1.Afghanistan continues to be a proxy ‘playing ground’ for diverse outside powers with Russia in near vicinity and US in West. The decade old US meddling after the failure of Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 has yielded more familiar results i.e. ethnic and cultural tensions, warlordism, drug-trafficking and rampant corruption. It is not that these traits did not exist in the Afghan society before US invaded Afghanistan but US invasion provided a surge in these attributes.
2.Afghanistan is a fault line where many outside powers are jostling for both influence and position. Some of this jostling remains overt, as in the case of US and its allies, and some of it is not, as in the case of Indian proxy war on Pakistan through Afghanistan. The Indian activities in Balochistan and FATA got a boost when US homed on to it for replicating its mandate in Afghanistan and preserve its interests post withdrawal. After intense interaction between the respective national security advisors, India agreed to fit into American boots.
By doing so India would be benefited on two counts i.e. by safeguarding US interests in Afghanistan, it can accrue more American favors ranging from military to nuclear technology and it will expand its anti-Pakistan network in Afghanistan and continue sponsoring terrorist activities across borders into Pakistan. As a first step to place India in Afghanistan, US helped India sign an accord with Karzai titled ‘Strategic Partnership Agreement’ that would allow India exploit its provisions to cement its involvement in Afghan military and civil affairs.
PART 1 INDIAN ROLE IN AFGHANISTAN
PART 2 IMPACT ON PAKISTAN
PART 3 ANALYSIS
INDIAN ROLE IN AFGHANISTAN
5.The regional security dynamics in South Asia are driven by the conflict between India and Pakistan. Pakistan fears strategic encirclement by India if the Afghan government leans too much towards India, while India is afraid of Pakistan using Afghanistan as a convenient strategic staging area and a back door. Giving a military role to Indians in Afghanistan will simmer the existing tensions between the two countries on various issues while America wraps up its Afghan venture.
With the added dimension of nuclear-armed India – Pakistan rivalry combined with likely strife taking place between the warlords and the central government in Kabul and a perpetual conflict between the warlords and the Taliban may create a civil war that no one would like to happen. 6.On October 4, 2011, New Delhi and Kabul have signed a historic Agreement on Strategic Partnership (ASP) which will further strengthen the relations between the two neighbors.
India is the fifth highest donor in Afghanistan with $2billion of aid and also engaged in various development projects in Afghanistan and the recent visit by Afghan President Hamid Karzai also marks the collaboration of expanding the training of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The growing partnership between New Delhi and Kabul has ensured some anxious moments with in Pakistan who doubts Indian presence in Afghanistan as a threat to them.
7.India is now geared up to impart extensive training to the fledgling Afghan National Army at training institutions across the country. Three areas have been identified under the ‘Agreement’ so far i.e. increase in number of Afghan trainee officers, specialized training to already serving mid and higher-level officers in ANA and training Afghan soldiers in counter insurgency and counter terrorist operations. The Indian military institutions earmarked for the purpose comprise the Commando School in Belgaum in south India, the Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare (CIJW) School in Mizoram in the north East and the High Altitude Warfare School in Sonamarg, Indian Occupied Kashmir.
8.The relations between India and Afghanistan were strengthen more after the visit by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to Kabul , which was after the gap of six years and he sent the message that, unlike the West, New Delhi has no ‘exit strategy’ from Afghanistan and will stay here to bring peace and stability in the country as well as in the region. There are also active negotiations taking place between the US and India to replace US trainers in Afghanistan for providing continuity in training of Afghan security forces once US withdraws from Afghanistan.
9.The fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 allowed India to expand its influence in Afghanistan dramatically. Its engineers and IT specialists poured in as part of its most ambitious aid package – worth more than $1.5 billion – to build remote mountain roads, establish telephone, internet, and satellite links and reopen schools and hospitals. Washington encouraged India’s involvement and believed it could use the soft power of its popular Bollywood film industry and other cultural links to encourage tolerance and pluralism in the country. Meanwhile, Delhi’s contribution towards Afghan reconstruction cannot be denied.
The country’s four landmark projects are the Delaram-Zaranj road, transmission lines providing Uzbek electricity to Kabul, the hydroelectric Salma Dam and a new parliament building in Kabul – the latter two of which are still under way. The $500m newly committed aid by India will be used for development and infrastructure projects in agriculture and mining.
