India ’s Af-Pak Strategy


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
India ’s Af-Pak Strategy

2009 was the year that ‘Af-Pak’ emerged as the neologism for the pivotal theatre of America’s war on terrorism – precisely three decades after the region’s first spell in the geopolitical sun during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The term,resented in Islamabad and soon to be jettisoned by the Obama administration,denotes both the confluence of parochial militants, international terrorists, and their state sponsors – but also their epicentre, the Durand Line.1 Yet, for over a decade, it is precisely this conceptual framework with which India has guided its own approach in Central Asia. Now,as the Western-led war fails to quell terrorism and insurgency, India has reentered the picture in Western capitals as one of the prospective lynchpins of a regional solution.
Three related questions are explored here. First: what motives drive, and what policies comprise, India’s own Af-Pak strategy? Second: what are the potential and probable trajectories for India? Third:how does its role interrelate with that of other regional stakeholders, particularly the US and Pakistan, and thereby affect the future of the Afghan nation and state? To address these questions, this analysis is organised into five sections.First, India’s strategic perspective in Afghanistan and Pakistan is outlined.
Second, Indian regional policy to date is traced. Third, the emerging Indian debate over the trajectory the country’s approach
should take is documented. Fourth, the path on which India is most likely to settle is explained. Fifth, and finally, the case is made that current interaction of regional powers in Afghanistan precludes an effective regional solution, and will continue to do so unless there is a deeprooted re-configuration of interests.India’s Strategic Perspective India’s extensive and growing footprint in Afghanistan has historical pedigree. From the reign of King Zahir Shah between 1933 and 1973, to the largely unrecognised Soviet-backed communist government of Mohammed Najibullah, New Delhi and Kabul have been close. During the
Taliban interlude, India, along with Russia and Iran, militarily and financially backed the mostly non-Pashtun array of anti-Taliban fighters, otherwise known as the Northern Alliance.2 India considered the ousting of the Taliban fundamentalists in 2001 a major strategic success. It also supported the post-war Bonn Agreement and the presence of US forces, and has emerged as afghanistan’s fifth-largest donor and a key ally of the beleaguered Karzai regime in the aftermath of its disputed election in 2009. Three factors – security, ambition, and energy – inform India’s Afghan strategy and its judgment that it requires a coherent Af-Pak strategy. First, and above all, India has for a long time – and to a far greater extent than the West – perceived its security to be bound up with events in Afghanistan and on its borders.3 The proliferation of terrorist training camps is only one component of the often symbiotic link between the Taliban, affiliated Pakistani militants, Kashmiri groups, and Al-Qa’ida.4
Indeed, one Indian officer has claimed that at the peak of the Taliban’s power,‘about 22 per cent of terrorists operating
in Jammu and Kashmir were either of Afghan origin or had been trained there’.A former Indian ambassador to Afghanistan has argued that ‘much more serious in Indian eyes [than the Taliban treatment of minorities] were the Taliban pronouncements on Kashmir,the training of Kashmiris, Pakistanis, and foreign militants in camps in Afghanistan’ because ‘these touched the core of India’s vital interests and compelled New Delhi to strengthen its support and assistance to the predominantly non-Pashtun
forces led by Burhanuddin Rabbani’.6 These connections were underscored in 1999 when a Pakistani group, Harkatul-Mujahideen, hijacked an aircraft to Kandahar and was subsequently protected by the Taliban, for whom it had previously recruited. This and other principally Pakistani-created jihadi networks, comprising what Ahmed Rashid has called a ‘multilayered terrorist cake’, found hospitable bases of operation in Taliban-governed Afghanistan and, later,Pakistan’s tribal regions and Baluchistan.
Though this multiplicity of groups do not India ’s Af-Pak Strategy Shashank Joshi Since 2001, India has become Afghanistan’s fifth-largest donor, pledging $1.2 billion in funds. Is this merely an attempt to increase leverage over Pakistan, or could India become part of the regional solution on which Western powers have increasingly pinned their hopes? Shashank Joshi analyses the motivations behind India’s own Af-Pak strategy.India considered the ousting of the fundamentalists in 2001 a major success
India has become Afghanistan’s fifth largest donor 21 all share objectives, each has abetted the other such that anti-Indian groups have relied heavily on supposedly parochial groups such as the Taliban, and international groups such as Al-Qa’ida.
The Taliban themselves have expressed condemnation of India’s support for the communist government overthrown in 1992 (and the subsequent Northern Alliance). In a 1998 statement, they reportedly insisted that by backing ‘the puppet Communist regime … India lost all sympathies of the majority of the Afghan people and it appears rather difficult to forget all that’, adding that ‘we obviously support the jihad in Kashmir’.7 Hakimullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban, promised in 2009 that ‘if
we get [an Islamic state], then we will go to the borders and help fight the Indians’.8 India therefore naturally opposes the
panoply of terrorist and insurgent groups.It resists making a distinction between irreconcilable and ‘moderate’ Taliban and opposes the latter’s incorporation into an Afghan government, while also denying suggestions that the US should withdraw from Afghanistan and simply focus on Al-Qa’ida. Most of all, it opposes the prevailing Pakistani stance that the Quetta-based Afghan Taliban are a strategic asset.Arguments that India seeks to counter Pakistani influence are technically
true, but misunderstand the causality.
9 India opposes Pakistan’s influence not primarily on the realist grounds that the accretion of influence to a rival state presents a threat, but on the more specific basis that ‘Pakistan is supporting both sides in Afghanistan’10 through its extensive ‘clandestine backing for proxy terrorist groups’, including the core Afghan Taliban, and affiliates such
as Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.11 Ashley Tellis, a former senior US policy-maker at the State Department and on the National Security Council, has argued that ‘by traditional American standards, Pakistan remains a state sponsor of terrorism, because organs of the Pakistani government
– primarily the army and intelligence services
– continue to either actively support various armed groups that conduct murderous attacks on civilians in India and Afghanistan, or acquiesce to their activities’.
12 Christine Fair, a Georgetown University professor and former UN official in Kabul, told the US legislature that ‘Pakistan has relied upon non-state actors … arguably since its inception in 1947 when it backed a tribal lashkar to invade Kashmir’, and that ‘from at least 1973 onward, Pakistan began a policy of instrumentalising Islamist Pashtun militias to prosecute its foreign policy
objectives in Afghanistan’, producing ‘battle-hardened jihadis and a sprawling infrastructure to produce jihadis’,
13 often given the euphemism of ‘strategic depth’.
14 It is those jihadis and that infrastructure on which Indian strategy has its long-term focus, rather than the Pakistani role per se; in periods when Pakistan’s involvement has differed, such as the period preceding 1973, India has not sought as extensive a strategy. When Ahmed Rashid argues that ‘India backed Kabul simply because of Pakistani support to the Taliban’, he leaves the picture incomplete.
15 In addition to these specific security motivations, India now simply looks further afield than it once did, bolstered Indian Soldiers assigned to the 9th Battalion of the Sikh Infantry arrive aboard USS Boxer to participate in the Malabar exercise in 2006. Photo courtesy of MCSN Joshua Martin/US DoD. by the resources and self-confidence generated by its economic liberalisation
and nuclear tests.16 Where its sphere of interest was once deemed to span from the ‘Middle East to Malacca’, Indian activities now also stretch along the vertical axis from ‘Dushanbe to Diego Garcia’. Where Pakistan once presented a psychological and physical barrier to the north-west, Central Asia is now a cauldron of diplomatic activity for India.
17 In Tajikistan, India has maintained a medical centre at Farkhor, only 2 km from the Afghan border. It was there that wounded Northern Alliance members were treated during the Afghan Civil War, including the dying Tajik commander Ahmad Shah massoud, assassinated only days before 9/11. India also acquired its only foreign military facility at Farkhor, affording short supply lines into Afghanistan and presumably allowing the Indian Air Force (IAF) an alternative route by which it might reach targets inside Pakistani territory.18 India may also possess military access further north at a long-dormant airfield in Ayni, where it has reportedly built three hangers and may station aircraft.19 Concurrently, India has expanded ties with other regional
powers, for instance becoming an active observer in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).Finally, Afghanistan is both a
symbolic and literal stepping stone for flows of goods and resources. The International Energy Agency projects that India’s net oil imports will triple by 2030. At present, the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) supply over a third of India’s oil imports and all of its regularly contracted natural gas.
20 In the interests of diversification, and wary of greater Chinese penetration into the Central Asian market, India has prioritised
the region. Iran, in particular, connects India to Afghanistan (albeit circuitously),which is vital in enabling India to circumvent the overland route blocked by Pakistan. India is also desirous of Tajikistan’s uranium and natural gas, has invested in Uzbek production facilities,and retains interest in a natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan. Afghanistan furnishes a diplomatic and logistical foothold in the heart of the region.
21 India’s aid in nation- and state-building there is therefore both a symptom and enabler of this expansion in strategic and
commercial horizons.India’s Policy to Date India has prosecuted its own strategy primarily using two policy levers: economic
aid, and military capacity-building. Even as India remains a major recipient of official development assistance itself, it has become Afghanistan’s fifth-largest donor, pledging $1.2 billion since 2001 in ‘simple but targeted forms of assistance’.
22 The noted Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid has called India’s reconstruction strategy ‘one of the best planned from
any country’.

23 India constructed Afghanistan’s new $25 million parliament building and trained its legislators – both gestures rich with symbolism. It also donated three Airbus planes to the moribund Afghan national airline, and 600 vehicles.
24 This aid reinforced pre-existing ties with senior members of the government such as Hamid Karzai, who had been educated
in India and had visited New Delhi a half dozen times by 2009.

25 One of the most strategically significant projects, evincing the triad of motives outlined above, is the Indian Border Roads Organisation’s (BRO) construction of a $136 million road that spans the 215 km from Zaranj, on the Iranian border, to Delaram, a town in Herat province. Delaram is also on Afghanistan’s arterial highway, connecting Kabul, Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif,
and Kunduz.
26 Coupled with a prospective rail link from the Iranian port of Chabahar,this will enable India to transport goods
by sea to Iran, and northwards to Afghanistan and Central Asia, with at least three consequences. First, it will likely
amplify the trading relationship between India and Afghanistan. India is the largest single destination for Afghan exports, but
Afghanistan receives only 5 per cent ofits imports from there, as opposed to nearly 37 per cent from Pakistan.

27 The consequent state revenues and economic activity would have long-term benefits.Second, it should lessen Afghanistan’s
dependence on Pakistani ports (both Karachi and the Chinese-developed Gwadar) and thereby reduce Pakistan’s leverage.
28 Third, it will create new and viable supply lines into Afghanistan that could strengthen the Western negotiating position vis-à-vis Pakistan,
29 and increase India’s ability to assist anti-Taliban forces in the event of an American withdrawal or a loss of governmental control. At a lower level, India has contributed to education, health, communications, power and other infrastructure, all of
which has greatly reinforced its soft power.

A Gallup survey of November 2009 revealed that a majority of Afghans surveyed (56 per cent) recognised India’s
role in reconstruction more than any other single group, including the UN (51 per cent) and NATO (44 per cent).Significantly, 59 per cent felt this was a role India ought to play. In contrast, only a third of Afghans saw Pakistan as playing a role in reconstruction – although more expressed a desire for a Pakistani role – and the same proportion saw Pakistan as supporting the Taliban leadership.
30 A separate survey from the International Republican Institute (IRI) saw India top the list of countries perceived to have
good relations with Afghanistan; almost a quarter of Afghans named India, above the US (19 per cent), Iran (17 per cent),
Tajikistan (12 per cent) and Pakistan (5 per cent). The same poll showed 72 per cent of Afghans had a negative view of
Pakistan, more so than even the Taliban(67 per cent). Although figures were not available for negative views towards
India, the balance of evidence suggests it would be considerably less.
31 India’s role in Afghanistan’s security extends to its having ‘supported anti-Taliban attacks from [both] Tajikistan and
Uzbekistan’, in addition to its provision of high-altitude (mountain) warfare equipment worth $8 million, highranking
military advisers, and helicopter technicians from the clandestine arm of its foreign intelligence service.

32 In the post-Taliban period, India has contributed to the training of the embryonic Afghan National Army (ANA) by accepting its officers at a range of Indian defence institutions, such as the National Defence Academy. The Afghan army chief, General Bismillah Khan, has expressed a desire to send greater numbers of combat units to Indian counter-insurgency schools.
33 Indian pilots already train their Afghan counterparts to operate Mi-35 Hind © RUSI JOURNAL FEBRUARY/MARCH 2010
India’s Af-Pak Strategy helicopter gunships, and source supplies for Soviet-era platforms. In 2008, Afghanistan’s defence minister Abdul Rahim Wardak visited India to explore avenues of co-operation, pointedly stopping in the disputed state of Jammu
and Kashmir. India also has around a thousand paramilitary personnel in the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, although these largely guard reconstruction activities rather than engage in counterinsurgency or other active combat.
34 India’s Debate Three factors have catalysed an Indian debate over the future of its engagement with Afghanistan.
First, Pakistan has charged that the Indian role constitutes ‘encirclement’,that Indian consulates have been used as bases for fomenting separatism in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province (where an insurgency has sporadically raged for three decades), and that India seeks to use Afghanistan as a platform for subverting Pakistan. Ahmed Rashid has also claimed that Pakistan’s foreign
intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate, ‘generated enormous misinformation on India’s role’
such as inflating the number of Indian agents and consulates in Afghanistan, propaganda that still finds enormous purchase in mainstream Pakistani accounts of international politics.
35 But the important reaction from Pakistan was violent rather than verbal, as shown when American officials documented
‘intercepted communication between Pakistani intelligence officers and militants who carried out the [2008] attack [on India’s embassy in Kabul]’,emphasising both the ‘direct support’ and that ‘the ISI officers had not been renegades’. Although this was painted as ‘the clearest evidence to date that Pakistani intelligence officers are actively undermining American efforts to combat
militants in the region’, the episode also presented direct proof of Pakistan’s proxy war against India.36 One Indian journalist
argued that ‘India is rapidly becoming one of the most highly favoured targets of terrorists in that country’.
37 India is loath to fold in the face of pressure, and will be required to adequately protect its economic activities.
Second, President Obama’s recent decision to specify a troop drawdown beginning in July 2011 was carefully calibrated to simultaneously subdue domestic opposition, send a signal of sufficient resolve to the Taliban, and pressure the Karzai regime to make reforms and concessions. But it is the prospect of an eroding Afghan government and consequent political vacuum that amplifies incentives for the Pakistani military to connive with the Afghan Taliban and other groups. Domestic American debates overlook the effects of an over-rigid ‘exit strategy’ on Indo-Pakistani relations. In fact both countries are wary of a hasty US
withdrawal. Afghanistan will be forced to seek Indian help both as the US draws back and as Pakistan reactivates dormant
ties to militants, and India will worry that the absence of US forces will engender conditions in which anti-Indian groups
can consolidate and flourish. Third, the Mumbai attacks of 2008 generated enormous domestic pressure on India to take punitive or deterrent action against Pakistan, where the group Lashkar-e-Taiba originated with the state’s help, and is still based. But
then, as in the crisis of 2001-02, India was militarily impotent for fear of inviting nuclear retaliation and facing considerable diplomatic (and, in 2002, commercial) pressure from the US to remain restrained.

38 Although violence in Kashmir has declined over the last year, the salience of the Mumbai attacks highlighted both the danger of terrorism, but also the absence of viable policy responses. Conversely, supporting the Afghan state and, by extension, indirectly curbing militancy on its periphery are both policies within India’s control – regardless of their efficacy.Some Indian voices have called for an escalation. Amir Taheri has written that a military commitment is ‘surprisingly popular in India’. A retired diplomat, M K Bhadrakumar, has noted 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’. In 2008, an editor of a realist Indian
strategic affairs journal made the case that ‘military involvement … will shift the battleground away from Kashmir and the Indian mainland’.

39 A year later,that journal invoked the notion 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] US troops of duties in
areas where they are not actually fighting the Taliban – especially in Western and Northern Afghanistan’.

