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Perspectives

March 18, 2010
Growing Indian influence in Afghanistan alarms Pakistan

The India-Pakistan border at Wagah. Photo: Dharmesh on Flickr

Ambassador S. Azmat Hassan is a former Ambassador of Pakistan to Malaysia, Syria and Morocco and Deputy Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations. He is currently a Visiting Professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

U.S. policymakers probably rue the day when the Bush Administration decided to broaden its intervention in Afghanistan. Eight and a half years after evicting the Taliban and installing the ineffectual Hamid Karzai as President, the U.S. finds itself bogged down in Afghanistan.

The Karzai government has failed to provide its war-weary countrymen a reasonable measure of peace or security. Suicide bombs kill foreigners and Afghans alike with disturbing frequency in the bigger cities, while guerrilla attacks by a resilient Taliban insurgency continues to take a toll of U.S. and NATO troops.

Corruption and drug-running is rampant. To remain in power, Karzai has had to consort with a number of unsavory warlords who are masters in their fiefdoms. Karzai’s brother, the overlord at Kandahar, has the reputation of being both a CIA agent and the province’s biggest drug dealer.

In the witches’ brew that is Afghanistan today, India and Pakistan are both jockeying for influence. The poor Afghans are caught in the middle of this zero-sum game.

India, seizing on Afghanistan’s travails, has pumped in over a billion dollars toward improving Afghanistan’s economic and social infrastructure. On the face of it, this magnanimity should be considered a praiseworthy gesture.

But the Pakistani ruling circles and especially its Armed Forces are alarmed at India’s burgeoning influence in Afghanistan. India’s economic largesse coupled with the opening of its consulates in Afghan provinces close to Pakistan’s border, have rung alarm bells in Islamabad.

Pakistan’s fears of Indian encirclement both from its eastern and now increasingly its western borders, would prevent regional cooperation in pacifying Afghanistan.

General McChrystal has alerted his superiors in Washington that Karzai’s pro-India orientation — plus India’s forward posture in Afghanistan by alienating Pakistan, a crucial ally — would adversely affect U.S. interests in Afghanistan.

It is not known whether McChrystal’s advice has been heeded by the Obama administration. However, a recent statement by General Petraeus suggests that he understands and perhaps supports Pakistan’s quest for gaining strategic depth in a friendly Afghanistan.

While the war in Afghanistan drags on, U.S.-Pakistani relations are currently facing a downward trajectory. The U.S. is unhappy that Pakistan is not going all out against some Afghan Taliban factions based in Pakistan who are battling U.S. and NATO troops.

The Pakistanis are unhappy about U.S. foot dragging on meeting its financial commitments to the Pakistani Army, which has made a significant contribution in the “war on terror” against the Taliban.

This level of mistrust between the two allies is troubling. A continuous dialogue at the political and military level is the only antidote to prevent a further erosion of this crucial alliance.

Hopefully, in his forthcoming visit to Washington, astute Pakistani Army Chief General Kayani will help clear the air. Both the U.S. and Pakistan need each other to get over the hump in Afghanistan. Pakistan needs U.S. assistance to appreciably increase its economic and social development indicators.

Without Pakistan’s support and cooperation, it is difficult to envisage the U.S. achieving its objectives in Afghanistan. This in turn might affect the exit strategy of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

The U.S. needs to become much more proactive in nudging Pakistan and India to resolve their disputes — the principal one, from Pakistan’s perspective, being Kashmir.

India does not want to engage Pakistan in a composite dialogue till Pakistan curbs terrorist attacks from its territory — like the Mumbai killings — by non-state actors. India thinks that some elements in Pakistan’s government encourage such attacks, to destabilize India. Better India-Pakistan relations could possibly help dampen their rivalry in Afghanistan.

The truth of the matter is that both India and Pakistan have been victims of violent extremism. Both are facing multiple insurgencies within their borders. Instead of playing the blame game, both should be prodded to work together in curbing this common menace.

The United States should pay much more attention to removing mutual mistrust between the two nuclear-armed neighbors. Being a neutral bystander issuing anodyne statements is not good enough in the current scenario.

A coordinated regional approach between Pakistan, India and the Karzai regime with active U.S. encouragement could possibly ameliorate the situation in Afghanistan. Then the U.S. can depart with a semblance of dignity and honor.

– S. Azmat Hassan

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Comments

18 comments

#18

Thank you Ram. Most insightful.

#17

Re; @ Ram #15&#16….well said. Thankyou

#16

Oh, and I haven’t even begun to discuss Iraq where the various Islamic groups seem intent on heralding in another age of servitude and occupation by the West. Saddam will be turning in his grave.

#15

I know that I am going to step on a few toes in here but, in my opinion, all religions including Islam serve narrow elitist interests. And I include Hinduism as well although for the purposes of the narrow Indo-Pakistan conflict, I invariably fall into the “Hindu” camp.

Having established a framework for discussion, I now pose this question. Has the presence of Mujaheddin or religious freedom fighters advanced the cause of the common man anywhere in the Arab Ummah, from Palestine to Indonesia? No. In fact, in each and every encounter where Jihadism is involved, the common man invariably suffers and occupation by western foreign imperial powers deepen.

The so-called populist conflict in Afghanistan has seen the common man suffer under the yoke of an occupation so all encompasing in its suffering and degradation that it beggars belief that the Mujehaddin are seen as harbingers of freedom. Likewise we see this in the tribal areas in Pakistan where the common man is corralled like cattle by foregn drones. Jihadist groups purport to fight for one thing but the net result for the ordinary man or woman on the ground is of another magnitude of increased suffering, poverty and imperial occupation from the West and its Saudi puppets.