Through its provision of education, medical treatment and small-business support, India has projected considerable soft power in Afghanistan. It provides 2,000 scholarships to Afghans annually for schooling and training in India, including for 500 Afghan civil servants. More than 100 Indian-supported but Afghan-owned small development projects are being implemented. Indian medical missions in Kabul, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif provided free treatment for more than 350,000 Afghans in 2009-10.
IMPACT ON PAKISTAN
10.Much distrust exists between Islamabad and Delhi over their respective activities in Afghanistan. Islamabad perceives New Delhi’s presence and influence as a deliberate attempt to encircle Pakistan and prevent it from attaining the strategic depth it needs in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s government often accuses India’s embassy and four consulates in Afghanistan of carrying out clandestine operations against Pakistan in its tribal areas and restive province of Baluchistan. Pakistan has claimed that India arms and funds Baluchi rebels and the Pakistani Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), which India denies. Pakistan resents the goodwill of Afghans towards Indians.
For its part, Delhi sees Pakistan as attempting to force it from Afghanistan. The Indian government charges that ‘elements’ in Pakistan – essentially its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate – planned the 2008 and 2009 terror attacks on the Indian embassy in Kabul (which Islamabad denies) and says that the Pakistan-based Haqqani terror network was responsible for carrying them out. 11.Indians replicating the role of US trainers in Afghanistan spells danger for Pakistan.
The placement of Indian trainers may create more rifts in the already volatile bilateral relationship between India and Pakistan. Some of the opinion makers even go to the extent to term it on par with Kashmir. Some simplistic and narrow analyses have also linked the signing of the ASP to the worsening of US-Pakistan relations following the attack on the US embassy in Kabul, and of Afghan-Pakistan relations following the assassination of former President Rabbani and the suspension of the peace process with the Taliban thereafter.
What has missed the eye is that the ASP was long in the making to address the Afghans’ long-standing demands. On the other hand, Islamababad did refrain from commenting on the Indo- Afghan partnership but the Pakistani defense analyst Ayesha Siddiqa says that “despite not commenting on this issue, the fact is that Pakistan does not like what has happened as they are crying for so long that Indian presence in Afghanistan would hurt Pakistan interests”.
12.India and Afghanistan’s problem is that Pakistan doesn’t agree and that sees India’s involvement in Afghanistan is a threat to its ‘strategic depth’ according to a concept in which Afghanistan is acknowledged as Pakistan’s backyard in which India has no right to hang out, whereas for India, which had been frozen out under the Taliban regime as a supporter of the Northern Alliance’s warlords, Afghanistan holds the keys to the Central Asian mineral and energy reserves it needs to sustain its rapid economic growth. To that end, and to increase its chances of gaining access to Afghanistan’s own rich reserves of iron ore, India has pledged another half a billion dollars in aid and the same is really affecting Pakistan’s and the things are even getting more worsen.
Afghanistan is also keen to encourage India in this and it doesn’t want Pakistan to be its sole customs guard or jailer, and it has seen how vindictive its twin can be. When India’s Kabul embassy was blown up by a suicide bomber in 2008, killing 41, including India’s defence attaché, American officials said they had evidence that members of Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service had been involved in the plot. 13.There was a time when India was quite taken aback by that change of mood among regional neighbours that forced her to immediately seek new avenues to intervene.
Indian psychological anguish, sense of alienation and feelings of failure in Afghanistan have revamped Indian diplomatic efforts with enhanced lobbying and manipulative methodology to mark their presence in Afghanistan. In this backdrop, Afghan Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullah Abdullah’s recent statement that India has a critical role to play in their country is a sign of persistent Indian clout in Afghanistan. Hence, Indian diplomatic efforts in Kabul to drive a wedge between Pakistan and Afghanistan to ensure that mutual relationship between the two inseparable neighbors remain tense.
In this context, India aggressively propagates that al-Qaeda and Taliban are having safe heavens in major cities of Pakistan to show Pakistan in bad light and create ill feelings between the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan. India’s Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao talking at a South Asia initiative talk on “India’s global role” in Harvard University a few months back said: “We have direct interest in Afghanistan, not because we see it as theater of rivalry with Pakistan but because of the growing fusion of terrorist groups that operate from Afghanistan and Pakistan and their activities in India”.