40 It should be stressed though that these are hitherto marginal arguments, and the dissenting case has been made strongly.
A deployment of Indian troops therefore remains unlikely. The Indian defence minister, A K Anthony, insisted in October 2009 that ‘I am categorically stating that there is no question of Indian military involvement in Afghanistan … not now, not in the future’.
41 Vikram Sood, a former head of India’s foreign intelligence service, the Research and Intelligence Wing (RAW), has written that ‘sending troops … is not an option’.
42 First, any deployment would be inevitably redolent of India’s ill-fated peacekeeping mission to Sri Lanka of 1987-90, during which it suffered 1,200 casualties. In General Stanley McChrystal’s September 2009 report, he argued that ‘while Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people, increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasuresin Afghanistan or India’.
43 Some of the proxies for those countermeasures have likely eluded Pakistan’s direct control in recent years, and both the Kabul embassy bombings and the attacks borne on Indian reconstruction projects indicate the potential costs of escalation. Even
moderate casualties would be hard to sustain in India’s coalition-based politics, where local parties often hold parochial
interests. Although the government’s 2009 election victory shored up its parliamentary base, the significant 23 Shashank Joshi
Pakistan has charged that the Indian role constitutes ‘encirclement’ domestic opposition to the civil nuclear agreement with the US reveals the obstacles to major foreign policy initiatives. The ruling Congress Party is also focused on consolidating India’s
economic development, and would be averse to expending such political capital.Second, although India has six decades of counter-insurgency experience and large reserves of troops on UN missions, the state faces multiple and intensifying insurgencies at home.India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh,famously claimed that the Naxalite-Maoist insurrection was ‘the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country’, adding in 2009 that the country was ‘losing the battle against the … rebels’.
44 In prior years, scores of Indian troops have been embroiled with small numbers of insurgents in Punjab, Kashmir, and elsewhere. Nor have the US and British examples been encouraging, and it is not clear whether the level of the Indian Army’s airlift capacity is better than that which has afflicted British operations. Third, although attacks on Indian soil have sharpened the debate about a deployment, the prospect of more attacks may serve as a deterrent rather than catalyst. Deployed troops would have no more practical retaliatory capacity than the thousands of troops already on the Indo-Pakistani border. Yet,
their very presence, and their inevitable infliction of collateral damage, would both encourage local and India-centric militant groups to target Indian interests, and would jeopardise the favourable local reputation India has established through
its economic footprint.India’s Likely Path The most probable trajectory of India’s strategy is greater use of existing policy
levers. In January 2010, it was reported that the US and Britain were ‘exploring ways to boost India’s role in Afghanistan,
including a controversial proposal for it to train the Afghan National Police’.India’s then National Security Adviser, M K narayanan, acknowledged that ‘we’ve spent quite a lot of time now talking with the Americans … and we’re willing to do
even more. We have the best institution for training the civilian police, and the paramilitary … if you want a civilian police with a little bit of strength to the elbow’.
45 The Indian strategist C Raja Mohan has argued that ‘the best contribution India could make might be in the areas of combat training and creating capacities in logistics and communications’.
46 Extant training has laid the ground for interoperability and Afghan forces broadly trust their Indian counterparts (as compared to the Pakistani military, which has been complicit in subverting non-Taliban government).
47 The army would welcome opportunities to fulfil its institutional ambition, much as the Indian Navy has embraced new tasks in the Indian Ocean region commensurate with its strength, with one retired admiral claiming that India is ‘the best secular
model of an Asian army’.
48 Although the Karzai regime’s reliance on India will naturally rise as American influence wanes, India will also continue its
reconstruction and development projects,which produce political effects surpassing their expense.The Regional Implications
This all has regional implications. Consider,first, the intersection of the Indian and American roles. India’s strategy, policies,
and their likely trajectories are all in substantial harmony with the overhauled American approach of December 2009,in which ‘success hinges on developing Afghan security forces that can control the country on their own’.
49 First, the latent possibility of Indian assistance affords the US much-needed leverage to coerce Pakistan into adjusting its Afghanistan policy. Second, both states recognise the importance of strengthening the ANA:for the US, it is to expedite its drawdown,and for India because a capable Afghan state is deemed to be the only suitable, if imperfect, vehicle for the attrition of the terrorist infrastructure.
50 Third, the bulk of India’s strategy is economic, and thereby accords with the third pillar of the now famous dictum,popularised by General David Petraeus’ Field Manual 3-24 on Counterinsurgency,‘clear, hold, build’. India’s reconstruction
and development is a modest but crucial complement to the clearing and holding that the US anticipates its reinforcements
will achieve. This is important because in numbers, the Indian contribution is larger than the so-called US ‘civilian surge’, and
India’s regional stature suggests that its presence will not be transient.Yet, there is no Indo-US Af-Pak strategy because India’s contribution presents a ‘risk to ongoing [American] cooperative ventures with Pakistan’.
51 Pakistan possesses the longest border with Afghanistan, allows for and protects the land supply of the Western forces there through southern and eastern points of access, and is engaged in military operations against the Pakistani Taliban. In the aftermath of 9/11, Pakistan demanded that ‘the campaign not involve the Indian government or the Indian military’.
52 The populace, who have borne enormous costs from terrorism and the government’s military offensives,
53 are angered by claims the country is not doing enough and the media,encouraged by the army, widely reports that India – along with Israel and the US – is responsible for a spate of bombings inflicted by Pakistani groups.
54 This reflects the intensely dysfunctional nature of the US-Pakistani alliance. The former US ambassador in Kabul wrote, in a secret November 2009 telegram to Washington, that ‘Pakistan will remain the single greatest source of Afghan instability so long as the border sanctuaries remain’. He asked that the US look into ‘the prospects for the Pakistani security services putting
meaningful pressure against the Afghan Taliban, the insurgent sanctuaries and leadership, and Al-Qa’ida’.
55 Other scholars have documented ‘consistent reports that sympathetic elements of the [Pakistani] Frontier Corps have been helping the Taliban’, and argue that ‘Islamabad continues to distinguish among militant groups … and to use the © RUSI JOURNAL FEBRUARY/MARCH 2010 India’s Af-Pak Strategy ‘Pakistan will remain the single greatest source of Afghan instability so long as the border sanctuaries remain’ tribal areas for proxy groups destined for Afghanistan or India’, adding ‘some [such
groups] are even backed by elements in the ISI, Frontier Corps, and military’.
56 The backing includes ‘money, military supplies and strategic guidance to Taliban commanders’, and is compounded by ‘evidence that ISI operatives met regularly with Taliban commanders to discuss whether to intensify or scale back violence before the Afghan elections’ of 2009.
57 One former Taliban minister and Guantánamo Bay detainee has argued in a recent book: ‘The ISI extended its roots deep into Afghanistan like a cancer puts down roots into a human body’,suggesting Pakistani manipulation has even induced considerable resistance from militants.
58 This degree of state sponsorship of terrorism in multiple countries is, needless to say, unusual in a ‘major non-NATO ally’ of the US.For at least six reasons, the US has previously judged that Pakistan’s connivance with Afghan and India-centric
militants is tolerable.First, the ‘primary objective of American efforts … remains the elimination of Al Qa’ida–associated sanctuaries’,
59 and although there is an ongoing debate about the relationship between that group and others whose aims are perceived to be less threatening to American interests, policy has prioritised Osama Bin Laden’s organisation.Second, Pakistan is deemed to
have taken sufficient action against Pakistan-centric groups – it is thought in Washington that any more pressure will
both risk popular support for this action,and empower elements of the Pakistani military who seek accommodation with
anti-state actors.Third, Pakistan retains leverage over the US. As Daniel Markey argues,‘if Islamabad believes Washington is
ignoring its concerns, it can manipulate [its] supply routes to demonstrate its strategic value’ – or worse
60 Aptly, one journalist has invoked ‘a bad marriage in which both spouses have long stopped trusting each other, but would never think of breaking up because they have become so mutually dependent’.
61 Fourth, this leverage has been enhanced by a gradual shift in attention to Pakistan’s internal stability and its nuclear weapons. The emasculation of civilian government, atrophy of political institutions, and cultivation of religious extremist centres of political and educational power are all deemed to have reduced American policy options to the point where Pakistan, like the financial institutions, is ‘too big to fail’, requiring ‘bailouts’ on putative pain of an implosion that would only succeed in creating safe havens for terrorists and radicalising new segments of the population. This image of acute vulnerability and looming
chaos has been assiduously cultivated by the military (though never in relation to the security of nuclear weapons), and
American policy has adapted minimally. The severe casualties borne by the frontline Pakistani security forces have obscured this pattern of military rentseeking. Fifth, India is not in possession of supply lines or local intelligence of equal value, and its influence with Afghanistan is less than that of Pakistan, although few attempts have been made to explore means by which India and other regional actors could reduce US dependence on Pakistan.Sixth, and finally, a ‘working assumption’ has been that ‘Pakistan’s role is not determinative to the conflict in Afghanistan’ and hence not worthy of a coercive effort to transform, drone
attacks notwithstanding.
62 In this context, the US response has been unsurprising, repeatedly if implicitly warning against Indian military involvement,
63 and America has remained reticent about emphasising India’s role.India has in turn responded with caution,and not sought to publicly or intensively transform many of these six factors.These dynamics are of more than local significance. As the Western politicomilitary strategy flounders, there have emerged calls for a ‘regional solution’ – a notion often invoked but rarely elaborated, roughly pertaining to some sort of agreement between the Western coalition and regional parties as to the future status of Afghanistan.
64 Numerous observers have argued that the road to Kabul lies through Kashmir, and that Indo-Pakistani peace would end Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism and insurgency and allow troops on their eastern frontier to re-deploy to the Durand Line. David Miliband has advocated a ‘regional stabilisation council’ to include Pakistan,India and Afghanistan.65 Prem Shankar Jha
has suggested a ‘neighbour’s initiative’that could furnish a ‘core of military power for the new regime to deal with likely challenges to its authority’, including neighbouring states but also Turkey and India.
66 The proximity of these states, and the engagement of their vital interests,makes this a superficially attractive formula. But the precise content of those interests and their interaction point away from a co-operative equilibrium. There are four principal obstacles.First, not all regional actors share Western objectives. Although Iran’s support for the Taliban is likely a shortterm
policy to wear down American forces,
67 it reveals the limits to which the Afghan state is the focal point of regional interests. Regional states (India included) have often exacerbated ethnic fractionalisation by aligning with particular groups to retain channels of influence at the expense of central authority.
68 Additionally, each state, aware of the centrality of Afghanistan to US strategy, is likely to seek concessions in exchange for greater co-operation.Second, India’s policies are carefully calibrated. Its government is not prepared to commit troops, and it is unclear what coercive measures it could or would take against anti-state actors in the event of an American withdrawal.Third, Pakistan’s resistance to an Indian role has increased over time and so would not countenance its institutionalisation.
69 There is every reason to suppose their recourse to nonstate anti-Indian and anti-Afghanistan proxies would intensify in the event of an American withdrawal.Fourth, and most importantly, there is no viable path by which Pakistan, and principally its military establishment,might be assuaged. Barnett Rubin and Ahmed Rashid, two of the most experienced observers of Afghanistan,have argued that ‘pressuring or giving aid to Pakistan, without any effort to address the sources of its insecurity, cannot yield a positive outcome’. They consequently recommend ‘addressing the legitimate 25 Shashank Joshi sources of Pakistan’s insecurity while increasing the opposition to its disruptive actions’.
70 This basic argument is a core element of Pakistan’s public diplomacy,and has been advanced by senior American figures such as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen,
71 and President Barack Obama,who wrote in Foreign Affairs that ‘if Pakistan can look towards the east with confidence, it will be less likely to believe its interests are best advanced through cooperation with the Taliban’.
72 Yet the notion of assuagement is both unrealistic,and a non sequitur that misunderstands the complexity of Pakistani motives.
There are a number of arguments that undermine this received wisdom.Christine Fair argues that ‘as India sees itself as an extra-regional actor and an emerging global power, [it] is unlikely to take steps that, from its optic, would reward Pakistan for using terrorism’.
73 As its power grows, so too will its capacity to resist a forced settlement: akin to the way in which the recurrence of terrorism
reinforces the domestic unwillingness to make concessions. In the short term, India remains unwilling to negotiate with a disenfranchised civilian government in Pakistan and state actors that continue to abet anti-Indian militants. Counter-insurgency expert Andrew Exum has argued that:
74 [M]any US analysts of Pakistan have … internalized the Pakistani narrative that Indian activity is driving Pakistani behaviour toward Afghanistan and its insurgent groups … [but the military] has much invested in its conflict with India and would lose political and economic clout if India no longer presents a serious threat to the state.The military, as an autonomous institution with commercial interests and a dominant political status, has deep organisational motives in reinforcing the image of a grave conventional military threat. Indeed, ‘the Kashmir impasse is symptomatic, not causal, of the deep distrust that exists between the two states’.
75 Furthermore, ideology matters alongside interest. Selig Harrison of the Center for International Policy has argued that ‘the reason for Pakistani support of the Taliban and jihadi forces in Kashmir is that its military and intelligence agencies are riddled with Islamists’.
76 One journal has argued that ‘Islamists infiltrated the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment’s ranks repeatedly, and still
other existing servicemen have adopted their radical views’ – a process likely limited in scope but now three decades old.
77 Finally, Ashley Tellis argues – correctly – that ‘Pakistan has interests in Afghanistan that transcend its problems with India’.
78 No government in Kabul has ever recognised the legitimacy of the Durand Line, and Pakistani leaders have always perceived a threat from Pashtun secessionism.
79 In 1960, Afghan President Mohammed Daud Khan deployed troops to Pakistan’s Bajaur province but was repelled.
80 India is unrelated to this irredentist threat, which will continue to determine Pakistan’s relationship with non-state actors.
None of these three arguments are comprehensive explanations for Pakistani behaviour, but together they suggest that the policy is driven more by durable institutional and ideological interests than specific Indian ‘provocations’. The withdrawal of 30,000 Indian troops from the Line of Control,a quarter of the total, has not produced an apparent shift in Pakistani policy.
Nor has India’s restraint in 2008 after the Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba, whose leader remains free in Lahore, attacked
Mumbai. The Indian government has also entertained a working group’s report on autonomy for Kashmir.

81 In this context,arguments that pin Central Asian peace on a transformation of India’s strategy are unpersuasive and, in all likelihood, utopian.The parameters that govern each state’s calculus have been revealed as rigid, not fluid. The US has shown little willingness to alter the conditions under which it remains reliant on Pakistan and, in some ways, beholden to the Pakistani military establishment’s priorities. Apparent strategic failure, and overwhelming evidence that Pakistan’s interests are grossly misaligned, has not resulted in meaningful recalibration of US or even Western policy. India is loath to appear to appease the use of terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy, and deems its interests in Afghanistan to be significant.It will not lighten its footprint. Nor will it unconditionally back the reintegration of Taliban elements into a national unity government.
82 Forcing a political solution on Afghanistan that India deems to be unduly beneficial to the Taliban is unlikely to have immediately destabilising consequences, but may provoke India (as well as Russia, Iran and other powers) to take measures that more intensely secure its influence.Above all, and barring genuinely transformative regime change, Pakistan’s selective cultivation of militants has not,and will not, change in the foreseeable future, even if India were to bestow concessions in Kashmir by resuming dialogue or in Afghanistan by closing consulates. Amazingly, the enormous costs borne by the Pakistani population at the hands of militants has altered only the selectivity of the cultivation, rather than the overarching policy.
Stephen P Cohen has discussed two options for America. First, he speculates about ‘bring[ing] in the Indians to “balance” Pakistan by providing an alternative land route to Afghanistan’ so as ‘to demonstrate that Pakistani threats to cut off the supply
lines there can be circumvented’. Second, Cohen invokes ‘a comprehensive policy that would place India at the centre of South Asia, with the US working in partnership in New Delhi to ‘fix’ Afghanistan and Pakistan, ‘once and for all’. Both are caricatures (and the latter preposterous), but Cohen poses precisely © RUSI JOURNAL FEBRUARY/MARCH 2010 India’s Af-Pak Strategy Pakistan’s cultivation of militants has not and will not change in the foreseeable future Arguments that pin Central Asian peace on a transformation of India’s strategy are unpersuasive the right question: ‘has [anyone] asked the Indians whether they want the job?’
83 The answer is that they would not, though they correctly fear the consequences of allowing undue space for Taliban
legitimisation and institutionalisation. Co-opting India to the degree envisioned would require a radical realignment of US policy entailing an alteration of the balance between inducement and coercion of Pakistan, and greater support for India on regional issues such as the border dispute with China. It is precisely such a bargain (in reverse) that Pakistan itself proposed in January 2010, claiming that it was ‘ready to facilitate talks to end the Afghanistan conflict – and, implicitly,reduce its support of militancy – in return for greater US backing in its competition with India for regional influence’.

84 The London Conference on Afghanistan in January 2010 produced an apparent consensus on reintegration and rehabilitation of former militants: essentially a large scale bribing of the so-called ‘good Taliban’.
85 Pakistan and the European NATO states were delighted with the result, which accorded with and legitimised the latter’s preannounced withdrawal plans and enhanced the former’s influence. India’s begrudging acceptance of the outcome reflects
both the limited nature of its options and the cautiousness of its diplomacy.But its public statements conceal unqualified and unabated hostility towards the Taliban, acute consciousness of the nexus of militancy that may harden as a result, and, perhaps,a latent willingness to widen and deepen its extant approach to ensure the Afghan state remains consonant with
the Indian strategic objectives outlined earlier.Presently, the confluence of regional interests produces a perverse equilibrium,
and chimerical grand bargains between all the stakeholders are highly unlikely to bear fruit. Afghanistan’s problems extend
far beyond this narrow set of issues, but if the Karzai government were to collapse in the medium term, a partial renewal of
the quasi-proxy civil war of the 1990s is a real prospect – perhaps the one thing worse than a Taliban takeover.

■Shashank Joshi is a doctoral student of international relations in the Department of Government, Harvard University. His research interests are in security studies, military effectiveness, strategic culture, and Indian foreign and defence policy. He is an economics and politics graduate of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University.
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Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
AfPak is one of extensive common interests of US-India ties'

Noting that the influence of India at global stage attest to its pivotal role in shaping the regional security environment, a top US military official has said Washington must ensure that the US-India relationship remains rooted in their extensive common interests.