India, sovereign to a degree would, were it destabilised by Islamic elements, would invariably find itself under the yoke of Western domination.

It is a tragedy that what is in effect a struggle involving Western imperialism and its degenerate elitist Arab allies and the Sub-continent has become synonymous with communalism when the net effect of this struggle is to cause immense suffering on the ordinary man in Afghanistan and Pakistan, something which ordinary Indians fears falling prey to.

#14

Ram, by you account India is developing a diplomatic relationship with Afganistan for the furtherance of the containment of an ever growing Islamic world ? Isn’t the real reason more for the prevention of conflict that may grow from attacks against Indian targets by groups operating out of Afganistan ? Please provide the facts so we may learn from you.

#13

Re: @ Ram #12…..could you please elaborate on the “Arab” influence regarding “Mujaheddin”. I’m well aware of past,and present US,and Pakistani rationale, but you have ignited or better said, sparked a spontaneous enthusiasm of ,…intrique? thanks

#12

Kerry Masterson

Get your facts right. India is responding to a Cold War relic on its doorstep. Anti-Soviet Mujaheddin still on the boil and on the prowl for new prey. Mujaheddin schooled and funded by America, Saudi and Pakistan. I presume you aren’t suggesting that Hindus roll over and die in the face of Islamic provocation. A lesson to be learnt from India’s predicament is to not breed extremism for geo-political ends…unless you are prepared to live with the backwash.

#11

Its sand that India is trying to exploit the war in Afganistan for its own reasons. The world is embroiled in such hatred between nations we are lucky there is not all out war between them.

#10

Pakistan will have to be broken into pieces sooner or later for the world peace. There is no other way.

#9

Jim Weekly

A better question would be why does India feel the need to police its neighbourhood in the wake US and Saudi/Pakistani contrived Cold War Vintage Islamic/Mujaheddin extremism. In there you will find the key to wazola.

#8

What I don’t understand is why would India pump that much money into Afghansitan when it’s own country has poverty up the wazola. jim @ usa

#7

Ratee

What hope has any Hindu (or any non-muslim for that matter) of penetrating the xenophobic badlands in any state in all of the Arab Empire when they risk the fate of those unfortunate Pakistani Sikhs. Islam is utterly dedicated to extending the boundaries of Arab culture to all corners of this earth and to suggest that it risks facing any significant threat within this context is illusory. Pakistan’s role is to facilitate this expansion and the split with East Pakistan does not detract from the fact that both states are protectorates within the greater Arab Empire despite the pretense of sovereignty. India can never be a part of this nor can it mitigate this in any way so I really don’t see what risk it poses.

#6

India has history of interfering in Pakistan`s affairs. It conspired with Awami League in the famous Agartala case in 1967 and planned the separation and fomenting the 1971 civil war and then finally attacked and divided Pakistan.

So Pakistan is always afraid of the evil designs of its enemies. So many Indian arms have been discovered from the Pakistani Taliban in Swat that this deviousness of Pakistan`s enemies has been re-established. Similarly in Baluchistan the separatists are being helped by the Indian consulates in Afghanistan, that is undeniable. So USA has to stop Indian interference in Pakistan if it wants to win in Afghanistan as USA needs Pakistan support not its destruction as then only Taliban will win!!!

#5

China is a man for all seasons. She is equally at home exploiting the West and the Arabic Ummah. That the Arabian Ummah fails to see this in its dealings with Chinese triumphalism is akin to the Western investors love affair with the apparently bottomless China market. Both will eventually come acropper and the beneficiary will of course be, China.

#4

Perhaps splitting it into two pieces-half to India and half to Pakistan-would provide an incentive to each for the development of Afghanistan.Clearly,Afghanistan is it’s own worst enemy……

#3

Iran has a stake in what happens in Afghanistan. A source of weapons for the Taliban and the local warlords come from Iran.
China has been putting their money into that coutry. Buying up mineral rights. It is a cou8ntry with basicly has been untapped because of the constant wars.

#2

The major problem faced by the sole Hindu majority state is it’s encroachment and encirclement by the Imperial Arab Islam. Islam answers to only one master, the Arab Peninsula and to that extent Pakistan’s role in the advancement of the Arab border is akin to the spread of Britain’s hegemony worldwide, an imperial work in progress. To that extent, I simply cannot see how majority Hindu India and Arab protectorate Pakistan can ever find that elusive point of equilibrium. India is on the frontline of Arab expansionism.

#1

There is a ray of light,…a beacon of hope from Mrs. Lynn Forester de Rothschild wife of Sir Evelyn de Rothschild having a start-up joint capitalist-venture called ELR Ltd. Holdings/Investment in India. The main reason/thrust for its evolution was, and is for helping the indigenous poor farmers, by providing agricultual know-how,and available practical cost-efficient equipment to bring them out of the 19th century antiquated failed husbandry techniques,…thus reducating 21st century soil conservation – rotating crops/fields – harvesting multiple staples annually,etc.,etc! It has garnished great respect from the locals and the neighboring countries. My hats off to this admirable enterprise,this altruistic and costly endeavor – the very fact that it could change the lives of millions in India,Pakistan,and Afghanistan. thanks Worldfocus PS. Perhaps I’m alittle off subject,but all is relevant,especially when it comes to hunger.

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