Unstable Afghanistan – The India Factor
Posted on October 15th, 2009

By: Mashaal Javed

It was the fall of Taliban government in Afghanistan in 2001 that paved the way for foreign powers to intervene in Afghanistan to secure their strategic interests. The strategic location of Afghanistan provides a perfect conduit for extracting and channeling vast energy resources of Central Asia to their respective countries. However, the ingress made by these countries failed to comprehend the ground realities of Afghan polity that revolves around tribal customs and traditions. The Bonn Conference that was subsequently held after the fall of the Taliban government included major drug and warlords, sans the Pashtun representation. By castigating the major Pashtun community that had ruled Afghanistan for over 200 years from the Conference and devoiding it from any political role in the affairs of Afghanistan , the US and the West committed first strategic mistake that helped blossom the Afghan insurgency. The second was eliminating Pakistan , a country that shares common borders with Afghanistan , from under taking any kind of reconstruction work there whereas other countries including Afghanistan ‘s distant neighbours were provided huge funds to undertake the development work in Afghanistan . Some countries utilized the opportunity to further their own regional and strategic interests, side by side. India being one, found the playing field too vast in Afghanistan to conduct its covert activities in Baluchistan and FATA through TTP and Baluchi dissidents to destabilize Pakistan .

 India established its consulates along Pakistan-Afghanistan borders and effectively used some of them to channel arms and money into Baluchistan and FATA. The proofs of Indian involvement in Baluchistan affairs has already been provided to the Indian side at the summit level at Egyptian resort of Sharmel Sheikh when the two respective leaders met there on July 16. The Indian Premier was stunned when Pakistani Prime Minister handed him over a dossier that carried photographs of Brahamdagh Bugti and other terrorists meeting Indian agents not only in Afghanistan but also during their visits to India . The dossier also included the names of Indian officials who used to meet them. The Afghanistan and the US government have been repeatedly protested with for turning a blind eye towards Indian phenomena of destabilizing Pakistan by allowing it to conduct its covert operations from across the border in Afghanistan . Christine Fair of Rand Corporation who visited one of Indian Consulates established near the borders of Pakistan , highlighted role of Indian Consulates in fomenting trouble in Pakistan during one of her television interviews. Similarly, India ‘s involvement has also been highlighted by another Western journalist Laura Rozen in one of her articles published in one of the Foreign Policy magazines. She quotes one of the former US official as saying that “The Indians are up to their neck in supporting the Taliban against the Pakistani government in Afghanistan and Pakistan”¦..the same anti Pakistani forces in Afghanistan shooting at the American soldiers are getting support from India. India should close its diplomatic establishments in Afghanistan and get the Christ out of there.”

 General Stanley McChrystal, the present commander of the US and coalition forces in Afghanistan was tasked to prepare a report to analyse and recommend measures to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan . The same was submitted this month to the State Department. The report glaringly points out, though diplomatically, the growing influence of India in the affairs of Afghanistan and the potential that it bears to exacerbate regional tensions. He also said that Taliban fighters in Afghanistan are being aided by “ƒ”¹…”elements of some intelligence agencies’. Interestingly he only pointed out the ISI of Pakistan and Quds Force of Iran that are working against the US interests and the Afghan government. Strange as it may sound is the obliviousness of the General’s assumption that only two intelligence agencies are at work in the present day Afghanistan . He did not mention what role other countries’ intelligence agencies are playing in bringing stability in Afghanistan . There has been no mention of the American dreaded CIA, Israel ‘s Mossad, Indian RAW, German BND and British MI-16. Every intelligence agency working on ground in Afghanistan is working for the interest of its respective country. Being the immediate neighbour and threatened with growing Indian threat from the East and from across the borders in Afghanistan besides the Taliban one, it is natural for Pakistani agencies to keep watch on the developments next door that affect the integrity and security of Pakistan.

 In fact it is the independent role the other intelligence agencies are playing in Afghanistan that affects the security of Pakistan . There is a conspicuous absence of trust amongst them when they work together and as such they also operate clandestinely to safeguard their respective country’s interests. The Indian intelligence agency “ƒ”¹…”RAW’ is also at it. Despite right under the nose of American and the Afghan governments, it continues to foment trouble in Baluchistan and FATA from across the border in Afghanistan . There are reports also that massive chunks of money are being paid by the “ƒ”¹…”RAW’ to the Taliban for attacking US interests in Afghanistan in a bid to create wedge in the mutual trust and cooperation between Pakistani and US agencies. The fact of Indian involvement in destabilizing Pakistan has been acknowledged by the American think tanks also. In one of the 2006 Council on Foreign Relations special report on Afghanistan , the author Mr. Barnett Rubin with respect to Pakistan recommended that: “The United States should strengthen its position on the Afghan side of the border and encourage India and Afghanistan not to engage in any proactive activity there”. Thus by allowing India to increase its involvement in Afghanistan, the US and the West are only helping perpetuate regional tensions that may ultimately jeopardize whatever gains US may accrue from its war in Afghanistan.

 General McChrystal, in the same report has asked the American Administration for an additional placement of 43000 troops in Afghanistan if a victory is to be achieved there at all. In the wake of fresh analyses of the US war in Afghanistan , there is a growing realisation that long term stability in Afghanistan lies only in a negotiated settlement with the Taliban and not by a surge in the military. Also, The NATO and ISAF , the constituents of their armed forces in these two organizations do not seem to have a will anymore to commit additional troops for Afghanistan due to increased resentment back in their homelands, loss of lives and a persistent recession. The additional troops might be helpful to General McChrystal to cater for more security arrangements but the surge cannot solve the inherent problems of Afghanistan like the prevalent massive corruption in the government, bribery and lawlessness. The Report does not however address any political strategy to tackle the problems that ail the very fabric of Afghan polity and turned themselves as basis of the prevalent insurgency. As such, General McChrystal’s report for the moment asking for more troops is being lightly handled in the State Department. Meanwhile, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when queered on sending more troops to Afghanistan also shot down the request by saying, “I can tell you there are other assessments from very expert military analysts who have worked in counter insurgencies that are the exact opposite”.

 Whatever actions are taken on the General’s report, it is a fact that Pakistan genuinely feels threatened with the India ‘s growing influence in Afghanistan . With the opening of Indian consulates near Pakistani borders and an Indian Air Base in Farkhor in Tajikistan which is used for channeling large sacks of money and intelligence officials to foment trouble in Baluchistan and FATA, Pakistan finds itself completely encircled by India . Remaining cognizant of the fact, Pakistan ‘s Afghan policy would naturally comprise remedies that thwart all threats emanating from the growing Indian influence in Afghanistan . General McCrhystal, as such, is crystal clear in his report when he says that if Pakistan ‘s cooperation is to be seized with over a long term then India has to downsize its presence in all fields in Afghanistan . Meanwhile there is a school of thought amongst many regional strategists who foresee the likely permanent placement of Indian troops in Afghanistan , courtesy the US and the West once they exit Afghanistan . They also term it as the would be recipe for a regional disaster as it would end up in escalation of mutual conflict between India and Pakistan concurrently keeping Afghanistan destabilized for decades, a fact that US and the West would never like to embrace.

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