"Our nation's partnership with India is especially important to long term South and Central Asia regional security and to US national interests in this vital sub-region.

"India's leadership as the largest democracy, its rising economic power, and its influence across South Asia as well as its global influence attest to its pivotal role in shaping the regional security environment," Admiral Robert F Willard, Commander US Pacific Command, said in his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.

We must continue to strengthen this relationship and, while our near-term challenges in Central Command are of great strategic importance, we must ensure the US-India relationship remains rooted in our extensive

common interests, of which the Afghanistan-Pakistan issue is only one, he said.

I think that the India-US relationship right now is stronger than I've ever enjoyed. As you know, because of our history, we've only been truly engaging with India mil-to-mil for about the last half a dozen years; and yet it's been pretty profound how far that's come, Willard said.

We are engaged with India now with regard to their counterterrorism challenges, particularly as it relates to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terrorist group that emanates from Pakistan and attacked into Mumbai, and what we believe to be their presence in areas surrounding India, he said in response to a question.

Later in his interaction with foreign journalists at the Washington Foreign Press Centre, Willard said Pacific Command is now focused in and around India, specifically with regard to Lashkar-e-Taiba.

"Our relationship with India, a strategic partner and like-minded democracy, of great importance in south Asia," he said.

Earlier in his testimony, Willard said the US' relationship has grown significantly over the past five years as both countries work to overcome apprehensions formed during Cold War era, particularly with respect to defence cooperation.


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
India's role in Afghanistan & Af-Pak Strategy

Dr. Shanthie D’Souza’s presentation noted that the Obama administration’s Af-Pak strategy has brought the importance of the region to the forefront as a “hub of terror”. The author notes that US policy in Afghanistan has had its direct ramifications on India. The US withdrawal which is expected to lead to a deterioration of security and conflict will spill over into India. It will compel India to make tough policy choices. While noting that debates on post- US exit strategies are gaining momentum in India, Shanthie suggests that it would be timely to deliberate on available options in case of the US withdrawal.

While attempting to interpret the Af-Pak strategy, the author points out that it appears to be a ‘containment strategy’ aimed at containing the conflict at four levels- Afghanistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan-Pakistan border region and the un-stated goal of improving Indo-Pak relations. Shanthie points out that there is little evidence of change from the previous administration’s short term counter terrorism policy of pursuing a political strategy of supporting institutions and programmes.

Shanthie described the problem areas of the strategy where she notes that analysts in the region have viewed the Af-Pak strategy as a ‘reductionist’ strategy and a prelude to a US exit from Afghanistan. President Obama’s December 1, 2009 speech only reconfirmed such apprehensions.

There are seven problem areas. 1. Draw down of forces; By linking additional troop deployments to a timetable for the drawdown of forces and narrowly defined goals. However, the strategy misses out on the core essentials of COIN campaigns which hinges on time, long term commitment, institution building and a larger political strategy. Moreover, by announcing the exit, it runs the danger of working to the advantage of the insurgents and their sponsors who will ‘wait for their time’. 2.Troops surge- Increase in troops numbers; While an increase in troops numbers for a ‘population centric’ policy is an essential step forward, without clear Rules of Engagement (RoE) in dealing with the tribes, especially the Pashtuns in South and East Afghanistan, it could result in further alienation of the people. 3. Civilian Surge- Problem of Unity of Effort- The present strategy has focused on the civic component or the ‘civilian surge’. But the need is not to send more American experts but to build local Afghan capacities in better governance and aid delivery mechanisms. 4. Building Afghan National Security institutions in a limited time frame- A major problem in outlining a time table for downsizing troops hinges on the need for a phased transition to Afghan national security forces, capable of independent action, to take over from the US forces in 18 months. There is also a problem of mentoring and funding such huge projects. 5. Transferring authority to credible Afghan government- A credibly elected Afghan president and his capacity to extend his writ beyond Kabul are critical to an eventual US exit plan. The shortcomings of the electoral process, redressal mechanisms and re-election procedures have highlighted the problems associated with the lack of political sector reforms. 6. Issues of sanctuaries and safe havens- The author points out that in the present scenario, increased dependence on the Pakistan army and without addressing the issue of ‘sanctuaries’, selected targeting of the Pakistani Taliban will not significantly dent the Afghan Taliban capability in the long term. 7. Sources of funding of insurgency- One of the major short comings of the present strategy is the lack of attention paid to the sources of funding for the insurgency. After this, the paper deals with the regional responses regarding American intentions in Afghanistan.

In the next section, Shanthie discusses India-Afghan relations. While highlighting the historical developments, she mentions that India’s relations with Afghanistan have been shaped by shared history, geography, culture and economy. On post 9/11 Afghanistan, India took an active role as an ‘ideational power’ by adopting a soft approach aimed at long term stabilization, institution building and augmenting economic growth in Afghanistan; integrating Afghanistan in the South Asian framework and reviving the role of Afghanistan as a ‘land bridge’ connecting South Asia with Central Asia. India is the sixth largest bilateral aid donor country, pledging 1.2 billion dollars and invested in diverse areas such as infrastructure, communications, education, healthcare, social welfare, training of officials, institution building etc.

While describing the challenges to India’s aid policy in Afghanistan, Shanthie points out that India needs to accept responsibilities and risks that come with that stature. The growing bonhomie between India and Afghanistan, coupled with the increased presence of India’s development projects in Afghanistan, remains the target of the Taliban-led insurgency. Also geopolitical rivalry continues to shape Pakistan’s response to the increasing bonhomie between India and Afghanistan. The deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan has serious consequences for India’s security interests.

Shanthie has generated three plausible scenarios for the future of Afghanistan. Scenario 1- US withdrawal or draw down of forces- Return of the Taliban; The author points out that in case of a complete US withdrawal, the probability of the return of the Taliban is not far fetched, thereby condemning Afghanistan to what US analysts as the worst case scenario. This would also lead to an emboldening of the Al Qaeda, instability spreading to Pakistan and Central Asia, thus reducing the region to become a base for Al Qaeda operations. Scenario 2- US limited engagement-‘proxy war’; The most probable scenario beyond 2011 is the reduced US presence in Afghanistan with troops limited to protecting key cities, a shift from overstretched counterinsurgency operations to internal defence. This would allow Pakistan to continue its ‘hedging’ strategy whereby it will continue supporting the Afghan Taliban to destabilise Afghanistan with the eventual goal of reinstating a pliant regime. Scenario 3- US long term commitments- Building on Afghan state capacities; According to the author, this is the best case scenario for Afghanistan, though such a state of affairs is highly unlikely given the reduced public support for the Afghan war in the United States. This would call for additional resources including troops to train and partner with Afghan forces and continuation of the institution building programmes. In this scenario, India could play a long term role in the training of the Afghan national institutions, institutional building political, and security and justice sector reforms.

In the last section, the author suggests policy options for India. According to Shanthie, India can play an active role in training and building the capacity of Afghan national security forces. India should also reestablish its support base among the Pastun tribes and invest in acquiring better human intelligence. These support groups can be cultivated as protectors of Indian aid projects by making community participation and local ownership a key plank of India’s aid policy. The author cautions that these goals should be achieved in the next 18 months.

However in the scenario of US limited engagement in Afghanistan beyond 2011, India could continue with its assistance programme in Afghanistan. Shanthie argues that in a revamped diplomatic strategy, India can work towards creation of Concert of Powers’- a regional grouping including US, Russia, EU, India, Iran, Central Asian Republics and China. India could play a lead role in carving out a greater role for the United Nations and deployment of UN forces in Afghanistan symbolizing the UN Security Council’s endorsement would not entirely be a misplaced policy option.

Shanthie concludes her presentation by suggesting that in near terms, India needs to pursue a reinvigorated Afghan policy in terms of protecting its projects and carving out a larger regional role in the stabilization of Afghanistan. India needs to consider near term and long term scenarios to rethink its political, diplomatic and military options. Given the limited time frame, before the summer 2011, India will have to make tough policy choices.

Points raised during the discussion.

Obama administration should come out with a clear and determined Afghan policy. With frequent changes in the AF-Pak strategy, desired results can not be achieved.
Indian policy makers will have to take bold initiatives to develop a regional mechanism to effectively deal with terror activities in the region.
Afghan nation building is essential to effectively solve its problems. The international community should take effective steps towards this direction. India can play a lead role in this process.
Too much reliance on Pakistan in the Afghan war is not the right approach. Regional players such as India, Iran Russia and China should be given more space in order to seek an Afghan solution.
However a solution can only come from within Afghanistan. Global and regional players can help them achieving it.


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
AfPak: Indian threat assessment

K Subrahmanyam
There are clear indications of Pakistan projecting a radical change in respect of its policies towards the five Jehadi entities listed in President Obama’s Pak-Af strategy, in his West Point speech on 1st December, 2009. Al Qaeda, Afghan Taliban, Pakistani Taliban, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the Haqqani network had all been cited as the extremist enemies, which are to be disrupted, dismantled and defeated. Pakistan had earlier initiated military action against the Pakistani Taliban which had challenged the Pakistani state.
Commenting on this operation and about the perceived difference in Pakistan’s attitude towards other Jehadis, Admiral Dennis Blair, the US Director of National Intelligence in his Annual Threat Assessment statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee on 2nd February, 2010 said “Islamabad’s conviction that militant groups are an important part of its strategic arsenal to counter India’s military and economic advantages will continue to limit Pakistan’s incentive to pursue an across-the-board effort against extremism…….Islamabad has maintained relationships with other Taliban-associated groups that support and conduct operations against US and ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) forces in Afghanistan,….It has continued to provide support to its militant proxies, such as Haqqani Taliban, Gul Bahadur group, and Commander Nazir group…..The Al Qaeda, Afghan Taliban, and Pakistani militant safe haven in Quetta, will continue to enable the Afghan insurgents and Al Qaeda to plan operations, direct propaganda, recruiting and training activities, and fundraising activities with relative impunity.”
On 8/9 February, Pakistani authorities arrested five members of the Quetta Shura including Mullah Barader, Commander of the Afghan Taliban and Deputy to Mullah Omar, the Taliban Chief and more than a hundred militants, including two Al Qaeda people. Since then, the Pakistani media – both electronic and print – have launched a virulent campaign against the Taliban and its threat to Pakistan. Foreign Minister Quereshi has asserted that these actions had been taken in Pakistan national interest. Senior US leaders, such as the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, Senator John Kerry and Ambassador Holbrook have praised the changed Pakistan policy of cooperation with US intelligence and strategy.
The White House Press Secretary has also warmly endorsed the change. The Pune Bakery explosion and attack on the Indian residents’ hostel in Kabul, both believed to have been carried out by LET, happened only after this supposed shift in policy. It is therefore an issue calling for very careful assessment by our security establishment: what is the nature, scope and significance of this policy change and what are likely to be its implications for the Indian security.
The change of policy may be looked at, in terms of four possible alternative scenarios. The first, and least likely one, is that the move is a sincere one and the Pakistani Army, which is the real ruler of Pakistan, has decided to fall in line with the US strategy of fighting all the five jehadi groups described by President Obama as cancers eating into the vitals of Pakistan and posing an existential threat to that country. Such a change in policy would however, not resonate with the extremely harsh stand taken by the Pakistani Foreign Secretary in the Indo-Pak Talks on 25th February, the two explosions in Pune and Kabul and encouragement of Hafiz Saeed (the real leader of LeT) to call for war against India.
The second alternative is that Pakistan is convinced that the US will withdraw from Afghanistan by mid 2011 and it is trying to pretend to go along with US – so as to take over Afghanistan after US departure. The Taliban will be asked to hibernate till the US departure.
The third possible scenario is that Pakistan hopes to deceive US as it successfully did in 2001. It is pretending to take action against the Jehadi groups but will protect them from American action so that they can play their role after the expected US departure.
The last and most complicated and realistic scenario is that the Americans are fully aware of the possibility of Pakistanis attempting to cheat them and notwithstanding this - they are going along with the Pak establishment to get the Taliban resistance reduced in the initial stages of the surge.
The US hopes to intensify its drone attacks. Already they are becoming increasingly effective against the jehadi leaders. If the Americans find that Pakistanis are double-crossing them as they did in 2001, there may be a confrontation between the two. Washington is keeping the Pakistanis on a tight leash by regulating release of coalition support funds, at a time when the Pakistani financial situation is extremely difficult. The US forces have stepped up their capability to monitor the communications and movements of Jehadi groups. They have the option of extending the drone strikes further interior into Pakistan to target the jehadi leaders. As such attacks increase, there is the possibility of Jehadis turning against Pakistani Army and cities as happened in the case of Pakistani Taliban. If that were to come about, Pakistan will be left with no alternative but to join the US in real war against the jehadis.
The terrorist threat to India will vary according to the scenario most likely to materialize. If Pakistanis are sincere on their change of policy, the threat to India will be minimal. For reasons explained earlier, this is the least likely scenario. In the case of scenarios two and three, which involve the Jehadis being kept in hibernation within Pakistan, the probability of terrorist attacks are relatively higher because of the compulsions to keep up their morale. In the case of the last scenario, the threat is perhaps the highest, till such time Pakistanis are compelled to fight their existential war. In such an eventuality, while the Pakistani state-sponsored terrorism may go down, the sleeper cells that have been already positioned may become active. Since any deception strategy by Pakistan is likely to get exposed in the next three or four months, that period will pose much higher risks of terrorist attacks on India.
If the US has a strategy to counter Pakistan’s deception, it will be in India’s interest to correlate its own counter-terrorism strategy with a broader American one. But given the nature of the counter-terrorism war against Pakistan, the US may not share its strategy with India in advance. This places India in a dilemma in assessing whether America is being taken for a ride (as it was during the Bush period) or is it biding its time to initiate a counter-terrorism attack to full effectiveness.

The first assessment will call for counter-measures by India in case of a terrorist attack while the second assessment may call for very restrained response. This judgment calls for very close interaction and coordination between the security establishments of India and US. While it is unrealistic to expect the US to reveal its counter-terrorism action plans in the Pak-Af area to the Indian authorities, it is in US interest to let India know their assessment of the Pakistani change in policy. Otherwise there is a risk of Delhi and Washington working at cross-purposes. That should be avoided at all cost.


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
AfPak dialectics can work in India’s favour

Concerns being expressed in India over its imminent marginalisation in the future set-up in Afghanistan are understandable, but only in a static geo-strategic context with the pre 9/11 world as the point of reference. Before 9/11, Pakistan ruled the roost in Afghanistan through its Taliban proxies. Afghanistan was transformed into a hub of Islamist terror groups who received sanctuary, ideological indoctrination and motivation, and most of all, terrorist training in camps that were run as a joint venture between jihadists and ISI operatives. India, which faced the brunt of the export of Islamic terrorism by Pakistan, had gone blue in the face trying to draw the attention of the international community to the dangers that the radical Islamist terror groups posed to the civilized world. The Americans and all the other Western countries knew what was happening but chose to ignore the emergence of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan as Terror Central simply because they were not being directly affected by the terrorism emanating from there. But then 9/11 happened, and everything changed.

A decade after that epochal event, the Taliban with a lot of help from Pakistan, are poised to make a comeback in Afghanistan. The Americans, staring defeat in the face, are all set to abandon Afghanistan to the depredations of the Taliban, albeit under the fig leaf of “reintegration and reconciliation” and the hope that the Taliban will live up to their promise of severing links with al Qaeda. The fear in India is that once the Americans quit Afghanistan, and outsource it to Pakistan, there will be a return to the bad old days when Afghanistan served as the base camp for terrorists from all over the world. The American exit will remove the purported reason of conflict between the Islamists and their patrons, the Pakistan Army. What is more, it will also ease the pressure (domestic or international) on the Pakistan Army to clean up the swamps of Islamist terror that exist in Pakistan. The Pakistan Army will be more than happy to make its peace with the Islamists and allow them to function with impunity, provided they do not peddle their terrorist wares inside Pakistan.

The way the Indians see it, the Pakistani establishment will be quite comfortable making deals with the Islamists and leaving them to their devices. So much so that it really has no problem with the emergence of tiny Islamic emirates in remote parts of the country. Such emirates will keep the potentates and warlords of these medieval enclaves satisfied with their fiefdoms and leave them with little reason to mess with the Pakistani state. Anyone who doubts this just needs to look at the attitude of the Pakistan Army towards the Taliban in Swat.

The fact is that the Pakistan Army did not appear to be very agitated over the Taliban takeover of Swat. It was not until alarm bells started ringing around the world after the Taliban entered Buner, that the Pakistan Army was forced to launch an operation against the new rulers of Swat. The military offensive in South Waziristan, Bajaur and other Tribal Agencies was partly forced upon the Pakistan Army by the Americans and partly motivated by the Pakistan Army’s need for reining in Jihadists who were targeting mainland Pakistan under the misguided notion that the Pakistan Army was actively and sincerely aiding the American war effort. With the Americans gone, the Pakistani Taliban will also become more amenable to peace deals with the Pakistan Army. If they continue to resist, the Pakistan Army will have them removed from the scene by not only mounting operations against them but also by exploiting cleavages within the ranks of the Pakistani Taliban and propping up a pliant warlord against a recalcitrant one.

