Sunday, October 2, 2011

Anti-US alliance of the Cold War: What else is common between India and Afghanistan?

If history is any guide, India has an extra-ordinary preference for puppet governments in Afghanistan. Both India and Afghanistan were active allies of USSR against the US during the Cold War. Now when the reins of power are again in the hands of another unpopular and foreign-supported regime in Kabul, India is active again to gain some sort of foothold in Kabul. In fact, both India and Pakistan are trying to outsmart each other for a major chunk of influence in post-US Afghanistan. Pakistan has a national security objective in having a decisive say in Kabul; Afghanistan is its immediate neighbor, its backyard. India is trying to overtake Pakistan for Kabul race precisely for the same reason; Afghanistan is Pakistan’s immediate neighbor. India has its strategic interests in Kabul because while in Kabul, it can encircle Pakistan and imperil its Western borders in order to keep it in line and establish its hegemony in the region. It has already opened a number of border posts, called consulates, along Pak-Afghanistan border which are busy pumping money to intensify Pakistan insurgency and label Pakistan as sponsor of Afghanistan unrest.

India has a bigger dream to realize through its presence in Kabul. It wants to keep China at leash by keeping it away from this confluence of cross-roads leading to Central Asia. It has made heavy investments in building infrastructure in this war-ravaged country.  On this point, the US and India have converging interests. If the US, therefore, has to make a choice between India and Pakistan for a suitable heir to Kabul throne, it would more probably pick India.

The realist politics are driven by nothing but the selfish national interests and thus, have very interesting political dynamics. India was an anti-US ally of Soviet Russia in the Cold War era. It was a bitter critic of the US supporting Afghanistan insurgency when Communist forces occupied Afghanistan. The then government of Afghanistan, largely unpopular, was in Soviet camp. India and the then-Afghanistan were allies. It is for this reason that in that popular revolt against Soviet Russia, India was opposed to the Mujahideen who were funded and equipped by the CIA.

Look at the irony of history. Pakistan was a committed US ally in the war against Soviet Russia. Without Pakistan’s support, Mujahideen could not drive Russian forces leading to disintegration of Soviet Union, a goal the US wanted to achieve at all costs. Pakistan has always remained on the right side of the US during the cold war and paid dearly for that. With the changing scenario, it now finds itself in the woods after having earned American fury despite fighting US “war on terror” for 10 years. The loss of human lives alone of Pakistanis, branded as collateral damage, is 4000 military men and 35000 civilians. Such are the ways of international politics. India, despite having remained aloof, and largely unhurt, in the war or terror, is now preparing to take the reins of power after the endgame in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s present government is a replica of the pro-Russia regime of 1970s and 1980s; unpopular, unrepresentative and supported by the occupation armies. For these reasons, it needed the political support of USSR and India then and of the US and India now. The best way to sustain this support is to accuse Pakistan for anything and everything happening in the country.

It will be very interesting to look at the Indian interests in Afghanistan as perceived by Indian analysts. According to an article in Foreign Policy, India is a significant player in Afghanistan. It has the world's fifth-largest aid program there, having committed $1.5 billion in developmental assistance. It has played a key role in reconstruction and has developed training programs for Afghan civil servants and police. India has made these investments in the country because its policymakers are keen on ensuring that a radical Islamist regime does not return to the country, that Pakistan not wields a disproportionate influence on any future government, and that Afghanistan might serve as a bridgehead for India's economic ties to the Central Asian states.

India can do anything to ensure that a representative government does not return to Afghanistan, if it gives some space to Pakistan to wield some interest in Afghanistan.  According to the article, India fears that a reconstituted Taliban regime would allow a host of anti-Indian terrorist groups, most notably Lashkar-e-Taiba, to find sanctuaries and training grounds in Afghanistan. Some astute New Delhi-based analysts also worry that a resurgent Taliban may actually help broker a peace agreement between the Pakistani regime and Pakistani domestic terrorist groups like Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. That, they argue, could redirect the collective wrath of various jihadi organizations from internecine conflict and focus it on India, and more specifically Indian-controlled Kashmir. Finally, they are concerned that a Taliban-dominated regime would forge links with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and other jihadi groups in Central Asia, thereby adversely affecting India's quest for access to energy resources and markets in the region. Yet New Delhi also sees the writing on the wall but it will not easily walk away from Afghanistan.

