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States v. Society

Written and Illustrated by Urvi Agarwal


Today, I sit at my laptop, in my study, surrounded by the four walls of my home. Sitting here without claiming to have any idea about the inexpressible injustice Afghan civilians have been subjected to, all I can fall back on is Empathy- a feeling which, I hope, will enable me to analyse the response of different nations to the humanitarian crisis; rather, the lack of the same.

On August 15th, the Taliban militia invaded the capital, Kabul at- what media houses coin- ‘lightning speed’ (History enthusiasts may draw parallels with Germany’s Blitzkrieg). The brewing Taliban aggression, which had been deterred for the past 20 years due to the backing of the central government by Western militia, has now established a de facto system in Afghanistan. A return to the Talibans’ interpretation of the Islamic Sharia, the takeover has paved the way to a catastrophic scenario which will place women, children and refugees at the bottom of the food chain.

What is perhaps the most jarring observation, is the neglect of international governments while the situation unfolded. Even if the suddenness of the complete Talibanisation of the region had kept unsuspecting governments from taking immediate action, there has been absolutely no effort to protect refugees escaping the country’s borders. Rather, most countries seem to have ‘washed their hands off’ Afghanistan.

After President Joe Biden announced the pull-out of American troops from the region, the odds of a Taliban insurgency increased exponentially and the possibility was not overlooked by its neighbouring nations. Yet, when there was time to aid the Afghanistan government with emergency task forces, military backing and sanctions, no nation came forward- not even the United Nations which was formed on the very ideal of promoting 'world peace'.

India (‘conveniently’ if I may say so) proclaimed, 4 days before the insurgence took place, that it would take in Afghani escapees who were part of the Hindu or the Sikh community. It thus became the first country to attach the clause of religion to a human rights, arguably basic human decency, issue. According to officials, the government’s top priority is helping the Indian residents living within the borders of Afghanistan.

"We are in constant touch with the representatives of Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities. We will facilitate repatriation to India of those who wish to leave Afghanistan."

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Arindam Bagchi.

Given the vulnerable state of the North Indian region of Kashmir (disputed land), India is at a greater disadvantage. Administrative officials reiterate their fear of Taliban influence spreading to Pakistan, a country which is considered to be of imminent threat to Indian sovereignty.

Meanwhile, Pakistan, Russia and China have expressed their willingness to enter political relations with Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Pakistan endorses the Talibanisation in Afghanistan; Prime Minister Imran Khan praised the Taliban for breaking the “shackles of (mental) slavery” imposed on them by the West in the form of, what he believes, cultural identity.

In spite of the anti-terrorism stance accentuated in Russian foreign policy, especially in the past few years, it approaches Afghanistan with a ‘cool realpolitik’. “If we compare the negotiability of the colleagues and the partners, I have long since decided that the Taliban is much more able to reach agreements than the puppet government in Kabul,” Zamir Kabulov, Russia’s presidential envoy to Afghanistan, demonstrating willingness to engage in political relations with the country as long as it does not launch assaults on its Central Asian allies.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said that Beijing was ready for “friendly cooperation with Afghanistan.” China has maintained communication with the Taliban and will play “a constructive role in promoting the political settlement of the Afghan issue.”

Considering the fact that these nations only aim to ‘respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty’ and pose arguments about the land going back to its people, my question is: Does the State come first or the People living in that state?

Man is born into society and shackled by the modern ideological construct of the State. Their mere existence entitles them to the basic humanitarian rights which the Taliban, with their interpretations of Islamic idealism, strip away.

Interestingly, but for some reason- unsurprisingly, European Nations have blatantly neglected and continue to barricade any semblance of a tie with Afghanistan. The United Kingdom, a few hours into the rundown, blocked all scholarships given to students from Afghanistan. NATO seems adamant to blame the Afghan governance (rather, former Afghan governance) for the insurgence and collapse. Of course, no constructive plans for protection or diplomacy have been constructed. Austria staunchly maintains its stance on the response, saying that Afghani asylum seekers must be deported. Since then, the debate about the response to refugees and asylum-seekers has reached a stassis in the European Union, indicating obvious disunity and lack of urgency on their part.

The past two days have placed an interrogative clause on the global response to basic human rights violations and collective responsibility of the States at the international forum. Two days into a massive humanitarian, social and political catastrophe, the world shows no sign of empathy.

Not a single individual, organisation or government outside of Afghanistan truly understands the impact of the Taliban. But what this writer aims to iterate is that the only solution we can implement is to mobilise conversations around the issue and pressurise local organisations and governments to take charge and help civilians seeking refuge in their territory. Change comes with taking a stance, and it is time the world comes together to take one.

We stand with Afghanistan, we stand with Afghan women, children, the elderly and civilians caught in crossfire.

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