The Indians fear that while all this is happening, the Americans and other Western countries will conveniently turn a blind eye to the activities of the Taliban and their Pakistani associates, who under Pakistani influence will have expelled the al Qaeda, or at least have kept them under a very tight leash. The Islamists’ urge for jihad will be used initially to purge Afghanistan of those who dissent against the Taliban version of Islam. After the general massacres in Afghanistan are over, and complete domination is established over that hapless country, the energies of the jihadists will be directed to Islamist causes in places like India, Russia, perhaps China, Shi’ite Iran, Israel, Malaysia, Indonesia and what have you.

It is precisely to prevent this scenario from unfolding that India invested so heavily in Afghanistan. The Indian interest in Afghanistan has always been that it should not fall prey or become a playground for Pakistan’s policy of using jihad as an instrument of state policy against India. Afghanistan also served as an important listening post for India which was able to keep a close watch over developments inside Pakistan. Since India does not share a land border with Afghanistan, it is close to impossible for India to get militarily involved in Afghanistan. Given this limitation, India used its soft power and its financial clout to support regimes in Afghanistan that resisted Pakistan's onslaught. India’s development activities in Afghanistan – roads, schools, hospitals, scholarships for higher education, technical training and capacity building of Afghan civil servants, communications and power projects etc. – have created a lot of goodwill among common Afghans. Unfortunately, the massive investment that India has made in improving the lives of Afghans is likely to run aground because the Americans have allowed Pakistan to get away with its double game on the issue of Taliban.

The Pakistanis know that they can only destroy Afghanistan, not develop it. Not surprisingly, Pakistan's Army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani has made it clear that Pakistan has no problem if Indians continue their development activities in Afghanistan, but with the implicit caveat that such activities will have to be with the concurrence and under the supervision of the Pakistanis. Clearly, like in their own case, the Pakistan Army do not mind the moolah flowing in but cannot quite countenance the influence that comes with it, even less so if it involves India. Perhaps the Pakistan Army believes that it can dictate terms to the Indian government, just like it does within Pakistan where the civilian government is reduced to a glorified municipality.

Without delving too much into the delusions and illusions that the Pakistan Army suffers about India, the reality is that once the Americans throw in the towel, India will have to cut its losses and leave Afghanistan. Rather than spend good money after bad in Afghanistan, it probably makes more sense for India to use this money to start building up its defences against the export of terrorism from Pakistan that is bound to re-start in the coming months.

Of course, the scenario painted above is really the worst case scenario for India and is predicated on things returning to the pre-9/11 situation. India must therefore start to prepare for the worst case scenario. This involves not only putting in place a security architecture that can effectively combat terrorism flowing in from Pakistan but also bolstering the Indian military machine to acquire an overwhelming, overbearing and overpowering superiority over Pakistan. What is more, India should stop frittering its resources on what is for the foreseeable future a hopeless cause – Afghanistan.

But while doing all this, India must bear in mind that there are very good chances that instead of the worst case scenario unfolding exciting new strategic opportunities could open out by Pakistan’s greater involvement in Afghanistan. And the reason for that is simple: it is no longer the pre-9/11 world.

While the prospect that Taliban ascendancy will leave India with no feet to stand on in Afghanistan is being welcomed in Pakistan with unmistakable glee, both Pakistan’s triumphalism and India’s concerns are somewhat misplaced because there is a very good chance that, more by default than by design, the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan will cause far greater harm to Pakistan than any damage it will do to India. Rather than fret about American withdrawal from Afghanistan, India should actually welcome it because this will be the beginning of the end of the unnatural alliance in the War on Terror between the United States and Pakistan, an alliance that has propped up Pakistan for so long and rewarded it for recalcitrance and double-dealing.

Clearly, the international community’s approach to Afghanistan and, by extension Pakistan, in 2011 is likely to be very different from what it was on the eve of 9/11 in 2001. If Pakistan thinks that it can turn the clock back to the time when the West turned a blind eye to Pakistan's shenanigans in Afghanistan and allowed it a free run in using jihad as an instrument of state policy, it is mistaken. If anything, as and when the Americans pack up and abandon Afghanistan, Pakistan is going to come under even greater international pressure, and what is worse, it will have lost most, if not all, the leverages that it is currently exploiting to make the Americans follow its line on Afghanistan.

Apart from the rising economic costs of fighting the war, there are two big compulsions that will confront the United States as long as it remains in Afghanistan: one, body-bags of American troops engaged in anti-insurgency operations; two, supply lines that run through Pakistan. Once the United States leaves Afghanistan, it will no longer be hobbled by these debilitating compulsions that are probably preventing it from pushing the Pakistanis too hard. Quitting Afghanistan will, however, not mean quitting the region. In all likelihood, the United States will move out of Afghanistan into Pakistan. The kind of investment that the United States is making inside Pakistan suggests that the US intends to increase its presence in Pakistan manifold. Even though there will not be US troops present inside Pakistan, there will be a large number of diplomats and spooks who will be keeping a hawk-eye on developments in Pakistan.

If the Americans have not already understood, then perhaps they will understand soon that their real strategic challenge lies not so much in Afghanistan as in Pakistan. Much of the support, sanctuary, resources, recruits, training, and what have you, for the Islamists comes through Pakistan. If the West can control Pakistan, it will be able to get a hold of Afghanistan, even ignore it. Within Pakistan, the problem is really the Army. Civilian leaders are sensible enough to realise the destruction fostered on the country by the jihadist policies of the Pakistan Army. Left to themselves, the civilians would be more than amenable to move decisively to dismantle the jihadist infrastructure. The problem is that the Pakistan Army will not let the civilians decide the national security strategy. And given the structural weaknesses in Pakistan's polity, the civilians succumb easily to the line drawn for them by the military. Therefore, if the West really wants reform inside Pakistan it will have to empower the civilian leadership and make the military subservient and obedient to the civilian authority.

As long as the United States remains dependent on Pakistan for its operations in Afghanistan, it will be difficult for it to force compliance on the Pakistan Army. But once the United States is rid of its Afghan compulsions, the boot will be on the other foot. From that point on, the leverages will be in US hands and the compulsions will be all Pakistan’s. The single most important leverage that the United States holds is aid and trade. The United States is already giving nearly $5 billion per annum in direct assistance to Pakistan. Add to this the multilateral funding, the assistance that US allies give Pakistan, and the Friends of Democratic Pakistan programmes, and the figure reaches close to $10 billion per annum. This huge amount of money is just enough to keep Pakistan afloat.

If the United States pulls the plug on Pakistan, it can ravage the Pakistani economy. And one is not even talking about the market access that the United States and its allies give Pakistan or the defence equipment that Pakistan gets from the West. The bottom line is that the Pakistanis need the Americans more than the other way round and this factor will come into play once the Americans withdraw from Afghanistan. The compact between the United States and Pakistan will start to loosen up because the Americans will lean more heavily on Pakistan and insist that it delivers on its side of the bargain – keeping a tight leash on the Islamist mafias and militias. This will be a catch-22 situation for the Pakistanis: if they try to deliver on American demands, it will pit the Pakistanis against the Islamists, even those Islamists who for tactical reasons continue to act on the behest of Pakistani intelligence agencies and often assist and protect Pakistani interests by attacking Indians in Afghanistan; on the other hand, if the Pakistanis continue with their double-game, it will pit them against the United States and its allies.

The Pakistanis are, of course, convinced that they will be able to deliver in large measure to the American demands. As they see it, with the Americans out of Afghanistan the issue at the heart of the conflict will be removed and things will settle down in the AfPak region. What is more, the Pakistanis believe that with Afghanistan being outsourced to them by the Americans, not only will Pakistan gain its much desired ‘strategic depth’, it will at the same time earn top dollar from the West for its services. The problem is that while all this sounds good in theory, its practise will be an altogether different thing.

The main reason for Pakistan’s confidence is the influence it has on the Taliban supremo, Mullah Omar, who all the Islamists acknowledge as the Amir-ul-Momineen (leader of the faithful). The Pakistanis think that they can get Mullah Omar to break the Taliban-al Qaeda alliance and have the international jihadists and Islamists expelled from Afghanistan. This, the Pakistanis feel, will be enough for the Americans. Mullah Omar who is probably in the safe custody of the Pakistanis has always dissuaded his followers from targeting Pakistan. But while Mullah Omar has stayed loyal to his Pakistani benefactors, and might continue to follow Pakistani diktats after regaining power in Afghanistan, the big question is whether his followers will follow this line? Even now, there is a large section among the Islamists who pledge allegiance to Mullah Omar but do not listen to him when it comes to attacking the Pakistan Army.

Unlike Mullah Omar, who, having enjoyed Pakistani hospitality, might be amenable to break links with al Qaeda, his followers, who have been fighting on the ground and who have been radicalised over the last nine years, are not likely to follow Omar’s edicts either in letter or spirit. Field commanders like the Haqqani’s will want to keep their links with their fellow combatants in al Qaeda alive. They are also likely to espouse Islamist causes all over the world because after having defeated the sole superpower they will be inclined to spread their virulence in lands near and far. At the very minimum, both Islam as well as tradition will be used to provide sanctuary to all sorts of terrorists, fugitives, desperadoes from around the world, making the AfPak region Terror Central all over again. If Mullah Omar opposes the Islamists, he could be repudiated, accused of selling out and even removed from the scene. After all, history is full of instances of self-proclaimed Amir-ul-Momineens being assassinated by their followers.

Notwithstanding the self-serving gloss being put by the Pakistanis on the motives of the Taliban – that they are fighting a war of national liberation, that they do not subscribe to Jihad International, that many of the combatants are seeking revenge for the deaths of their loved ones, that Pashtun xenophobia is driving the resistance, etc. – the incontrovertible fact is that the primary motivation of the Islamists is an extremely barbaric and intolerant interpretation of Islam that is incapable of living in peace with any other peoples who do not subscribe to their world view. Therefore, if Mullah Omar treads the moderate path on Pakistani instructions, he will be going against his own followers. And if he sticks to the radical path then he will be going against his benefactors in Pakistan. In either case, American prodding will get Pakistan sucked into the Afghan quagmire, which in turn will increase its dependence on American monetary and military assistance.

Pakistan can, of course, choose to defy the rest of the world and cast its lot with the jihadists. But unlike the jihadists the Pakistanis have a lot to lose and cannot really afford to face the wrath of the world. The Pakistanis also know that once the international community walks out of Afghanistan, the entire burden of an economically unviable Afghanistan will fall on Pakistan's head, a burden that Pakistan cannot bear without international assistance, which will not be forthcoming unless Pakistan delivers on the concerns of the international community.

The reason why India does not need to lose too much sleep over being forced out of Afghanistan is that the dialectics of the situation will ultimately benefit India. If Pakistan succumbs to American pressure, it will continue to be engaged in a long war of attrition on its western borders, something that suits India. If Pakistan resists American pressure, it will be isolated in the world and the international community will have to fall back upon India to put a firewall around the AfPak region. All India needs to do now is to hold its nerve and position itself to exploit the situation as it evolves in its favour.


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
2011 and beyond: Visualising Af-Pak

