Let India help Afghanistan

Discussion in 'Subcontinent & Central Asia' started by IBRIS, Dec 25, 2009.

  1. IBRIS

    IBRIS Senior Member Senior Member

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    India's close ties with Afghanistan mean it is well placed to step in when the west has flown its last soldier out of Kabul

    In the 19th century, Indian armies twice crossed the Hindu Kush, hoping to stitch together the patchwork political authority of the territory in the service of their British masters. Over a century later, the sovereign republic of India once more has a renewed presence in what was once its mountainous buffer from the Tsarist, and then Soviet, giant to the north.

    A year ago, Indians completed the construction of Afghanistan's new parliament building and, to compound the symbolism, provided training to the legislators who would make the country's laws. Over a billion dollars in aid and investment, multiple consulates, and a little-reported thousand-strong troop presence all testify to the flourishing ties between the two democracies.

    India is Afghanistan's fifth-largest donor, pledging $1.2bn since 2001 and providing aid that spans education, health and infrastructure. The most eye-catching project, a 215km road connecting the Iranian border to Afghanistan's arterial highway, will eventually allow India to transport goods by sea to an Iranian port it is developing, and thence to Afghanistan and beyond. This circumvents the overland route, blocked by Pakistan, but also gives a fillip to Indo-Afghan trade ($538m during 2007-8). Hamid Karzai, himself educated in India and the beneficiary of Indian military support during the 1990s, visited India four times in the first five years of his tenure. The Afghan national army, the linchpin of the new American strategy to pacify the country, receives training across India.

    Not everyone is happy with the widening Indian footprint. Pakistan, long reliant on Afghanistan as a source of "strategic depth" has invoked fears of encirclement and Indian-sponsored separatism. This is in addition to the panoply of wild "conspiracy theorists who insist that every one of Pakistan's ills are there because of interference by the US, India, Israel and Afghanistan", says Ahmed Rashid, a noted Pakistani journalist.

    Among other attacks, a car bomb at the Indian embassy in Kabul killed 41 in July 2008. According to the New York Times, American officials quickly presented "intercepted communications between Pakistani intelligence officers and militants who carried out the attack" to demonstrate Pakistani culpability and "the ISI officers had not been renegades".

    Then in September 2009, General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force, suggested in a leaked assessment of the war that "while Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people, increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan or India". The scarcely veiled threat of further bloodbaths such as Mumbai prompted renewed anger in the Indian media.

    India has responded cautiously. Indian defence minister AK Antony insisted "categorically … there is no question of Indian military involvement in Afghanistan … not now, not in the future". A former head of India's foreign intelligence service has said that "sending troops … is not an option".

    There are sound and perhaps compelling reasons for this reticence. There remain bitter memories of the 1,200 deaths suffered by an Indian peacekeeping force in Sri Lanka, and although Indian security forces have six decades of counterinsurgency experience, they face multiple intensifying guerilla wars at home from Maoists and separatists. Moreover, India's coalition politics, featuring local parties with parochial interests, is hardly suited to sustaining ambitious foreign policies.

    Yet more than 1,000 members of the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police are deployed in Afghanistan. President Obama's affirmation to withdraw US forces by 2011 has generated a prospective vacuum, inducing Pakistan to renew its support for the Taliban. This has produced loudening, though still marginal, Indian voices in favour of more boots on the ground.

    Amir Taheri, writing in The Times, suggests that a military commitment is "surprisingly popular in India". One former diplomat argues that "influential sections of Indian opinion are stridently calling for an outright Indian intervention in Afghanistan without awaiting the niceties of an American invitation letter".

    The editor of the "realist" journal Pragati writes that "military involvement … will shift the battleground away from Kashmir and the Indian mainland". An affiliated blog draws on the idea of "force fungibility" to argue that "since it is not feasible for Indian troops to directly attack Pakistan's military-jihadi complex, India should ensure that US troops do so" by "reliev[ing them] of duties in areas where they are not actually fighting the Taliban – especially in western and northern Afghanistan".

    Others have suggested that "the best contribution … might be in the areas of combat training and creating capacities in logistics and communications", still sorely lacking in the embryonic Afghan national army.

    Support for the war is faltering in western capitals, partly because citizens cannot see how it furthers homeland security. The frequency and scale of attacks on India mean that Indians have no such trouble. National caveats on force employment – particularly from France, Italy, and Germany – hinder the efficacy of Nato troops, but Indian casualty sensitivity is almost certainly less than that in, say, Britain.

    India's longstanding cultural ties to Afghanistan – Bollywood movies are wildly popular there, for instance – mean that Indian soldiers would be less likely to be stigmatised as occupiers, with 73% of Afghans professing a favourable view of India (and 91% holding the opposite view of Pakistan).

