SRINAGAR, India (AP) — India’s leaders are anxiously watching the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, fearing that it will benefit their bitter rival Pakistan and feed a long-simmering insurgency in the disputed region of Kashmir, where militants already have a foothold. Lt. Gen. Deependra Singh Hooda, former military commander for northern India between 2014-2016, said militant groups based across the border in Pakistan would “certainly try and push men” into Kashmir, following the Taliban victory in Afghanistan. Hooda added it was too early to predict if any influx of fighters into Kashmir would be “in numbers that destabilize the security situation” and push the region into a military confrontation. Neighbors India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir and both countries rule parts of the Himalayan region, but claim it in full. Indian officials worry that Afghanistan under the Taliban could be a base for organizing Islamist militants in Kashmir, many of whom are allied with Pakistan in their struggle against New Delhi. New Delhi has called the Taliban Pakistan’s “proxy terrorist” group and supported Afghanistan’s U.S.-backed government before it was overthrown in August.
Syed Salahuddin, the leader of an alliance of Kashmiri rebel groups, called the Taliban’s victory “extraordinary and historical” in a voice message shared across social media days after the fall of Kabul. Salahuddin, who is based in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, said he expected the Afghan group to aid Kashmir’s rebels. “Same way, in the near future, India too will be defeated by Kashmir’s holy warriors,” he added. In the last few years, anger in Kashmir has deepened after the Indian government — led by a right-wing Hindu nationalist party — stripped the Muslim-majority region of its semiautonomous status.