Getting the hard core Taliban to concede the fight without loss of face is preferable to destroying them. The latter course is rendered risky by the linkages between the Afghan Taliban, Pakistani Taliban and Punjabi Taliban and their penetration of the Pakistani state and society. Barack Obama in his speech to West Point cadets has indicated that Western troops would begin exiting Afghanistan by July 2011. This date has come in for considerable criticism,much of it misinterpreting it as one by which the United States would have substantially exited Afghanistan. The more accurate understanding of the deadline is that it is the beginning of the military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Clearly, the exit of Western troops, in particular that of the United States, could be an extended affair. In Iraq, for instance, the phased withdrawal has been spread over three years. Likewise, in Afghanistan, it would be predicated on the prevailing conditions and particularly the ability of the Afghan security forces to cope with the insurgency. Obama noted that the United States would continue to ‘assist’ Afghan security forces. Therefore, with the fighting outsourced to the Afghans, the United States could progressively disengage and withdraw. Obama has accepted that his deadline is meant to concentrate minds and direct efforts.
Specifically, it would bring a sense of urgency to training the Afghan military and improving the quality of governance. The ‘surge’ is to militarily tame the Taliban, while action on these two fronts proceeds at high tempo. The specification of a date provides a reason for Europeans to hang in and also has implications for Obama’s re-election prospects. Visualising how the conflict will play out till 2011 would best indicate whether the setting of a date was a good idea. Critics have it that the Taliban would simply wait out the Americans in keeping with their refrain, ‘You have the watches; we have the time!’ Their Pakistani minders would be less amenable to American pressure to ‘go after’ the Taliban, hoping to use them for their own strategic purposes later. Expecting to create a turnaround in the situation as was done in Iraq’s Anbar province through the Awakening campaign is to fix a template on to a problem of larger and more varied dimensions. Ironically, Obama can only silence his critics by taking their critique seriously. Doing so would help arrive at solutions to the problems his critics anticipate. For instance, if it is not
possible to make a viable fighting force out of the ANA in a short period of one and half years, then what is ‘Plan B’? Two answers suggest themselves. One is to involve the neighbours who are fearful of a
Taliban return to strengthen the present dispensation in Kabul, both during the transition and in a post-NATO environment. For instance, India could participate more directly and with full throttle in the training and governance aspects. Presently, it has a muted profile in training the ANA and civil service officers at its institutions in India. Its contribution of US $1.2 billion for developmental projects is better known. This engagement can widen and
deepen with military training teams on the ground. The issue of trainers in commando operations in Afghanistan reportedly came up during the visit of the chief of US Pacific Command, Admiral Willard, to India recently. The advantage for the United States of having India in the background is that it places additional pressure on Pakistan and presents the Taliban with the unmistakable message that it will not be allowed to win.
The second is in an expansion of the scope of American engagement with the Taliban. Pakistan has accepted that it can exercise its influence with the Taliban in favour of a negotiated end to the conflict. Saudi Arabia has also brokered talks with the Taliban. The British have talked to Taliban commanders at the tactical level. This engagement has been so far for the limited purpose of breaking the cohesion of the Taliban by separating the ‘moderate’ from the ‘bad’ Taliban. It has greater potential for success now that Obama has set a date for the departure of foreign troops – the ‘nationalist’ grievance of many Taliban fighters. The possibility of their departure will increase with results yielded by this political effort in conjunction with the surge. The ANA, along with the warlords and the converted Taliban,would be able to handle the ‘hard core’ Taliban.The problem with both options is that they envisage continuing conflict, amounting to an externally supported civil war post-2011. In case Pakistan and India end up backing their respective proxies, no peace would result, even if the Taliban would be kept away from
power. In the second case, the result would be an Afghanisation of the conflict with a rump Taliban, most likely supported by Pakistan, continuing to challenge the state. This may be acceptable for the United States, since it basically wants to ensure that global terrorism does not acquire a presence there once again. However, it is not in the best interests of the Afghan people or of the region since the Afghans would continue to fight against each other and the regional powers would end up supporting their respective proxies.What alternatively should be done? Getting the hard core Taliban to concede the fight without loss of face is preferable to destroying them. The latter is rendered risky by the linkages between the Afghan Taliban, Pakistani Taliban and Punjabi Taliban and their penetration of the Pakistani state and society. While Pakistan may prove capable eventually of rolling
back the Taliban, there are uncertainties in this regard. What is certain however is the expansion of instability in Pakistan. Bringing the hard core Taliban over-ground is therefore the strategic problem.The first move has already been made in a date being announced by Obama. He has further indicated that he would back any initiative of Karzai to negotiate. Thus, in principle, the Americans are not averse to a political settlement. The manner this is brought about should not result in triumphalism, and thus a tendency to expansionism, by the Taliban. This would require diplomatic skills, time and military pressure generated by the ‘surge’. To ensure an outcome that is visible by the end of 2010, engagement of the hard core Taliban needs to begin early and in earnest. It would obviate the feared expansion of the conflict. The problem with waiting to forge a connection with the Taliban lies in violence acquiring a momentum of its own, particularly within Pakistan.Thus, a preliminary understanding needs to be arrived at first. The Taliban would have to dissolve their ties with al Qaeda, which is the basic US demand. Suitable sweeteners by Saudi Arabia can enable that effort. Pakistan would be required to guarantee the Taliban’s good behaviour. At the same time, Pakistan would have to concede to India’s demand for discontinuing the proxy war in order to generate additional space within Afghanistan for its Taliban proxy. Afghanistan’s neutrality would need to be under-written by all regional players. The international community, with the United States, Europe, China and India in the lead, could concentrate on reconstruction. A regional conference engaging with what Pakistan refers to as a ‘grand bargain’ could subsequently ink a deal along these lines. The role of the UN and the regional organisation, SAARC, could be built into this deal to help soften the otherwise prickly inter-state interface.For such a convergence of minds, the idea that the hard core Taliban can be engaged with needs to be accepted. Admittedly the prospects are not bright, given that since the Obama speech Petraeus has required Pakistan to continue its military actions. Obama has also said that given hard intelligence, strikes would not spare Pakistani territory. Reports have it that Pakistan has rebuffed US pressure to go after the Haqqani faction of the Afghan Taliban.On the Taliban side, the escalation in violence mounted by the Pakistani Taliban in Pakistan underscores their truculent mood, reflecting their dismissal earlier of Obama’s speech. This is set to expand, given reports of the Pakistan Army readying to chase the Pakistani Taliban which had fled South Waziristan into Orakzai and elsewhere.
However, if the conflict is to wind-down by 2011 to enable the departure of Western troops, there is no other alternative but to get the Taliban on board. While prospects for progress exist, there are lurking dangers in neglecting this alternative. The al Qaeda is not an overweening threat any more. Its continuing influence over the Taliban is dependent on their being on the same side in the conflict. The Taliban cannot recapture power since regional
players would not allow it to, even if the United States were to leave. A time frame has been set on Western departure, meeting the Taliban’s demand. The prospects of enlargement in scope and area of violence in Pakistan, to include the port city Karachi, are daunting. Getting only a portion of the Taliban on board would not end the conflict, but instead threatens to expand it. An end to the violence in Afghanistan is in the interest of the Afghans, whose interests all neighbours, including India and Pakistan, claim to be supporting. In case factional conflict supported by any of the neighbours continues, the conflict would simmer and eventually expand to affect other dimensions of inter-state relations. Therefore, rethinking the stand against engaging the hard core Taliban is in order.What does this mean for India? It involves a policy reorientation in terms of India reaching out to the Taliban and curtailing the current policy of containing Pakistan in Afghanistan.Though seemingly a difficult proposition, in principle policies are amenable to adjustment depending on what suits the national interest in a given circumstance. In case Pakistan is willing to concede Indian demands in terms of discontinuing the proxy war, then India need not be averse to a negotiated accommodation of the Taliban in the power structure in Kabul. This enabling approach of India would help forge ties afresh with the Taliban. Its soft power and economic attraction can bring the Taliban to see the advantages of continued association. Having Pukhtun friends across Pakistan’s Punjabi heartland is in keeping with the tenets of Chanakya’s ‘Mandala’ philosophy.The time is ripe for India to play a constructive role. Presently, it has invested considerably in Afghanistan. It has restricted Pakistan’s pursuit of ‘strategic depth’. India is in a position to protect these gains through its continued support for the Karzai regime along with the West and other regional players. However, an unstable Pakistan on its borders and pursuit of a war by proxy in Afghanistan is not in India’s interest. Pakistan has many advantages in playing the role of a spoiler. It could expand the proxy war in Afghanistan or re-ignite trouble in Kashmir, leading to regional instability. Thus, the current juncture is opportune for switching to a proactive regional role.Will Pakistan bite? Firstly, it is aware that Indian and US concurrence would be required for reinserting the Taliban in Kabul’s power equations. Therefore, negotiations hold promise. Secondly, it is beset with internal problems and is wary of giving jihadist forces any more space, particularly since their action could provoke India beyond a point of no return. Although it is not in a position to act against these forces, it can cease looking at them as strategic assets if the inducement is right. A Kashmir on the mend and greater play in Afghanistan are adequate sweeteners. Thirdly, it has exhibited restraint in Kashmir of late. It
is watching the positive developments on the Indian side of Kashmir involving the revival of a dialogue between India and the separatists and the reported pull out of some military and paramilitary forces. This makes Kashmir recede further from Pakistan’s radar screen.Lastly, state survival is predicated on an introspective agenda of economic development and social progress. Pakistan is poised on the brink of civil war along ethnic and ideological
lines. The military can be expected to make the necessary policy changes that would over the long term help remove the tag of a ‘failing state’. India could exercise its credentials as a regional power in bringing about a change in the Af- Pak zone. Such an initiative would bail out its strategic partner, the United States, and has the potential to transform its relationship with Pakistan. India needs to test the waters,perhaps through a sounding out of Pakistani reaction. In case the response from Pakistan is positive, preliminary talks can be held away from the media glare. India’s Special Envoy has already been designated. His agenda could be expanded to include exploring the desirability, feasibility and measures for practicability of the recommendation here. The dominant and presently official position is anti-Taliban. Approaching the Taliban differently would require management of public perception. This would be difficult in the face of counter arguments originating in the dominant discourse and in entrenched institutional positions. The major one would be that the Taliban would pose the threat of spread of fundamentalism by lending itself as a harbour for international terrorism once again. Since their accession to a share of power is to be in a negotiated manner, details of guarantee,verification and monitoring can be part of the negotiations. In so far as being the fount of fundamentalism once again, the argument presupposes an inherent weakness in South Asian and Central Asian Islam. This is a debatable proposition with respect to India and as it reflects little understanding of the self-interest and existential preoccupations of India’s minority. In so far as Kashmir is concerned, the Taliban connection is firstly an exaggeration, existing at best at a tactical level. The Punjabi Taliban are the chief threat. Their base of operations can only expand in case of Pakistani instability. The argument that an unstable Pakistan is in Indian interest fails on this count. Pakistan has exhibited some appreciation of its own predicament and has restrained itself of late. Recognising this, India can, as part of a resumed composite dialogue, subsequently take up the Kashmir issue at the advanced stage at which it was left off by the back channel in 2007. With the internal initiatives of the Home Ministry bearing fruition, Pakistan can be brought to endorse the fresh position. This should be part of the quid pro quo that witnesses India permitting greater political space to Pakistan
to its north.This possibility of enlightened Indian self-interest has been pointed out discreetly by the United States. It has found little traction in India, for fear that a change in the Indian stance could be seen domestically as occurring at US behest. But this is not something that should hold up action. The argument that India can handle what a weakened Pakistan can throw at Indian interests in Afghanistan, if necessary by putting ‘boots on the ground’, is perhaps true. The shrillness of Pakistani protestations can testify to India’s diplomatic and intelligence reach. The danger lies in increasing stakes over time being built in and increasing commitment to defend and further these. A visualization of Af-Pak in 2011 and beyond indicates that this is indeed avoidable. As a first step an internal debate needs to be initiated as to where India’s interests lie in the wake of Obama outlining the end game in Af-Pak.

Ali Ahmed
Col Ali Ahmed is Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence
Studies and Analyses, New Delhi


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
India tells Putin of Afghan fears

India is calling on Russia to reach out to Afghanistan’s neighbours to start preparing a strategy for when Nato forces pull out to prevent extremist forces destabilising central Asia and southern Russia.
New Delhi’s desire to intensify talks with Moscow over the future of Afghanistan comes as concerns rise among neighbours of the war-torn state about a possible reconciliation with the Taliban and ultimately its return to political power in Kabul.

Russia has preferred to keep a focus on the drugs-trafficking menace emanating from Afghanistan rather than consider a fuller international engagement over a country that inflicted humiliation on the Russian army in the 1980s. Afghanistan is highly sensitive for Russia, as it lost thousands of soldiers in its war with mujahideen fighters, a defeat that encapsulated its decline in the closing years of the cold war.

Speaking after a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, said on Friday night: “We have agreed to intensify our consultations on Afghanistan and the challenges posed by terrorism and extremism in our region.”

New Delhi is concerned that a Nato withdrawal could lead to Afghanistan falling under the control of extremists, undermining regional security and handing Pakistan, the Taliban’s traditional sponsor, more influence. As such it is very keen to develop – with Afghanistan’s neighbours – plans to shore up the long-term stability of the country.

Top Indian officials say India is “engaging deeply” with Russia over Afghanistan, and that shared concerns were discussed by the two leaders. The Nato alliance will be wary of deeper dialogue between Russia and India. The US and other western powers want India, which has a $1.3bn development programme in Afghanistan, to remain aligned with Nato policy. They fear any suggestion of steps towards reforming the former Northern Alliance, a military political coalition of Uzbekhs, Tajiks and Hazara, that fought the Taliban from the late 1990s with support from regional allies.

Earlier this week, an influential member of India’s National Security Advisory Board told Russian diplomats that Moscow should “chart a hedging strategy” with India, Iran and central Asian states in response to “very disquieting” events in Afghanistan. Kanwal Sibal, a former foreign secretary and ambassador to Russia, said the US wanted to “cut its losses in Afghanistan as quickly as possible”.

“India and Russia should be worried at the strategic depth that the Wahabbist [a militant form of Sunni ideology] will acquire in the region, threatening central Asia and India,” he added.

Indian concerns about Afghanistan – where the US recently committed another 30,000 troops – have been mounting since the London conference on the war-torn country earlier this year.

On the eve of that conference General Stanley McChrystal, the Nato commander in Afghanistan, raised the prospect that the US troop surge would lead to a negotiated peace with the Taliban.

Advisers to Mr Singh have criticised the proposal to buy off Taliban fighters, saying the approach is rooted in Britain’s 19th century failures in Afghanistan.


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
The Future of Afghanistan: A Perspective from India

An interview with Shanthie Mariet D’Souza (Associate Fellow at IDSA, Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS),National University of Singapore (NUS).

Do you think the London international conference on Afghanistan in the end of January 2010 has ended with a clear strategy for the future of Afghanistan? What was the most significant achievement of the conference in your opinion?
I don’t see it very different from the earlier such international conferences except for the emphasis on the lead role for Afghans, the initiative to talk to the Taliban, (which includes setting up the reintegration trust fund) and search for regional solution. All of these components require time, patience and unified strategy. In terms of strategy, the absence of a unified vision and ‘unity of effort’ severely impedes the ability to adopt a right, purposeful strategy.
What do you think is the right long-term approach to stabilise and pacify Afghanistan?
It is important to make it an Afghan led process with the international community playing an enabling role.
There is a need to engage regional powers particularly Iran, India, China, Russia and Pakistan in stabilization processes in Afghanistan.
There is also an urgent need to build on Afghan government capacities with greater decentralization, institution building and participation of local Afghans in any stabilisation programs.
What role do the neighbouring states such as Iran, Pakistan and also China play in the great power struggle about Afghanistan? Are they more mischief-maker or are they also included in the grand strategy to stabilise and pacify Afghanistan?
Iran, Pakistan and China are primary stakeholders in the regional conflict resolution process essential for Afghanistan. Any stabilisation campaign has to have the active involvement of these three countries. The issue of ‘sanctuary’ inside Pakistan needs to be addressed. Else, the active and porous border would help the Taliban to carry out the nefarious activities inside Afghanistan with severe implications for Pakistan. Likewise, the safe havens provided the Taliban leadership especially the Quetta shura needs to be dismantled for any meaningful reconciliation process. China can play an active role given its leverages within Pakistani army and its economic interests and investments in copper mines of almost US$ 5 billion.
In addition, without US - Iranian dialogue on cooperation in Afghanistan, the great power politics would continue to impede peace building attempts in Afghanistan.
How is India involved in the whole process?
India is actively involved in democratisation and capacity building processes in Afghanistan to help stabilise the nascent democratic government in Kabul.
India is the sixth largest bilateral donor and has considerable stakes in the maintenance of democracy and stability in Afghanistan to prevent a conflict spill over to the entire region.
What do you think is the potential of India to assist Afghanistan to democratise and develop as a peaceful and stable nation in the long run?
India can make significant contributions in institution building and reforms in the political sector, security sector, constitution, decentralised governance and alternate livelihoods project. All these components are essential for any peace making and stability in Afghanistan. India presently provides help in the crucial second tier of the present counter insurgency (COIN) strategy of “clear, hold, build and transfer”. Most of India’s projects are aimed at ‘build and transfer’ components of the strategy which will help in the long term stabilisation of the country.
India can work towards better integration of Afghanistan into SAARC connecting land locked Afghanistan with energy rich Central Asia to energy starved South Asia. The economic benefits of such cooperation could generate ‘constituencies of peace’ in the region.
Interview conducted by Dr. Michael Köberlein, India Office Director, Heinrich Böll Foundation- India


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
Afghanistan in Chinese Strategy Toward South and Central Asia

The resurgence of great powers' interests in Central Asia in recent years is reminiscent of the “Great Game” that ensued in the region in the 19th century between Czarist Russia and Imperial Great Britain. Afghanistan’s geographic location has made it a much coveted strategic pivot in the current Great Game. Notwithstanding the similarities between the two periods, some stark differences stand out prominently: one, there are now significantly more stakeholders in Afghanistan’s security (United States, Russia, Europe, Japan, India and China); two, while the first Great Game was precipitated primarily by Russia’s quest for access to the warm waters and the creation of a buffer between British India and Czarist Russia, the stakes now include oil, hydropower sources, strategic metals, pipelines, transit routes and access to markets. These significantly higher stakes have led to Central Asia assuming military, geo-political, geo-economic and geo-strategic significance for two major blocs—one led by the United States (NATO) and the other by China (Shanghai Cooperation Organization)—vying for influence in the region with seemingly dissimilar interests. “China needs them, Russia wants to control their distribution, and Western powers want to ensure they are not monopolized by Moscow or Beijing” (USA Today, December 15, 2007).

Afghanistan’s strategic location between Central and South Asia is of immense geo-strategic significance for the landlocked countries of Central Asia and its prosperity is inextricably linked to the security situation in Central and South Asia. Immense energy resources and strategic location on China’s western frontier have led to Central Asia being referred to as China’s Dingwei (Lebensraum) [1].

China’s Interests in Afghanistan

The present regional order prevailing in Afghanistan and Central Asia is similar in some ways to what transpired in Europe after the end of the Second World War. The United States and Western European powers, under the NATO umbrella, desire strengthening their presence in the region to counter the growing power and regional influence of both China and Russia while China, like the erstwhile Soviet Union, is aspiring to extend its security perimeter westward by developing close links with the countries in the region and ensuring unhindered access to the energy resources therein.

Some Indian analysts are convinced that China is engaged in a “creeping encirclement” of their country [2]. They see Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran forming the right or western pincer of this move, Bangladesh and Burma (also known as Myanmar) making up the left or eastern pincer with Sri Lanka acting as the southern anchor and completing the encirclement (refer to Figure-1 in PDF). India’s recent overtures toward Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia and the development of close ties with these countries appear to be aimed at weakening China’s right pincer and denying Pakistan a secure western frontier (The Hindu, November 7, 2001). Afghanistan figures prominently, therefore, in Chinese and Indian foreign policies. In fact, the decision to establish the first ever Indian military outpost on foreign soil at the Farkhor Air Base in Tajikistan, just 2 kilometers from the Tajik–Afghan border, could well be perceived as an attempt to reduce the impact of the Chinese encirclement (Indian Express, February 25, 2007). According to a Chinese military journal, India’s forays into Afghanistan and the Central Asian arena are “designed to achieve four objectives: contain Pakistan; enhance energy security; combat terrorism; and pin down China’s development” [3]. As in the past, Afghanistan has once again emerged as the “strategic knot” for the region’s security.

Afghanistan’s significance for China is also due to the latter’s imperative of ensuring Pakistan’s security. Pakistan, which is China’s foremost ally in South Asia and has been instrumental in China’s emergence on the global scene, has been constrained by its lack of geographic depth. Often referred to as Pakistan’s lack of strategic depth, this has been touted as a major weakness in Pakistan’s military confrontation with India. Pakistan’s military considers that a friendly Afghanistan bestows additional strategic depth to the country—this was one of the factors that led to Pakistan supporting the emergence of a “friendly” Taliban regime in Kabul. An adversarial regime in Afghanistan is perceived to be denuding Pakistan of this strategic depth’ and could also impinge on Pakistan’s security by making it contend with two simultaneous threats. Since ensuring Pakistan’s security is an imperative for China, it would view any Indian ingress into the country with wariness, concern and caution.

China, like Czarist Russia, yearns for access to the Indian Ocean and the plan to build a major port in Gwadar on Pakistan’s Mekran Coast is a step in this direction (China Brief, February 28, 2005). This port would enable China to project its military presence in proximity of the strategic global petroleum shipping routes as well as the oil-rich Middle East. The economic feasibility of Gwadar as a shipping hub would be significantly enhanced were it to be linked to Central Asia and China by road and rail links. Once again, since all such transportation links between Gwadar and Central Asia have to traverse through Afghanistan, the focal importance of the latter cannot be understated. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), “Afghanistan’s strategic location could make the country an important pipeline transit route” [4].

The vast expanse of the Chinese province of Xinjiang, which is inhabited by the Uyghur Muslim minority, poses a security predicament for China. Since the Uyghurs have strong religious and ethnic traditional links with the natives of Afghanistan and the neighboring Central Asian Republics (CARs), China is very keen that the militant Islamic ideology of extremist elements such as the Taliban be prevented from spilling over into Xinjiang (China Brief, April 14). Additionally, the presence of sizeable Western military forces in Afghanistan is also a source of major concern for China [5]. China was a major actor in the Afghan civil war and a key supplier of small arms to the insurgents in the combined U.S.-Pakistan effort to force a Soviet withdrawal from the country. “Current Chinese interest in Afghanistan, given its continuing civil war and virtual statelessness, is low and relations are weak” [6]. This interest, however, would certainly grow once the situation stabilizes since China’s security imperatives directly translate into its interest in a stable and moderate Afghanistan that is also free of Western military presence. In line with its earlier practices, China is exhibiting a policy of patience toward Afghanistan and simultaneously making imperceptible inroads into the country through growing economic relations and investment. These overtures would place China in an influential position in Afghanistan once the Western militaries eventually withdraw from the country. In an indicator of China’s growing involvement in Afghanistan, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, during his visit last month to China, indicated a desire for China, Russia and the SCO to play a more positive role in bringing stability to Afghanistan, but without getting into a conflict with the United States and NATO (AFP, April 14).