India is counting on its historic ties to the Northern Alliance, which is a representative body of Afghanistan’s ethnic minorities and which India opposed in Afghanistan Jihad of 1980s.

According to TIME, with the U.S. looking for an exit, India is trying to figure out what its role in Afghanistan's uncertain future will be. U.S. counterinsurgency strategy aims to "clear, hold, build and transfer" a stable Afghanistan back to its people. The Indian government hopes to aid the "build and transfer" part of that effort by helping to develop Afghanistan's infrastructure and institutions.

Whatever New Delhi does, it can expect truculent opposition from archrival Pakistan, which has long tried to influence what happens in Afghanistan, primarily to ensure that the country's power players are friendly to Islamabad. Its suspicion of India's regional intentions is plainly revealed in several cables released by WikiLeaks. Pakistan's press routinely accuses India of sending in spies in the guise of doctors and engineers, and Islamabad claims that India's four consulates are bases for espionage and for funneling aid to separatist rebels in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan. Pervez Musharraf, a former Pakistani President, is convinced New Delhi is responsible for providing insurgents with weapons. "The Afghans have nothing," he told Time, "so it must be the Indians."

While discussing India’s Stake in Afghanistan, The Journal of International Security Affairs writes in post 9/11 Afghanistan, India’s interests have centered on three broad objectives: security concerns, economic interests and regional aspirations. India has revived its historical, traditional, socio-cultural and civilizational linkages with the objective of a long-term stabilization of Afghanistan. As part of this effort, India has supported the nascent democratic regime, seeing in it the best hope for preventing the return of the Taliban. India is also looking beyond Afghanistan’s borders, working to revive Afghanistan’s role as a “land bridge” connecting South Asia with Central Asia and providing access to strategic energy resources. Along these lines, India has actively promoted greater trade and economic integration of Afghanistan with South Asia through the regional mechanism of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

With the establishment of an interim government in Afghanistan under President Hamid Karzai in 2001, India announced that it would provide $100 million in reconstruction aid to Afghanistan. Since then, India has followed a policy of high-level engagement—characterized by a range of political, humanitarian, cultural, economic and infrastructure projects. India today ranks overall as Afghanistan’s sixth-largest bilateral donor country, having invested heavily in a range of key sectors of the Afghan economy and pledged to do so to the tune of $1.3 billion more in the years ahead.

There is indeed a critical security concern to India’s involvement in Afghanistan, however—specifically, the possibility of terror emanating from the extremely volatile Pakistan-Afghanistan border and spilling over into India. A strong, stable and democratic Afghanistan would reduce the dangers of extremist violence and terrorism destabilizing the region. Since 9/11, New Delhi’s policy has broadly been in congruence with the U.S. objectives of decimating the Taliban and al-Qaeda and instituting a democratic regime in Kabul.

Today, however, a resurgent Taliban and mounting instability have worsened the outlook for Afghanistan. In the coming days, India’s “aid only” policy is bound to face new challenges—and adapt to them. While Delhi resists putting “boots on ground,” it will need to widen its web of engagement in the rapidly-shrinking political space in Afghanistan. India must revive its traditional Pushtun linkages and at the same time re-engage other ethnic groups as it attempts to strike a balance between continuing support for the Karzai government and increasing its engagement with other factions. By doing so, India will position itself to influence Afghanistan’s evolving political sphere, and serve as a serious interlocutor in the intra-Afghan and inter-regional reconciliation process now underway.

India has no cultural ties with Afghanistan as being claimed by the Indian analysts. Afghanistan, a country of Muslims has ethnic ties and cultural similarities with its immediate neighbors. India is trying hard to ensure continuation of minority-dominated puppet government in Kabul, like it did in 1970s and 1980s, as any popular government chosen by majority Pashtuns will not let India achieve a foothold with the sole objective of using Afghanistan as bridge for its strategic objectives, regional ambitions and its access to resource-rich Central Asia.

1 comment:

  1. Boss....
    No matter how loyal you have bee to US since your birth, you largely aggravated the matter by supporting islamic fundamentalism. Well the birth of your nation is based on islamic fundamentalism. Did you say no cultural ties.... Keep distroying all archeological evidences in Afghanistan (Bamyan et al) and in SWAT also. It will take 1000 years to distroy them all as many years as your haughty leaders claim to fight with INDIA.....