    India is also experienced at counterinsurgency, enjoys good relations with regional powers such as Iran and Russia (including bases in Tajikistan), and the large reserves of available forces. India has nearly 9,000 troops with the UN, and just withdrew 30,000 from Jammu and Kashmir.

    The obstacle to India's involvement is Pakistan. Yet few stop to evaluate the absurdity of having "today's most active sponsor of terrorism" as a frontline ally against terrorists. In December 2009, the New York Times reported Pakistan's refusal to crack down on Siraj Haqqani, the strongest Taliban commander in Afghanistan, on the basis that he was a "longtime asset of Pakistan's spy agency".

    The truth downplayed in western capitals is that India is one of the only interested parties, the US included, that has an interest in both state-building and counterterrorism on the Afghan side of the Durand line. Creating incentives for it to expand its provision of security could lay the groundwork for a commitment that will last long after the last western soldier is flown – or desperately airlifted – out of Kabul.
    Let India help Afghanistan | Shashank Joshi | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk
     
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  3. RPK

    RPK Indyakudimahan Senior Member

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    The Hindu : Front Page : We have no agenda in Afghanistan: India

    NEW DELHI: India on Monday told the United States that it had no agenda in Afghanistan except seeing it emerge as a stable and peaceful country.

    To this end, India would continue to work in Afghanistan on development projects but with no geo-political ambitions, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna told the visiting U.S. Special Envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, here.

    Mr. Holbrooke was also told about India’s involvement in infrastructure building in Afghanistan.

    The U.S. Special Envoy said he was looking forward to the international conference on Afghanistan, scheduled for January 28 in London, and expected a positive contribution from India.

    He also informed Mr. Krishna of two preparatory meets scheduled in Turkey with India participating in one of them. Mr. Krishna is scheduled to attend the London meeting.

    Mr. Holbrooke briefed the Minister on the steps taken by the U.S. in Afghanistan and the content of his talks in Islamabad and Kabul.

    Sources in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said Mr. Krishna indicated India’s keenness to see the situation stabilise in Afghanistan but professed disinterestedness on other issues of tactical military importance.

    Emerging from the talks, Mr. Holbrooke said India was a “tremendously important participant in the search for peace and stability not only in south Asia but throughout the vast region that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Pacific.”

    He reiterated the U.S.’ expectation of “more action” from Pakistan in routing the Taliban from its bases on the Afghan-Pakistan border despite being encouraged by its battle with the militants in the Swat Valley.

    The main subject of his talks with the Pakistani leadership during his ongoing three-nation visit was the spread of the Taliban in the North West Frontier Province. Mr. Holbroke did not think Monday’s attack in Kabul was surprising “since they are desperate people.”

    He said:

    “They are ruthless and the people who are doing this will certainly not survive this attack nor will they succeed, but we can expect this sort of thing on a regular basis.

    “That is what Taliban are. They are part of extremist groups operating in the border areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan and they do these desperate things all the time and India knows all this.”
     
  4. RPK

    RPK Indyakudimahan Senior Member

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    The price of greater Indian involvement in Afghanistan | Analysis & Opinion | Reuters

    [​IMG]


    U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is heading to India, and one of the things Washington is looking at is how can regional players such as India do more in Afghanistan. “As we are doing more, of course we are looking at others to do more,” a U.S. official said, ahead of the trip referring to the troop surge.

    But this is easier said than done, and in the case of India, a bit of a minefield. While America may expect more from India, Pakistan has had enough of its bitter rival’s already expanded role in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Indeed, Afghanistan is the new battleground on par with Kashmir, with many in Pakistan saying Indian involvement in Afghanistan was more than altruistic and aimed at destabilising Pakistan from the rear. Many in India, on the other hand, point the finger at Pakistan for two deadly bomb attacks on its embassy in Kabul.

    Against such a difficult backdrop, what can New Delhi possibly do without complicating things further?

    Several proposals are afoot but the one that the Afghans are pushing for and which is equally likely to stir things up further is an expanded training programme of the Afghan National Army by the Indian army. A small number of Afghan army officers have been coming to Indian defence institutions, such as New Delhi’s National Defence College, for training under a programme that India has been running for years for several countries.

    But this is a nation at war at the moment, and as retired Indian major general Ashok Mehta points out in this article for the Wall Street Journal, the Afghan army chief General Bismillah Khan is keen on sending combat units for training in India’s counterinsurgency schools. The Indian army has been battling insurgencies for six decades in terrain as diverse as the hills of Nagaland in the northeast to Kashmir in the north. None of these have been snuffed out, save for the Sikh revolt in the Punjab in the 1980s, and you could argue about the success of their campaign. But they have held firm, developed tactics along the way, and rarely ever seemed to be losing ground against insurgents even at the height of the Kashmir revolt. Their experience is obviously something the Afghans would like to draw on.