China’s booming demand for energy and mineral resources, plus its growing dependence on imported petroleum, has made Beijing increasingly concerned with ensuring supplies of reserves and the uninterrupted flow of oil at reasonable prices [7]. The resource-rich CARs, having estimated oil and gas reserves of 23 billion tons of oil and 3,000 billion cubic meters of gas respectively [8], have great geo-economic significance for China as a source of fossil fuel. While Afghanistan has no proven fuel deposits, it nevertheless offers the easiest transportation route for the exploitation of the energy resources of the CARs and is predicted to have substantial non-fuel mineral resources essential for China’s industrialization [9]. This geo-economic significance of Afghanistan for China should not be understated considering the latter’s serious interest in the Caspian Sea hydrocarbon resources and the growing Sino-Afghan trade which reached $317 million in 2005-06. China has also evinced an interest in a pipeline to the Arabian Sea, with a view to importing gas and oil by supertankers from Gwadar, but it should be noted that the Gwadar port project is still severely debilitated by the absence of links to access the hinterland from the port [10]. As another option, China is considering transporting its energy shipments from Central Asia and the Middle East via tanker to Gwadar and then by pipe or truck to western China through the Karakoram Highway (KKH) [11].

Pakistan as a Trade and Energy Corridor for China

The second option falls in line with what the Pakistani leadership has been harping upon for the past few years—their vision of exploiting Pakistan’s geography as a Trade and Energy Corridor (TEC) for China and other neighboring countries including India. Just last month, President Musharraf told a student audience at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, “Pakistan is very much in favor of a pipeline between the Gulf and China through Pakistan and I have been speaking with your leadership about this. I am very sure in the future—it will happen” (The Associated Press, April 14).

President Musharraf further elaborated that he envisioned improved road linkages between the two countries as well as a rail link, a fiber optic communications link and energy pipelines. He also suggested the possibility of extending the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline to China (Daily Dawn, April 15). Interestingly, on the same date that President Musharraf made this speech, the Indian government announced the visit of its petroleum minister to Islamabad to negotiate the possible extension of the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) gas pipeline to India and renaming it as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline (, April 14).

Although senior Pakistani leaders have repeatedly alluded to the proposal for the construction of an oil and gas pipeline connecting Pakistan and China, there has been no official response or statement yet on this suggestion from the Chinese leadership. Despite the evident potential of the TEC that Pakistan has to offer to China, the latter has, at the declaratory level, shown only marginal interest in the idea till very recently when China has started evincing a strong interest (, May 5).

Notwithstanding China’s reticent and non-committal position on this specific proposal, it is continuing support and participation in the major infrastructure projects in Pakistan that could be construed to be components of the TEC. China’s commitment to the construction of Phase II of Gwadar port, the new international airport at Gwadar, the upgrading of the KKH and interest in investing in an oil refinery and storage facilities are examples that substantiate the Chinese interest [12]. This involvement of China in major infrastructure development in Pakistan leads to the assumption that while there is no categorical commitment on the TEC by China, it can be said with some confidence that it will support Pakistan’s initiative, while maintaining a low profile, because of political and strategic considerations. For ease of analysis, the proposed TEC could be split into two distinct sectors for development: a Trade Corridor and an Energy Corridor.

The Trade Corridor’s starting point is the existing Karakoram Highway. A decision to upgrade the 335 kilometer KKH was taken during President Musharraf’s visit to China in February 2006. The envisaged upgrade would widen the KKH from 10 to 30 meters, make it suitable for long vehicles and allow it to remain functional the entire year (The Hindu, July 11, 2006). In parallel with the KKH upgrade, China is also involved in the construction of a new rail line linking Gwadar to the main Iran-Pakistan rail line and is working with Pakistan to expedite customs over the Sino-Pakistani highway with a view to creating a stronger regional trade system. On the Chinese side, a new extension of the Xinjiang railway up to Kashgar (about 500 kilometers via the KKH from the Sino-Pakistani border) has been completed while Pakistan has reciprocated by building a dry port at Sust on the KKH, which was inaugurated by President Musharraf on July 4, 2006 [13]. In another related development, Iran has offered Pakistan land access through its territory to Central Asia and Afghanistan for trade in return for similar access to China through the KKH [14].

A railway line along the KKH is also being considered as an integral part of the TEC Project. This would be used not only for trade purposes but also to transport energy, in case a pipeline is not a viable option. This rail track will be linked to Gwadar, where oil-refining and storage facilities are planned to be constructed by the Chinese. Pakistan has shortlisted a Chinese and a European firm to conduct the feasibility study for this 1,000 kilometer rail-track. In Pakistan, the 750 kilometer track starts from Havelian and passes through the Karakoram mountains up to the Pak–China border at Khunjerab with the second part, consisting of a 250 kilometer track being constructed inside the Chinese province of Xinjiang (The Nation, November 16, 2006). Experts estimate that this project could take 10 years to complete and cost around $5 billion [15].

While the envisaged Trade Corridor comprising of road and rail links could also be utilized for the transportation of oil and gas, a more efficient means of transporting these commodities would be through pipelines. These would make up the Energy Corridor component of the TEC. In an address in Islamabad on May 23, 2006, former Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said, “Pakistan and China are considering a feasibility study for an oil pipeline from Gwadar port to western China to transport China’s oil imports from the Gulf. An oil pipeline from Gwadar to western China would greatly reduce the time and distance for oil transport from the Gulf to China. A major oil refinery at Gwadar would further facilitate China’s oil imports” (Daily Times, May 24, 2006).

The Pakistani government presented a blueprint of the 3,300 kilometer Karakoram oil pipeline during the first meeting of the Sino-Pak Energy Forum held at Islamabad from April 25-27, 2006. This proposal entails the construction of a 30-inch diameter pipeline from Gwadar till the Khunjerab Pass capable of handling 12 million tons of oil per year with an estimated construction cost of between $4.5 and 5 billion [16].

China has also recently shown interest in reviving the dormant UNOCAL pipeline project to pump natural gas from Turkmenistan to India through Afghanistan and Pakistan. This could also then be extended to China just like the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline. Additionally, China’s Ex-Im Bank is financing an oil pipeline from Port Qasim in Pakistan’s south to the country’s north. This pipeline would cater for 75 percent of Pakistan’s future oil needs and it has been under construction by China’s Petroleum Engineering and Construction Company since June 2006 [17].


China’s strategic interests in Afghanistan are multi-dimensional, but in its view any substantial advancement in Sino-Afghan ties is contingent upon stability returning to this war-ravaged country and foreign forces withdrawing from its soil. Energy-hungry China is also keen on capitalizing on the convenience that Afghanistan and Pakistan offer for the exploitation of energy resources of Central Asia and the Middle East, and is working in this direction. As regards the utilization of Pakistan as a TEC, it appears that while the Trade Corridor could be expected to be established in the near future, the activation of an Energy Corridor would take an appreciable amount of time and could only be considered a long-term possibility because of the enormous costs involved. For China, therefore, the stability of Afghanistan emerges as a priority while the prospects of Pakistan becoming a trade corridor are more promising than it becoming an energy corridor in the short and medium terms. Since the chances of China using Pakistan as an energy corridor are remote in the short term, it can be concluded that Pakistan should place equal if not greater importance on providing TEC facilities to its South Asian, Central Asian, and West Asian neighbors, who are eager to tap Pakistan’s TEC potential.


1. Tarique Niazi, “The Ecology of Strategic Interests: China’s Quest for Energy Security from the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea to the Caspian Sea Basin,” China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly, Volume 4, No. 4 (2006) p. 97-116.

2. John W. Garver, “China’s South Asian Interests and Policies,” Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology, Prepared for panel on “China's Approaches to South Asia and the Former Soviet States.” U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, 22 July 2005.

3. Srikanth Kondapalli, “The Chinese Military Eyes South Asia,” chapter in Andrew Scobell and Larry M. Wortzel, Eds. “Shaping China’s security environment: The role of the People’s Liberation Army,” US Army Strategic Studies Institute, October 2006. The author has cited this information from the editorial titled “India Participates in Central Asia” which appeared in Bingqi Zhishi, Issue 197, No. 3, 2004, p. 6.


5. “America’s War on Terrorism and Chinese Strategy,” Published in China Brief, Volume 2, Issue 5, February 28, 2002 by the Jamestown Foundation.

6. Sujit Dutta, “China’s Emerging Power and Military Role: Implications for South Asia,” Chapter in “In China’s Shadow: Regional Perspectives on Chinese Foreign Policy and Military Development,” Edited by: Jonathan D. Pollack and Richard H. Yang.

7. John W. Garver, op cit.

8. Asma Shakir Khawaja, “Pakistan and the ‘New Great Game’,” Islamabad Policy Research Institute Paper No. 5, Published by Asia Printers, Islamabad, April 2003.

9. Significant Potential for Undiscovered Resources in Afghanistan. United States Geological Survey Report,

10. Tarique Niazi, op cit.

11. Fazal-ur-Rahman, “Prospects of Pakistan becoming a Trade and Energy corridor for China,”

12. John W. Garver, op cit.

13. Fazal-ur-Rehman, op cit.

14. Naqi Akbar, “Railways shortlist two companies for China rail link study,” The Nation, 16 November, 2006.

15. Fazal-ur-Rehman, op cit.

16. Ibid.

17. Stephen Blank, “China’s recent energy gains in Central Asia: What do they portend?” CACI Analyst, October 31, 2007.


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
The India-Afghanistan-Pakistan Conundrum – Tariq Tufail

As the war in Afghanistan continues, so does the purported regional chess game between India and Pakistan. Below, Tariq Tufail, from Karachi, presents his views on Pakistan’s evolving policy in Afghanistan:

A huge shift in the U.S. Afghanistan policy is reportedly taking place. The London conference and the meeting in Turkey indicate that some degree of reconciliation and an integration of the Taliban into the mainstream in Afghanistan will be attempted in the next 18 months. To support this effort, donors have already pledged about $500 million. When these events unfold, they will have a great effect on Afghanistan and the region, comparable to the Soviet withdrawal, the fall of the Najibullah Government and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.

What are the ramifications for Pakistani security and foreign policy? Unfortunately, I think this policy shift comes at an inconvenient time for Pakistan, when the Pakistani public and armed forces have not completely renounced the use of Islamist proxies to achieve our diplomatic objectives. In this context, there is a great danger that Pakistan will commit foreign policy and security blunders.

First, a background:

Pakistan’s perception of its security is India-centric. To this effect, Pakistan has always sought “strategic depth” in Afghanistan. Though the definition is vague (and probably dreamed up by our generals who have given us similar disastrous “strategies” in the past), the prevalent theory is that a friendly and pliable Afghan government will provide the landmass and the population in any future conflict with India. Furthermore, a Pro-Pakistan (and by implication anti-India) tilt in Afghanistan will protect Pakistan from:

(i) a two-pronged front against India
(ii) Pashtun nationalism endangering both the Durrand line and our territorial integrity

While the pursuit of “strategic depth” by itself is neither unethical nor dangerous, the method by which we had pursued it until the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan has endangered our security and threatened the very existence of Pakistan.

The training of Afghan fighters for the Soviet Jihad, the infrastructure of madrassas, gun culture and drug running, have severely destabilized our tribal areas and FATA. The extremist interpretation of Islam, which provided the ideological foundation for the mujahideen, on the one hand prevented economic and social development, and on the other served as a magnet for undesirables all over the world (it was in this environment that Osama Bin Laden found refuge in Afghanistan). While it was immoral and unethical to foist this culture on the Afghans, it was also inevitable for these same extremist ideologies, gun and drug cultures to spill on to the Pakistani side of the border, endangering our own population.

In addition to utilizing the various terrorist organizations and militants to create a pliant Afghan government, Pakistan also has had a history of using such groups against India. The hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight 814 and its diversion to Afghanistan in order to free people of (Pakistani) Punjab origin (among them Omar Sheikh Sayeed, implicated in the killing of Daniel Pearl, and Maulana Mazood Azhar, the Amir of Jaish-e-Mohammed, implicated in assasination attempts on Gen. Musharraf) is a significant example. (Before the readers of this article protest that Pakistan had nothing to do with the Taliban, the role of Pakistani armed forces and intelligence agents in the training and nurturing of Taliban is undeniable and one can refer to the Kunduz “Airlift of Evil” also covered in “Descent into Chaos” by Ahmed Rashid.)

Fast forwarding to the future:

It is inevitable that Pakistan will play a central role in the reconciliation between the Taliban and ISAF in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s leverage arises from:

(i) the possible sheltering of the top leadership of the Taliban (including Mullah Omar, and members of the “Quetta Shura“), as well as our influence with other figures like Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatiyar,
(ii) the role of Pakistani armed forces in preventing Taliban movement from Afghanistan into Pakistan to carry out cross-border attacks and,
(iii) Our indispensability for logistic routes and supply of NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The way we use this leverage will determine whether our security will be strengthened in the long term or whether we slip into another spiral of instability, several orders of magnitude worse than what we have today.

Is there a danger in reverting to Pre-9/11 status and why is it a bad idea?

COAS Kayani has indicated that Pakistan’s primary security threat is India and “strategic depth” is still being sought in Afghanistan. In addition, there is a widespread school of thought in Pakistan that the current violence and instability in the country is the result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Therefore, taking these factors into account, it is clear that the establishment finds it very attractive to revert to a pre-9/11 status – where the Taliban is supported and nurtured by the ISI and armed forces, a pliant Taliban-supported government is installed in Afghanistan with the associated medieval interpretation of Islam, and the various Afghan forces are used for leverage against India in Kashmir. In fact, this possibility has rattled India, which until a few weeks back had refused talks with Pakistan until concrete progress was made in the Mumbai case, but now is pushing for dialogue.

The prevalent sentiment that a Pre-9/11 scenario will put Pakistan on the driver’s seat in Afghanistan, India and the rest of the world, was further enforced by our foreign minister, who declared, “India had blinked on talks” and “Pakistan has held its ground.” Pakistan’s foreign minister even reneged on the progress made so far on Track-II diplomacy with India on Kashmir under the Musharraf regime. In addition, Jamaat-ud-Dawah and other “Punjabi Taliban” groups who were laying low after Mumbai, surfaced and held a rally in Muzaffarabad on Feb 5, promising, among other things, to “spread Jihad in other parts of India beyond Kashmir.” All this before talks had even begun with India. In one sense, they can be viewed as pre-talks sabre rattling, and in another sense, it can be viewed as the establishment’s desire to return to a Pre-9/11, Pre-Mumbai status quo, which may be advantageous in the short-term.

However, this line of thinking is a huge fallacy due to two reasons:
1. Proxy warfare didn’t work in Kashmir

Pakistan has to wake up to the fact that Kashmir’s “jihad” has been a spectacular failure. After sparking many wars, sending in many Jihadis, sponsoring numerous resolutions in various international fora, we are nowhere near wrestling control of Kashmir. Direct military action supported by the Mujahideen is unlikely to work. The Kargil war was a spectacular defeat–despite recent attempts to spin it as a success–Nawaz Sharif to his credit made a face-saving exit after the sudden trip to the U.S. to meet President Clinton. If anything Kargil has indicated that future wars over Kashmir will invite international wrath as well as destabilize our politics.

India has held democratic elections and thinned out their military presence in Kashmir and the number of violent incidents have gone down year after year since 2002. Even when Pakistan’s leverage on the Mujahideen was the strongest, (in the 90’s), and India’s economy was simultaneously the weakest with a balance of payment crisis, India demonstrated that it could hold on to Kashmir. Instead of harming India, armed jihad against India has destabilized the Pakistani population, killed and maimed Kashmiris, reduced our international standing, de-legitimized the Kashmir cause and is unlikely to yield any result in the changed international attitude towards terrorism. Moreover, China’s wariness about the Mujahideen given the problem it faces in Xinjiang (recall that China did not support Pakistan during Kargil), the increasing economic gap between India and Pakistan (which will soon translate into a gap in defense and diplomatic capabilities) and the concomitant hardening of Indian public opinion as they flex their national strength further reduce any possibility of success.

2. With great power comes great responsibility

Secondly, if Pakistan is co-opted to hammer out a solution in Afghanistan by using our influence on the Taliban, the international community will shift responsibility to us . If another 9/11-like attack occurs by elements sheltered by the Taliban, Pakistan will subsequently be blamed or asked to “do more”. Given the ideological leanings of the Taliban, as well as their involvement in the gun culture and violence, it is inevitable that Afghanistan will once again become a magnet for undesirable elements. Who in their right mind would want to be responsible for the actions of such elements?

Policing the behavior of Taliban, while simultaneously facing the threat of economic and military retaliation from the West for their bad behavior is an unenviable proposition.

