Wait and watch
Scepticism grows among policymakers and foreign relations analysts over Bangladesh-Afghan relationship under the Taliban, which have formed an interim government with the hardliners despite their promise of an inclusive cabinet.
The formation of the new government in Kabul has dealt a blow to the expectations that this Taliban might be moderate, have learned lesson from the past and now want a good rapport with the international community.
Analysts think Bangladesh needs to wait and watch closely the developments in the coming days before deciding to recognise the Taliban government.
Afghanistan's interim government is made up of hard-line Taliban and Haqqani Network members. The network, which is designated as a terrorist organisation by the US, is responsible for deadly attacks and kidnappings in Afghanistan over the past two decades.
Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund, who is on a UN sanctions list, is acting prime minister and Taliban co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar is his deputy. Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of the founder of Haqqani Network, is interior minister and is one of FBI's most wanted men due to his involvement in suicide attacks and ties with al-Qaeda.
No representatives from women and ethnic minorities and none of those who had played critical roles in Afghanistan's West-backed government, such as former president Hamid Karzai and former national reconciliation leader Abdullah Abdullah, has a place in the new government.
"The Taliban had promised an inclusive and pluralistic government, but they have included the old guards from their previous government of 1996 to 2001 when they were brutal in enforcing Shariah," said Bangladesh Enterprise Institute President M Humayun Kabir.
"This means they have not lived up to the promises they made, and the international community will surely not like it," said the former Bangladesh ambassador.
The US and EU have already criticised the new interim government. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington was "concerned by the affiliations and track records of some of those individuals."
However, China has endorsed the interim government, while Russia, Pakistan and Iran have also been supportive of the Taliban.
China's regional rival India is, however, critical of the interim Afghan government.
WHAT SHOULD DHAKA DO?
Foreign policy experts say as a SAARC member, Bangladesh wants a peaceful and stable region. Bangladeshi NGO Brac has development operations going on in Afghanistan. The bilateral trade between the two countries is less than $20 million, but there are high prospects.
These are all good sides, but the concern is that in the recent past, a good number of Bangladeshis were trained by the Taliban in Afghanistan and they returned to Bangladesh and started militant activities. Though the Bangladesh government maintains a zero-tolerance policy against terrorism and hunted down many of the militants over the last few years, there are people who share the Taliban ideology.
Against this backdrop, Dhaka needs to be very cautious and also ready to tap positive possibilities, added the foreign relations experts.
"Taliban badly need the help of the international community because the economy is battered and there's a humanitarian crisis," M Humayun Kabir told this correspondent.
However, given the fact that the government is not inclusive, Dhaka needs to see how it evolves when there is a permanent government and how the international community coordinates in terms of helping and recognising Afghanistan.
Former foreign secretary Touhid Hossain said, "If Taliban don't do excesses and major powers recognise and begin businesses, we too can think of recognising. There is no point cornering Afghanistan."
He said the Taliban want to keep good relations with India, which wants to connect to Central Asia and then Middle East through Afghanistan. Bangladesh too wants to develop connectivity to the Central Asia for regional trade and development.
Dhaka University International Relations Prof Dr Lailufar Yasmin said the Taliban have changed and that is apparent in how they are interacting with the media and the fact that they have already won over Doha and Beijing in terms of diplomacy.
"We cannot impose any standards or foreign cultures and customs on them. This is, however, obvious that fundamental human rights and women rights must be respected. Therefore, we still need to watch how the Taliban change," she said.
Lailufar warned that Bangladesh needs to be cautious that the country's youth in no way can be influenced by the Taliban. "We cannot recognise the Taliban if they maintain extreme ideologies and inspire the youth."
Brig Gen (retd) M Shakhawat Hossain, former election commissioner of Bangladesh and a regional security analyst, said the fog of war is still there in Afghanistan and the Taliban, which fought for two decades, know well that winning the battle was easier than governing a country that is so diverse in ethnicity and cultures.
Also, the Afghan society has changed to an extent and the Taliban know they won't be able to stay in power if they cannot govern the country.
He said isolating Afghanistan will bring no good result. Rather, the world should help it bring about the expected changes.
Shakhawat thinks Bangladesh needs to maintain communications with the Taliban through the back channel and provide humanitarian support to the Afghan people who are in dire need of food, health and education.
"Our homegrown Brac has large operations there. If needed, the government should support Brac in providing assistance in Afghanistan," he said.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam too said Bangladesh will join the UN and EU in a dialogue with the Taliban for providing humanitarian assistance.
On the question of recognising the Taliban, he said Dhaka will wait for a permanent government.
"However, we will not compromise on certain principles, including women's rights," he said.