13. The reality is what meets beyond the eyes. India has interest in Afghanistan but not in its stability and for this purpose Indian intelligence agencies have been trying to create rift among various segments of society in Afghanistan. The instability in the Afghan society will not only help India consolidate its place in Afghanistan but also facilitate in destabilizing the arch-rival Pakistan and energy rich Central Asian Republics (CARs). In the pursuance of same, India invested over a billion US dollars to have an economic clout in Afghanistan and surged its presence in terms of intelligence cooperation through opening of new consulates.
These consulates are used to continue destabilization of both Pakistan and Afghanistan and their respective interests. New Delhi’s billion dollars aid to Kabul is being actually dispersed among Indian companies working in Afghanistan for use in the projects that would help India consolidate its place in Afghanistan and Central Asia. 14.For instance, construction of road linking Chahbahar Port in Iran with Afghanistan was part of the encirclement plan and to secretly ship explosives, arms and ammunition from India in the name of construction material. India has also started showing its friendly gestures to Iran as well.
In a bid to make Iran forget that India voted against its nuclear programme in the IAEA and supported sanctions on Iran, New Delhi is now often found advocating that Iran has a right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy. All this flattery is to keep Afghanistan accessible through the Iranian corridor. Afghanistan is important to India to achieve its vested interests in the region. India’s long and tumultuous history of capturing and grabbing natural resources and territories, which includes valley of Jammu & Kashmir and state of Nagaland, in order to expand its size and power, is no more a hidden fact.
The expansionist agenda of India disqualifies it to be a regional power what to speak of assigning her a greater role in regional peace initiatives. 15.Had India been that justified mediating power and peace lover, it would not have back-stabbed Iran on nuclear issue merely on the basis that another nuclear armed country in the region is not in India’s interest. Also Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and Maldives would not have been a victim of Indian bully. Indian occupied Kashmir is another burning example of Indian usurpation. Northeast India, a region not very well known outside South Asia, is a hotbed of Indian state terrorism and numerous armed insurgencies.
16.It will be in the interest of the region if the US reconciles with the India-Pakistan milieu in the Afghan context and leave Afghanistan to the Afghans to decide their own fate. As the Agreement on Strategic Partnership (ASP) was signed between New Delhi and Kabul, there was an immediate reaction from Islamababad that in such an agreement “the fundamental principle of ensuring the stability in the region must be taken in the account”. This shows that how anxious Islamababad is over the growing Indian presence in Afghanistan. India’s engagement in Afghanistan has been painted by many western analysts as a zero-sum game vis-à-vis Pakistan.
Yet, despite being the largest regional donor in Afghanistan, and the fifth largest internationally, India finds it increasingly difficult to operate in Afghanistan. There have been two suicide bombings of its embassy in Kabul, the first of which killed two senior Indian diplomats, two security personnel and 50 Afghans. A terror plot targeting the Indian consulate in Jalalabad was foiled. Since 2001, 20 Indian nationals have been killed. But New Delhi is also aware of the fact that until all the groups engaged in stopping the violence the path of development and progress will not be achieved. New Delhi is also aware of the fact that the role of Pakistan is also very crucial in bringing stability in the region but is also aware of the fact that any peace process will succeed only when the violence is completely shut.
In short, India has no legitimate interests in Afghanistan but is keen to have a permanent role in Afghanistan in order to fulfill its vested agenda to destabilize Pakistan – major irritant in the way of establishing Indian supremacy in the region – and to have significant influence over central Asian states. From Indian side, anything that is being projected, promoted or displayed through media and friendly gestures is merely eyewash. So in view of these bitter realities, is India worth assigning a greater role in regional peace initiatives? In view of the past experience, Iran can be fool enough to walk hand in hand and in sync with India on Afghanistan?
Would Kabul keep on closing its eyes on facts and will remain in state of denial vis-à-vis New Delhi? It is time to realise that India is not a compulsion, all that is needed to make a right choice. The relation between India and Afghanistan is entering into the new horizon and it will be interesting to see how Pakistan will respond to this new growing relationship. The coming days will be the testing times for India and Afghanistan as United States is preparing to leave Afghanistan which will enable Pakistan to use its clout in Afghanistan for their strategic interests.