So unpalatable as it might be, we should recognize the changed international scenario, the harm that we are causing to our population and go for a radical rethink of our Afghan policy and strategy.


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009

By Dr. Subhash Kapila
Introductory Observations
The Indian policy establishment should really now devote more time to a strategic audit and stock taking of its policy failure on Pakistan and Afghanistan. There can be no two opinions that India’s policy formulations both on Pakistan stand effectively checkmated by Pakistan aided by those who value Pakistan’s strategic utility to their interests more than India in Afghanistan.
The Indian policy establishment cannot offer the plea that it stood surprised by developments in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the last year or so. The indicators emerged with the unveiling of the Af-Pak strategy of the new President Obama in March 2009.
Implicit in the United States Af Pak strategy was that Pakistan despite the developing wide trust deficit between the United States and Pakistan, was to be central in facilitating a honourable exit from Afghanistan by the United States and NATO Forces.
Pakistan’s renewed centrality in United States Afghan policy was to endow on it by the United States of hard bargaining power in relation to Pakistan Army’s strategic insecurities arising from India.
The resultant outflow from the United States – endowed centrality of Pakistan assumed at least three different but inter-related dictates to the United States by Pakistan, namely (1) United States should pressurise the Indian Prime Minister to resume the Composite Peace Dialogue with Pakistan and also yield concessions on Kashmir (2) United States should yield no ground in Afghanistan to India’s legitimate national security interests (3) United States should enhance its military hardware largesse to Pakistan to offset India’s asymmetric military advantages over Pakistan i.e. maintain a regional balance of power.
The Indian policy establishment has horribly gone wrong in mixing up its strategic priorities on Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan’s strategic redemption by an Indian crusade of “peace at any costs” with Pakistan should not have been an Indian policy priority. India’s foremost policy priority should have been the strategic redemption of Afghanistan. India cannot achieve the strategic redemption of Afghanistan in favour of India’s national security interests without adopting hard line strategic approaches to Pakistan, independent of extraneous pressures.
Grudgingly, one has to admit, that for the time being, Pakistan has outclassed both the United States and India with its ‘real-politick’ hard bargaining strategy.
The United States has yielded to Pakistan on all its demands with a vain hope that Pakistan may now desist from its ‘double-timing’ America and emerge as a more collusive entity.
Consequently, India stands strategically diminished in that the United States has nothing to offer to India neither on Pakistan nor on Afghanistan. The Indian Prime Minister has yielded by agreeing to resume peace dialogue with Pakistan by an abrupt reversal of his stated policy. On Afghanistan, India stands side-lined effectively with no role in the US Af Pak Strategy or being substantially co-opted in any regional solution envisaged. All that India has received from the United States on Afghanistan is mere praiseworthy rhetoric on India’s reconstruction role in Afghanistan.
India’s policy establishment must now grapple with the complex challenge of in which direction India should move to arrest the further regional strategic diminution of India. Obviously, the Indian policy establishment needs to recast its existing approaches to India’s policy formulation. Afghanistan can offer many strategic lessons to the Indian policy establishment arising from India being effectively side-lined despite its regional strategic predominance.
Accordingly, this Paper intends to focus on the examination of the following issues:
India’s “Soft Power” Strategy Results in Strategic Diminution
Taming of Pakistan: An Unavoidable Indian Strategic Imperative
India Fritters Away its Strategic Bargaining Chips
India’s Major Chink in its Strategic Armour: Lack of Peak War Preparedness
India’s “Soft Power” Strategy Results in Strategic Diminution
Nothing underlines India’s strategic diminution in Afghanistan and consequently in regional and global terms, than it’s rigidly sticking to pursuit of a “Soft Power” Strategy. Has this pursuance of “Soft Power” Strategy brought any strategic gains to India?” Not really; on the contrary, India stands side-lined from any substantive role in Afghanistan.
India’s “Soft Power” Strategy may have won India many hearts and minds in the Afghan people by the commendable role India has played in Afghanistan’s reconstruction, economic development and social upliftment.
But this noble endeavour has not brought any strategic gains for India in its prime objective of pre-empting the return of Pakistan’s embedment in Afghanistan’s strategic and political firmament.
India had legitimate reasons to opt for the “Hard Power” option of military involvement in Afghanistan as long as the US-led war was against the Al Qaeda and Taliban. It is well known that both these entities along with LeT were involved in worsening the situation in Kashmir. Nor should be overlooked the fact that the overwhelming number of Afghan people hated the re-emergence of the Al Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan.
But India shirked and recoiled from this option, presumably on dismal forecasts from some in the establishment that India could be left holding Afghanistan alone with the inevitable exit of the United States.
The point that is sorely missed in such analyses is that the US & NATO Forces continue to be embedded in Afghanistan for the last eight years, primarily because the overwhelming number of the Afghan people who oppose Pakistan, the Al Qaeda and the Taliban and all three put together for the medieval Islamist barbarism inflicted on Afghanistan for more than a decade and thereafter fouling-up the stabilization of Afghanistan by the United States.
Consequently, there are no reasons to think otherwise that the same support of the Afghan Government and the Afghan people would not have been extended to an Indian military presence there. On the contrary Afghan public support for India would have been that much more.
However, with the United States having now foreclosed all Afghan options in favour of Pakistan, India’s military involvement in Afghanistan now sands ruled out. But as pointed out by this Author in an earlier Paper that India may well have to do so “On The Day After” the exit of the United States from Afghanistan.
Had India opted for the “Hard Power” Option 3-5 years earlier Pakistan could not have achieved the restoration of its centrality in US strategic calculus on Afghanistan today and which has emboldened it to strike strong postures on India’s recent ill-advised peace initiatives.
Taming of Pakistan: An Unavoidable Indian Strategic Imperative
In the last sixty years, Pakistan has persistently caused the embattlement of the Indian security environment by four aggressively initiated major wars, proxy war and undeterred terrorism attacks on India by affiliates of the Pakistan Army. India with matching persistence has shirked from strong retaliatory actions against Pakistan to tame its military adventurism.
While on Afghanistan, India has displayed strategic timidity, in the case of Pakistan, India has displayed pitiable strategic and political timidity as Pakistan’s more powerful neighbour. India cannot strategically afford to outsource its Pakistan policy to foreign capitals. India’s Pakistan policy needs to be made in New Delhi and made strongly befitting the strategic calls as the regional power in South Asia and by the exclusive dictates of Indian national security interests.
The Indian policy establishment in the last sixty years has politically, militarily and economically failed to neutralise and dilute the Pakistan-United States and Pakistan-China strategic relationships. It is a notable failure of Indian diplomacy besides the failure of Indian Special Envoys on Pakistan, Kashmir specialists and back-channel diplomacy boys that adorn the Prime Minister’s Office.
Pakistan is not India’s equal in terms of Comprehensive National and Strategic Power attributes. The prime focus of India’s policy establishment and the worthies stated above should be not to persuade Pakistan to come to the negotiating table or find solutions to issues made contentious by Pakistan. The prime focus of the Indian policy establishment should be on neutralization and making redundant Pakistan’s strategic utility to the United States and China.
Short of war, India enjoys numerous strategic, political, military and economic leverages and options to tame Pakistan. It should be the prime task of India’s policy establishment to illuminate these for the Prime Minister.
India would be well served if India’s Pakistan policy is not allowed to become the personal preserve of its Prime Ministers and to be determined by their personal predilections, rather than India’s national security interests.
All of India’s Prime Ministers in the last sixty years, including illustrious ones, have failed to make a Pakistan Army-dominated Pakistan see reason on the imperatives of India-Pakistan peace. Constant recitation of the ‘peace mantra’ by Indian Prime Ministers amounts to flogging a dead horse, and should cease now.
Pakistan studies India more than India studies Pakistan following the classical strategic concept of “Know Thy Enemy”, if you want to deal with it successfully. It is high time that Indian policy makers to follow this strategic maxim.
It is high time for India’s policy establishment to re-evaluate its Pakistan policy formulations in cold, hard and strategically pragmatic times.
Silence is another principle of war and diplomacy and until such time India can devise pragmatic policies on Pakistan, the least Indian Prime Ministers can do is to remain studiously “silent” on Pakistan and “ignore” Pakistan as not worthy of receiving attention as India’s strategic equal. Other than maintaining the bare modicum of diplomatic contacts, no other engagement with Pakistan should be resorted to.
India Fritters Away its Strategic Bargaining Chips
India’s previous Prime Ministers had with great effort weaned away Iran from Pakistan and convert it to an India- friendly country. It took Dr. Manmohan Singh to throw away India’s “Iran Card” so assiduously cultivated to further India’s national security interests in relation to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Dr. Manmohan Singh may have pleased the United States, but did not gain any strategic quid-pro-quo in the bargain.
While India continues to maintain its strategic partnership with Russia, but it seems to be more determined by the Indian military equipment dependency on Russia. Gone are the days when intense political exchanges would take place on every regional or global crisis. Under the present Government, there seems to be a subtle change underway to reduce India’s military dependency on Russia.
India could have been successful in not getting marginalized on Afghanistan, had it not frittered away its “Iran Card” and “Russia Card”. Similarly the Indian policy establishment should have visibly played its ‘Northern Alliance Card’ to ensure that it was not sidelined on Afghanistan.
Similarly, India has strategically shrunk away from exploiting Pakistan’s vulnerabilities in Baluchistan, Pashtunistan, Balawaristan, Gilgit and even Sindh. India needs to play these cards to force Pakistan Army and the ISI to recoil on Afghanistan, Kashmir and proxy war and terrorism against India.
Obliquely, India by playing these cards, could have obliquely contributed towards lessening Pakistan Army’s political hold on Pakistan and restoration of democracy in Pakistan.
India’s Major Chink in its Strategic Armour: Lack of Peak War Preparedness
India’s political masters have not devoted serious and devoted attention to maintain Indian Armed Forces in a state of peak war preparedness. India’s defence budget allocations this year by the present Government is the present indicator of this continuing trend.
Lack of peak war preparedness of the Indian Armed Forces foreclosed the Government’s widening of the Kargil war to the international border. Lack of peak war preparedness foreclosed the present Government’s options for retaliatory actions against Pakistan in the wake of Mumbai 26/11 full scale attacks by Pakistan Army affiliates.
With economic resurgence, the speedy build-up of Indian Armed Forces in terms of modernization and upgradation of its capabilities could have been possible by ‘off-the-shelf’ acquisitions. It has not happened.
With economic resurgence, India by now should have had an operational arsenal of Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles and a functional ‘nuclear triad’ It has not happened.
Once again India’s effective peak war preparedness is held back by lack of political will of India’s political leaders and a lethargic civil bureaucracy imposed on India’s governance by India’s polity.
The least that India’s political leaders can recognise is that given their lack of political will to use power to protect India’s national security interests, Indian Armed Forces maintained at state of peak war preparedness could provide ‘existential deterrence’ to India’s adversaries and more notably Pakistan.
Concluding Observations
The Indian policy establishment needs to be conscious that its prime duty is to serve India and not the personal predilections of any particular leader in office. India’s national security interests are paramount and it is these that need to be safeguarded.
India’s policy establishment’s policy formulations have been a singular failure on Pakistan and Afghanistan. Existing policies would need a complete over-haul and shift from one of ‘soft-power’ approaches to those of exercise of pragmatic ‘hard power’ approaches, when the last named option becomes inescapable.
Pakistan’s redemption cannot logically be an Indian strategic imperative, but Afghanistan’s strategic redemption is an over-riding Indian strategic imperative to secure Indian national security interests. India cannot redeem Afghanistan without adopting ‘hard power’ options on Pakistan and forceful use of bargaining chips.
(The author is an International Relations and Strategic Affairs analyst. He is the Consultant, Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group. Email: [email protected])


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
India shifts Afghan policy, ready to talk to Taliban

In the wake of a possible American pullout from Kabul next year, New Delhi has sharply re-oriented its strategy towards Afghanistan by reaching out to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami party and keeping its door open in case of a reconciliation effort by the Taliban.
While the new Afghan policy is being crafted at the highest levels with National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon playing a lead role, New Delhi is learnt to have made contact with Hizb-e-Islami party even though it knows that Hekmatyar is firmly under Pakistani control. New Delhi is also now amenable to talking to Taliban in case the latter are to open an engagement. This change in Indian posture comes as Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid also talked about reconciling with India.

Top government sources told The Indian Express that New Delhi wants to reach out to the second generation Pashtun leaders like Nangarhar Governor Gul Agha Sherzai, and is with the former Northern

Alliance leaders like Marshal Fahim, Karim Khallili and Mohammed Mohaqiq in backing President Hamid Karzai’s government.

This fine-tuning of India’s position on Afghanistan comes after exchange of views between top diplomats. After the February attack on Indians in Kabul, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Pakistan-Afghanistan envoy Satinder Lambah and former West Asia envoy Chinmay Gharekhan wanted India to adopt a neutral position in Afghanistan. This essentially meant keeping out of Aghanistan politics but carrying on the development works in the war-torn republic.

This month, this view was nuanced further by the UPA government, with New Delhi now all for an independent or neutral Afghanistan that does not require the crutches of neighbouring Pakistan. According to a paper prepared by the Ministry of External Affairs on the subject, India should back an Afghanistan that keeps out terrorism emanating from Pakistan and does not allow the state to slip back into the violence spiral of 1990s. The sub-text of the paper is that Afghanistan will come under the total influence of Pakistan if New Delhi were to let matters go out of hand.

While a section in South Block wants India to go back to supporting the former Northern Alliance faction, the fact is that all the top six alliance leaders are firmly backing Karzai, including Marshal Fahim, heir of legendary Ahmed Shah Masood, and Uzbek leader Mohammed Dostum. New Delhi is conscious of the fact that its former allies like Iran of the Northern Alliance days are still confused on whether they want the Americans out or the Taliban.

It is in this context that New Delhi wants to reach out to Pashtuns in the south and on the Durand Line while retaining ties with its Northern Alliance friends and President Karzai. So rather than the expected downscaling of Indian engagement in Afghanistan, New Delhi is all for enlarging it, lest it wants to let the republic be dominated by extremist forces of the past.


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
ANALYSIS - In Afghan end-game, India gets that sinking feeling

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Disquiet is growing in India that Pakistan is gaining the upper hand in a "proxy war" in Afghanistan as the two juggle for influence in an end-game that risks a political vacuum if the U.S.-led war winds down.

Escalating distrust over Afghanistan may threaten tentative India-Pakistan peace talks and herald more militant attacks on Indian soil, experts say. There are also signs it is all gnawing at New Delhi's once strengthening ties with the United States.

Last week's high level strategic dialogue between Pakistan's military and U.S. politicians in Washington, praise for Pakistan's crackdown on Taliban commanders and promises of swifter U.S. aid have added to India's sense of playing second fiddle.

Underlying this is a perception that Western powers need Pakistan more than India to broker any deal with the Taliban if there is any U.S. troops withdrawal, creating a potential flashpoint in relations between the emerging Asian economic power and the West.

"There is a sense in India that Pakistan is increasingly cocky," said former secretary Lalit Mansingh. "Pakistan has a lot more self-confidence they will have a major role in Afghanistan, and America will be dependent on them to deliver.

New Delhi saw a militant attack on a Kabul guest house that killed six Indians in February as a signal of increased Pakistan assertiveness. It was the third major attack against Indian interests in two years.

Islamabad denies Pakistan-based militants were involved. In a sign of what is often labelled a proxy war between the two over Afghanistan, Pakistan media has accused India of being behind the killing of some Pakistani workers in Kandahar in March.

Pakistan's officials have long accused India over covertly helping Baluch separatists and claims several new Indian consulates in Afghanistan are spy centres.

"India has to be marginalised. India has no role in Afghanistan," said former Pakistan foreign secretary Shamshad Ahmed Khan. "Americans ... also have recognised that Pakistan's role in any future Afghan settlement is crucial.


Both India and Pakistan have for decades sought to secure influence in this Central Asian geopolitical crossroads and President Barack Obama's public, if vague, time-table to start to withdraw military forces has added to an urgency to gain leverage.

With the Taliban in power during the 1990s, India lost sway in Afghanistan. Under Afghan President Hamid Karzai, India used economic clout, some $1.3 billion in aid, to up it presence with new consulates and the construction of power lines and highways.

For New Delhi, it helped guarantee Afghanistan would not become a harbour of militants who could cross over to Kashmir.

But the London conference on Afghanistan in January was a turning point for many in India. It ushered in the idea that Europe and the United States could accept getting certain Taliban commanders involved in a deal to bring stability to Afghanistan.

"There is a genuine sense of disappointment - even disbelief - that the US perspective on reconciling the Taliban evolved all too abruptly, contrary to what Delhi was given to understand," said M.K. Bhadrakumar, a former Indian diplomat who has worked in Islamabad and Kabul.

While a significant number of other Afghanistan watchers say the euphoria over London was overdone, and question especially whether Washington significantly softened its position on reconciliation with the Taliban, Bhadrakumar's view is common in India.

Karzai also hinted he was now focused more on Pakistan.

"India is a close friend of Afghanistan but Pakistan is a brother of Afghanistan. Pakistan is a twin brother," Karzai said after meeting Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in March.