    But isn’t this going to antagonise Pakistan further? Running courses for a few officers is one thing, but training a whole combat unit is another. A deepening military relationship between Afghanistan and India would be an uncomfortable prospect for any security planner in Pakistan. Imagine, for a moment, the Pakistani army training strike formations of the Bangladesh army.

    Perhaps a bit more palatable to Pakistan would be training of the Afghan National Police, also seen as a key element in the fight to restore peace in the country. Again the Indians have amassed a vast degree of experience, inherited from British colonial masters in the area of policing.

    “We have the best institution for training the civilian police, and the paramilitary to some extent … if you want a civilian police with a little bit of strength to the elbow,” India’s national Security Adviser M.K.Narayanan told the Times of London, adding that India had spent a quite a lot of time discussing with the Americans in recent weeks an expanded role in Afghanistan.
     
  5. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Shyam Saran: How not to exit Afghanistan

    Aligning India with long-standing Pakhtoon aspirations may be a potentially potent lever
    Shyam Saran / New Delhi September 15, 2010, 0:54 IST
    At the recently concluded annual conference of the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) in Geneva (September 10-12, 2010), Henry Kissinger had a telling comment on the “exit strategy” being pursued by the US and its allies in Afghanistan. He said that the focus appeared to be more on exit and less on strategy. His strategy for a viable solution? A regional compact among key stakeholders that effectively sanitised Afghanistan from regional and great power competition. This would effectively give the country a neutral status, guaranteed by the international community and respected by the country’s neighbours.

    This sounds attractive but, in the present context, is not viable. It is important to recognise this because then for India the challenge will not be how to become part of some such exit strategy but rather how not to exit Afghanistan under different scenarios. Let us see why the Kissingerian strategy is unlikely to succeed.

    One, the stakeholders in this proposed compact must, at the minimum, include Afghanistan’s close neighbours such as Iran, Pakistan, Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, India and, of course, the US as the dominant occupying power. Whoever takes the lead on this, the US will have to at least acquiesce in a major Iranian role, precisely at a time when it is leading an international sanctions regime against that country over its nuclear programme. I consider this unlikely.
    Two, the Chinese position is problematical. There is a belief in some quarters that China may be positively inclined towards this proposal because of its fear over a spillover of Islamic irredentism into the adjoining Chinese province of Xinjiang. Chinese concerns are being exaggerated. China had no reservations in dealing with the previous Taliban regime in Kabul. It may also consider a Pakistani-dominated Taliban regime a better insurance for the pursuit of its interests in the country than a neutral dispensation. After all, Pakistan has always been extraordinarily sensitive to Chinese interests.

    Three, US calculations are not entirely clear. The recent western projection of the Afghan Taliban, or elements of it, as possibly obscurantist but nevertheless nationalistic and hence acceptable as part of governance structures in Kabul, is one strand in American thinking. Another is the possibility of conceding de facto control of southern Afghanistan to the Taliban, while retaining a strong, deterrent presence in the rest of the country. This would suggest a somewhat more circumscribed “exit strategy” than is often assumed. The US may have objectives that go beyond the defeat of Al Qaeda. It may wish to retain a strong and enduring presence in non-Pushtun areas which enable it to counter Iran, Russia as well as China in Central Asia. Neutrality or even non-alignment for Afghanistan would go against such calculations.

    Finally, it is doubtful that Pakistan would play ball. The enduring fear in Pakistan has been the possible erasure of the Durand Line as the frontier between Pakistan and Afghanistan with the resurgence of a cross-border Pakhtoon movement, encompassing southern Afghanistan, the erstwhile North West Frontier Province (now renamed Khyber-Pakhtoonkwa) as well as Pathan-dominated areas of Balochistan. Despite its reliance on Pakistani goodwill and support, the Taliban regime of Mullah Omar did not accept the Durand Line. The nervous reaction in Pakistan to Ambassador Blackwill’s advocacy of a de facto partition of Afghanistan between a southern Pushtun and possibly Taliban-ruled entity and a non-Pushtun remainder, derives from this anxiety about an irresistible tide of Pakhtoon nationalism, especially at a time when central control over an ethnically diverse and now economically ravaged country is becoming increasingly tenuous. Pakistan may well demand, as its price, an Afghan and international recognition and guarantee of the Durand Line. No Afghan government is likely to concede that.

    India, therefore, should really be crafting a strategy to retain a strong presence in Afghanistan and even augment it, irrespective of what other actors decide to do. This is dictated by the need to prevent the country from once again degenerating into a base for jihadi terrorism against India. It is also an useful platform for India’s engagement with Central Asia. India does have convergent interests with some of the stakeholders, both within Afghanistan and including some of its neighbours like Iran and Russia. At the very least, there are those who, like India, cannot accept a fundamentalist Sunni-dominated regime in Kabul. We need to help coalesce them together in the pursuit of our shared interests.

