ramayana, Mahabharata and scriptures like Vedas and Upanishads have many references to places in Afghanistan. It was once known as Gandhara and there still is a city named Kandahar. Apparently, it was bordering India of those days — Akhanda Bharata, Hindustan.
Veda Vyasa, the author of Mahabharata, says that one King Subala ruled Gandhara some 5,500 years ago! His daughter’s name was Gandhari, who was married to Dhritarashtra of Hastinapur kingdom. Her brother was Shakuni. When Buddhism came with Mauryan Kings, Hinduism lost its importance. However, when invading Muslims came with Mohammed Ghazni, Mauryans lost. The rest is history.
One of the important books about British-Afghanistan is by the famous historian William Dalrymple — Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan. A boring book for me. It is an account of the First Anglo-Afghan War from 1839-1842.
It is difficult to grasp the multidimensional complexion of Afghan politics. Many years ago, I had read a book by Barbara Tuchman titled The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, primarily about how America betrayed itself in Vietnam. In case the publishers are bringing out another edition of the book, the sub-title of the book may be changed to “From Troy to Afghanistan!”
But the point to ponder, ignited by the author, should be revisited today in the light of events that happened in Afghanistan on Aug.15, 2021.
The book emphasises the fact that how Governments, regardless of place or period of history, pursue policies contrary to their self-interests. Or the interests of the people of the country. Audit the statements made, laws passed and administrative orders issued in our own country between 2004 and 2014, you will realise the bitter truth of the observation of the author Barbara Tuchman.
She defines Folly as a decision taken that is counter-productive, regretfully, during the life-time of the decision-makers themselves. As evidence to her opinion, she mentions of four Turning Points in history:
1. The Trojan defeat after allowing the wooden horse to cross the Wall of Troy. India should, henceforth, beware of Trojan horses both inside and outside the country.
2. Popes during the period of Renaissance provoking the Protestants to leave the Catholic Church which led to the Protestant secession.
3. The British loss of America — remember Boston Tea Party, the slogan “No taxation without representation”?
4. America betraying itself in Vietnam leading to its humiliating withdrawal. Now, can one say America had betrayed itself and also the Afghan Government leaving the good, innocent people of Afghanistan in limbo? No country can trust America’s military intervention in times of war or civil war. Instead, negotiate with America for military hardware, buy them and be strong yourself. But what about small countries? GOK !
Here is a lesson for India to learn. We did not learn that lesson after 1962 China War, which we lost, along with men and our land. And remember we did not strengthen our defence forces, infrastructure and military hardware till 2014.
What has happened in Afghanistan should be a lesson for us. We will ignore the lesson only at our own peril. We are warned considering the geographical position of Afghanistan and its terror-tainted Taliban Government.
India is forewarned. Let India be forearmed.
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