What the Taliban takeover means for India and Pakistan

It was only a question of time before Kabul fell, says A.S. Dulat, a former head of India’s top spy agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, speaking from Delhi. The only surprise was the speed of the Taliban’s advance, concurs the ex-boss of Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence, or isi, Asad Durrani, speaking from Islamabad. The two old warriors nod in unison. Despite lifetimes spent jousting in the shadow war between India and Pakistan, the former foes seem happy to agree on the inevitability of the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan. What they do not tell their Indian interviewer is how sharply different the implications of the change are for each of the South Asian rivals.

For India, the house-of-cards collapse of the 20-year-old Afghan democracy represents a strategic setback and a stinging humiliation. Since 2001 India has spent a non-trivial $3bn or so to bolster the American-installed regime. It built roads, dams, power lines, clinics and schools across the country. It trained Afghan officers, including women, in its military academies. It gave scholarships to thousands. India even presented a fancy new parliament, complete with fountains and a giant bronze dome. Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, himself inaugurated it in 2015

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