    We must be mindful of the tendency among some of our western friends to offer concessions at the expense of India in a dubious attempt to buy Pakistan’s support of their “exit strategy”, however this may be defined. A British participant at the conference wondered whether it would not be wise for India to close its consulates in Afghanistan and retain only its embassy in Kabul, in order to “get Pakistan off your (India’s) back”. This is more like getting India off Pakistan’s back! We should dispel the notion, widely held among the western strategic community, that India’s presence and involvement in Afghanistan has been made possible thanks to the International Security Assistance Force’s (ISAF’s) security cover and, therefore, it should not be allowed a “free ride” at the expense of western interests. These includes assuaging Pakistani security concerns vis-a-vis India, however paranoid they may be. The reality is that we have been able to sustain a significant presence in Afghanistan and earn considerable goodwill, including in Pushtun areas, precisely because we have been careful not to be associated with ISAF activities, but operate strictly on a bilateral basis with the Afghan government.

    India should also revisit its position on the Durand Line. It may be worthwhile for us to signal that we do not necessarily recognise the Durand Line as a legitimate frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Aligning India with long-standing Pakhtoon aspirations may be a potentially potent lever to use as the new version of the Great Game unfolds in our neighbourhood.

    The author is a former foreign secretary and currently senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research
     
  6. Tshering22

    Tshering22 Sikkimese Saber Senior Member

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    We must not lose more money in Afghanistan in just "infrastrutural projects because infrastructure is not going to stop Taliban fill the NATO void. Rather military infrastructure with Afghan Army is essential and most critical. Afghan civilians are happy enough with our work there but the priority is to ultimately secure our national interests. Remember that WE NEED TO start thinking of India seriously if we have to become a world power in the next decade.

    India needs to start looking at the "Brave and Smart Tiger" image rather than be a torchbearer of some silly personal and self imposed conscience that will only bring doom the the country. It is true that in our multiple branches of Dharma, conscience is an integral part but when these scriptures were written, we didn't have a nuclear armed failed-jihadi state on one side and an absolutist and expansionist dictatorship on the other side. Things change and the faster Indian strategists realize this, the better and safer we remain as a country.

    1) First things first; we need to sit and review the whole Afghanistan situation unilaterally without any other country. See where we have potential threats. Infrastructure will simply give Taliban new buildings to live in and therefore be a problem to both Indian interests as well as Afghan minorities. This is no go. Try to cultivate clandestine ties with ANA generals and those who truly command the country opposing the Taliban-- Northern Alliance and even non-famous groups. We need to be more generous in supplying weapons to ANA rather than wasting $ 25 million on appeasing Pakistanis and their hardcore stooges sleeper cells in India.

    2) Second; we need to seriously start taking action with Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Iran on Afghanistan matter. While NATO might be sensitive to Iranians, it cannot block out Uzbeks, Tajiks and Russians out of the scenario. Have clandestine hearing stations and surveillance posts with them in the country and start enhancing and upgrading Ayni base in Tajikistan with latest radar installations and even place DRDO Airavat AWACS aircraft patrolling the bordering airspace near Badakhshan strip of Afghanistan. With a 350-400 Km range, these provide us with eyes in Afghanistan's corner. We also have a considerable stake in GLONASS. WELL so how about we USE it.

    3) Third; MAKE SURE that Pakistan has no upper hand at any cost, even if we have to be rude and cold to Turkey and Britain on this matter. Gone are the days that it was "India-Pakistan"; we have come wayy ahead of that comparison and "balancing" league and now if these countries want to make it good with us; they stay in line with our conditions. Also start being aggressive on Kashmir. Show the world: IT IS EITHER UNDISPUTED INDIA'S KASHMIR STANCE OR BYE BYE TO BILLIONS OF DOLLARS WORTH OF MARKETS for those countries WITH THE "DISPUTED" EXCUSE.

    4) Keep Pakistan occupied with this issue while sorting out things in Afghanistan with Russians, Tajiks and Uzbeks. FORGET NATO; They are just too engrossed in saving their necks and ALWAYS are known to ditch non-NATO countries in the last moment. Offer something to Tajiks, Uzbeks and Russians in the stake that they cannot refuse other than just the Taliban card:

    --- Like forming big shot JV companies between Gazprom& ONGC and other government mineral exploring companies along with huge stakes for Tajik and Uzbek companies alongside our own and Russians: This will also keep China slightly out.

    5) START ACTING rather than cuddling and cooing NATO for a stake in A'stan. NATO doesn't CARE. It is too beaten up to bother as such and won't mind ditching us.


    IF we want to be a power in the world's eyes, we NEED to act like on and take INITIATIVE to start at some point.
     

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