It wasn't always like this. After the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the United States pressurised Islamabad to rein in militants. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was feted in Washington months after Hillary Clinton visited New Delhi in 2009.

Now many Indians criticised what they saw as a tepid response by Washington to what they saw as a clear Pakistani link to the attack on the Kabul guest house.

"It is unfortunate that the Obama administration has forgotten its fine rhetoric about strengthening the forces of democracy in Pakistan," said Bhadrakumar. "The US has reverted to good old-fashioned geopolitics. The US current AfPak approach has begun casting shadows on US-India ties."

It may not all go Pakistan's way.

"Islamabad believes that this stepped-up cooperation will enable it to win long-term concessions from the US, which would give Pakistan a geopolitical balance against India," Eurasia analyst Maria Kuusisto wrote in a report. "The US is likely to adopt a highly cautious approach to these Pakistani requests."


Indian officials believe that while Islamabad is winning the PR war, India has room for manoeuvre -- and the Indian Express reported on Monday that New Delhi may be willing to reach out to some Taliban elements to counter Pakistan.

"Of course Pakistan is better at shouting from the rooftops," said one Indian senior government official. "But we are not on the defensive. They will not get what they want.

But tension with Washington has surfaced, with India mulling legal action to force the United States to grant it access to David Headley, who admitted in a U.S. court this month that he scouted targets for the Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people.

In a front page story, the Indian Express warned that the U.S. companies could fail in their bids for a $10 billion contract for 126 fighter aircraft -- one of the world's biggest arms contracts -- if aircraft sales went ahead with Pakistan.

Washington has been irked by India's parliament stalling a bill limiting nuclear firms' liability for industrial accidents, delaying entry of U.S. firms into a $150 billion market.

"The worry is caused by a feeling in the policy establishment that the U.S. wants to get out (of Afghanistan) as soon as possible," Brajesh Mishra, India's former National Security Advisor. "Pakistan wants to broker a deal. The worry is that would lead us back to the 1990s.

(Additional reporting by Kamran Haider in Islamabad; Editing by Paul de Bendern and Sanjeev Miglani)


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
India outplayed, outsmarted in Afghanistan

New Delhi: Disquiet is growing in India that Pakistan is gaining the upper hand in a "proxy war" in Afghanistan as the two juggle for influence in an end-game that risks a political vacuum if the US-led war winds down.
Escalating distrust over Afghanistan may threaten tentative India-Pakistan peace talks and herald more militant attacks on Indian soil, experts say. There are also signs it is all gnawing at New Delhi's once strengthening ties with the United States.

Last week's high level strategic dialogue between Pakistan's military and US politicians in Washington, praise for Pakistan's crackdown on Taliban commanders and promises of swifter US aid have added to India's sense of playing second fiddle.
Underlying this is a perception that Western powers need Pakistan more than India to broker any deal with the Taliban if there is any US troops withdrawal, creating a potential flashpoint in relations between the emerging Asian economic power and the West.
"There is a sense in India that Pakistan is increasingly cocky," said former secretary Lalit Mansingh. "Pakistan has a lot more self-confidence they will have a major role in Afghanistan, and America will be dependent on them to deliver.
New Delhi saw a militant attack on a Kabul guest house that killed six Indians in February as a signal of increased Pakistan assertiveness. It was the third major attack against Indian interests in two years.
Islamabad denies Pakistan-based militants were involved. In a sign of what is often labelled a proxy war between the two over Afghanistan, Pakistan media has accused India of being behind the killing of some Pakistani workers in Kandahar in March.
Pakistan's officials have long accused India over covertly helping Baluch separatists and claims several new Indian consulates in Afghanistan are spy centres.
"India has to be marginalised. India has no role in Afghanistan," said former Pakistan foreign secretary Shamshad Ahmed Khan. "Americans ... also have recognised that Pakistan's role in any future Afghan settlement is crucial.
Securing the cross roads
Both India and Pakistan have for decades sought to secure influence in this Central Asian geopolitical crossroads and President Barack Obama's public, if vague, time-table to start to withdraw military forces has added to an urgency to gain leverage.
With the Taliban in power during the 1990s, India lost sway in Afghanistan. Under Afghan President Hamid Karzai, India used economic clout, some .3 billion in aid, to up it presence with new consulates and the construction of power lines and highways.
For New Delhi, it helped guarantee Afghanistan would not become a harbour of militants who could cross over to Kashmir.
But the London conference on Afghanistan in January was a turning point for many in India. It ushered in the idea that Europe and the United States could accept getting certain Taliban commanders involved in a deal to bring stability to Afghanistan.
"There is a genuine sense of disappointment - even disbelief - that the US perspective on reconciling the Taliban evolved all too abruptly, contrary to what Delhi was given to understand," said M.K. Bhadrakumar, a former Indian diplomat who has worked in Islamabad and Kabul.
While a significant number of other Afghanistan watchers say the euphoria over London was overdone, and question especially whether Washington significantly softened its position on reconciliation with the Taliban, Bhadrakumar's view is common in India.
Karzai also hinted he was now focused more on Pakistan.
"India is a close friend of Afghanistan but Pakistan is a brother of Afghanistan. Pakistan is a twin brother," Karzai said after meeting Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in March.
It wasn't always like this. After the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the United States pressurised Islamabad to rein in militants. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was feted in Washington months after Hillary Clinton visited New Delhi in 2009.
Now many Indians criticised what they saw as a tepid response by Washington to what they saw as a clear Pakistani link to the attack on the Kabul guest house.
"It is unfortunate that the Obama administration has forgotten its fine rhetoric about strengthening the forces of democracy in Pakistan," said Bhadrakumar. "The US has reverted to good old-fashioned geopolitics. The US current AfPak approach has begun casting shadows on US-India ties."
It may not all go Pakistan's way.
"Islamabad believes that this stepped-up cooperation will enable it to win long-term concessions from the US, which would give Pakistan a geopolitical balance against India," Eurasia analyst Maria Kuusisto wrote in a report. "The US is likely to adopt a highly cautious approach to these Pakistani requests."
Indian officials believe that while Islamabad is winning the PR war, India has room for manoeuvre -- and the Indian Express reported on Monday that New Delhi may be willing to reach out to some Taliban elements to counter Pakistan.
"Of course Pakistan is better at shouting from the rooftops," said one Indian senior government official. "But we are not on the defensive. They will not get what they want.
But tension with Washington has surfaced, with India mulling legal action to force the United States to grant it access to David Headley, who admitted in a U.S. court this month that he scouted targets for the Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people.
In a front page story, the Indian Express warned that the U.S. companies could fail in their bids for a billion contract for 126 fighter aircraft -- one of the world's biggest arms contracts -- if aircraft sales went ahead with Pakistan.
Washington has been irked by India's parliament stalling a bill limiting nuclear firms' liability for industrial accidents, delaying entry of U.S. firms into a 0 billion market.
"The worry is caused by a feeling in the policy establishment that the U.S. wants to get out (of Afghanistan) as soon as possible," Brajesh Mishra, India's former National Security Advisor. "Pakistan wants to broker a deal. The worry is that would lead us back to the 1990s.


Senior Member
Feb 23, 2009
India and Iran's Afpak policy

An Afghan iron smith man works at his workshop in Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday. Photo: AP

Atul Aneja

How does India propose to get back into the game of realignments beginning to unfold in and around Afghanistan?

Iran's recent hyper-activism in neighbouring Afghanistan and Pakistan has caused considerable consternation in large parts of the globe. In media circles, think-tanks and world chanceries, high-browed mandarins and their well-healed affiliates are trying to make sense of the latest, seemingly inscrutable piece of the Persian puzzle.

Yet Iran's deft moves in an area that the Persians have known well for thousands of years originate from deeply deliberated and well-grounded fundamentals. Ever since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran has been ceaselessly battling the threat of a direct American attack or an invasion by a third country that is backed by the United States. The Iraq war of 2003 brought the American forces in an eyeball-to-eyeball face-off along Iran's western borders, while the entry of the U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan became a potential cross-border threat to Iran from the east.

Since 2003, the Iranians have been seeking the exit of American forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of their aspirations have a good chance of realisation, as the bulk of the forces are slated to leave Iraq next year. The U.S. exit from Afghanistan could begin in July 2011.

While the exit of foreign forces would mark a substantial advance, the Iranians have been looking further ahead to a post-exit scenario, in anticipation of a political vacuum that is likely to emerge once the American troops depart. Viscerally opposed to any repositioning by extra-regional players , Iran is working vigorously to establish a de facto alliance of regional countries that will dominate the geopolitical arena stretching from Turkey in the west to China in the east.

It is in this larger context of regionalising the geopolitical space that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad set foot on Afghan soil on March 10. Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai — who fought running battles with the Americans who were more inclined to favour his rival Abdullah Abdullah during the recent Afghan elections — received the Iranian President warmly. Like the Iranians, Mr. Karzai has concluded that the Americans are tiring in Afghanistan and that the time has come to explore deeper alignments in an alternative camp that includes Iran, and has China, Pakistan, Central Asian republics and Russia as potential allies.

While engaging the Afghans on a new footing, the Iranians have also begun to cultivate Pakistan. A major shift in the contours of their relationship can be traced to October 2009, when the Pakistan-based Jundallah group, led by Abdolmalek Rigi, killed Nour-Ali Shoushtari, and other senior commanders of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC). Incensed by these high-profile assassinations, in the Pishin area of the Sistan-Balochistan province, the Iranians sent a few days later their Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar to Islamabad, with the demand for Rigi's handover. Subsequently, Rigi was nabbed in a dramatic fashion when the Iranians forced a Kyrgyzstan airlines plane in which he was travelling from Dubai to Bishkek, to land in the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas. Influential voices in Pakistan say that Islamabad gave the vital tip off that led to Rigi's arrest. The Iranians, however, insist that the arrest was possible on account of their meticulous intelligence work, without any foreign involvement whatsoever.

Since the 2009-10 winter war in Gaza, during which Turkey openly distanced itself from Israel, the relationship between Tehran and Ankara has been warming up. Political goodwill is being translated into significant energy cooperation and both sides, despite resistance from several influential quarters, are looking at participating in the Nabucco pipeline, which will carry huge quantities of gas to Europe.

As the geopolitical alignments ahead of the U.S. pullout begin to emerge, India's absence is glaring. Piqued by India's high profile in Kabul, Pakistan's military establishment has been looking for openings that would allow it to achieve its maximalist objective of seeking India's hasty, and preferably unseemly, exit from Afghanistan.

However, two major hurdles have been impeding Pakistan's path so far. First, the rapid improvement in Indo-U.S. ties during the Bush presidency firmly deterred it from taking India head-on in Afghanistan. Second, the Afghan presidency, closely tied to New Delhi since 2001, was hostile to Islamabad.

However, the scenario changed dramatically with the exit of the Bush administration and the emergence of Barack Obama. Focussed on an exit strategy from Afghanistan, the Americans deepened their security dependence on the Pakistanis in the hope of achieving rapid success. As a result, the Indian fortress in Afghanistan which looked impregnable during the Bush era was breached. Pakistan utilised this opportunity to the hilt.

A staunch ally of India for several years, President Karzai after his re-election last year began to exhibit unusual warmth towards Pakistan. His description of India as a friend and Pakistan as a conjoined twin during his visit to Islamabad was widely seen as a demonstration of his waning affection towards New Delhi.

There has been a significant deterioration in India-Iran ties since New Delhi voted against Tehran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the Iranian nuclear programme. In fact, the day India voted against Iran, it seriously jeopardised its project in Afghanistan. Without a geographically contiguous border, India can extend its reach into Afghanistan only through the Iranian corridor.

With its back to the wall, how does India propose to get back into the great game of realignments beginning to unfold in and around Afghanistan? It can draw some inspiration from its diplomatic conduct in the past — when it worked successfully with the Iranians, Russians and Central Asians, especially the Tajiks to unroll the Northern Alliance against the Taliban in 2001. With the recent visit of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to New Delhi where discussions on Afghanistan took place, India has taken its first major step in the right direction.

Mending fences with Iran has to be India's next major undertaking. However, in trying to rework its relations, India is left with only one weighty card, which it can play with good effect provided it begins to view its national interests independently and not through the tinted glasses of the U.S. With its huge requirements of energy, India needs to get back to the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline project. But in doing so, it has to substantially modify the arrangement and turn it around to suit its core long-term interests.

Iran would, with considerable enthusiasm, welcome India's participation in this project, as is evident from the provisions included in the gas deal that was signed by Iran and Pakistan in Istanbul in March. Therein lies the opportunity for India to claw back into the arrangement and take it forward from there.

Instead of waiting for others like Pakistan to seize the initiative, India can benefit substantially by boldly and formally initiating the introduction of two significant players — Russia and China — into this tie up. The Russian gas giant Gazprom has already expressed its keen interest to participate in IPI. Gazprom's representative in Tehran, Abubakir Shomuzov, has called for the extension of IPI to China, in an arrangement that would tie Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Iran together in a giant project.

Russia's participation in the IPI would be crucial for India. With Russia firmly on its side, India can, with greater ease and confidence, engage with China in this cooperative enterprise. In the debate on the extension of IPI to China, the route that this pipeline can pursue would be of vital importance. If India has to take advantage of this extension, it has to insist that the pipeline passing through Iran and Pakistan should go through an Indian transit corridor and no other alternative route before entering China.

Such an arrangement would greatly help in making the IPI-plus arrangement more stable and workable. With China, Pakistan's all-weather friend as the final beneficiary, Islamabad would find it impossible to block supplies to India. In other words, the routing of the pipeline to China via India, and the interdependence that it would generate among the various stakeholders would become New Delhi's insurance policy for obtaining assured gas supplies from Iran via Pakistan.

There is a final diplomatic dimension which needs to be added if IPI-plus is to succeed. Critics of the IPI rightly point to the security problems that this project, in the current circumstances, is bound to encounter during the pipeline's passage through the turbulent province of Balochistan. A comprehensive dialogue may therefore be the way forward to resolve this problem. India, which in recent years has gone into a diplomatic shell, can take the high-ground and propose a comprehensive six-party process. Besides itself, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia, China and Iran can become the core participants of this arrangement. Such a forum, carefully constructed, adequately resourced and energetically led can take head-on not only the question of Baluchistan, but all other issues that may stand in the way of a lasting trans-national energy partnership.


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
Kabul Dur Ast

Shiny shells A security checkpost on the outskirts of Kabul

How India’s Helping

Committed $1.3 billion onvarious projects.
Built the 218-km Zelarang-Delaram highway to enable south-western Afghanistan to access the Iranian port of Chabahar.
Constructed the 220KV DC transmission line from Pul-e-Khumri to Kabul and a 220/110/20KV sub-station at Chimtala.
Built the Salma Dam power project (42 MW) in Herat province (to finish by 2011).
Constructing the Afghan parliament building (to be completed by 2011).
Helped expand the Afghan national TV network, provided uplink and downlink facilities over all of Afghanistan's 34 provinces.
84 small projects in areas of agriculture, rural development, education, health, vocational training and solar energy.
Gifted three Airbus aircraft along with essential spares to Ariana Afghan Airlines. Also,
400 buses, 200 mini-buses and 105 utility vehicles.

The city of Kabul always seems swathed in the ambience of indolence and insouciance, depending on the direction in which you are looking. In the city centre of Charahi Ansari, under the mellow afternoon sun, families mill around shops, restaurants and kabab corners. Some simply loiter around, relishing the balmy spring season after months of bitter winter. But turn around and you watch in horror the ugly scars of a city that hasn’t had any respite from violence for nearly 25 years.

In Charahi Ansari itself, you find pieces of evidence. These testify to the wounds inflicted on India. There, in a corner, stands the charred shell of the Park Hotel. Opposite the hotel stands what was once a guesthouse. It could be mistaken for an ancient ruin, but for the thick layer of soot covering it. These two buildings were the targets of wanton attacks on February 26—terrorists had triggered off an explosive-laden vehicle, tossed grenades and fired at random, killing 10, including seven Indians.

Young targets An Afghan takes aim with a toy pistol in a Kabul market

These devastated buildings are also monuments to what has been called the proxy war involving India and Pakistan in Afghanistan. (India, however, rejects the word proxy, claiming it hasn’t targeted Pakistanis there.) They are depressing symbols of the collateral damage India has been suffering ever since the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and the Haqqani faction of the Taliban have taken to hitting soft Indian targets—those brave, faceless footsoldiers of Indian diplomacy labouring in a precarious environment to enhance India’s interests in Afghanistan, and who become a face with a name only through a violent death. The Indian embassy in Kabul has been targeted twice in two years. A diplomat and a military attache have died. Elsewhere, an engineer was beheaded.

The Indo-Pak battle for influence in Afghanistan is as old as the American invasion of that country. Pakistan had always roiled at the ouster of the Taliban, whom they had fashioned into a fighting force to acquire control over Kabul and through them gain what is called ‘strategic depth’. To the paranoid Pakistani, India always loomed on his eastern border; a strong Indian presence in Afghanistan or an independent Kabul could strategically sandwich his country. Once the Taliban rallied back, and the post-9/11 dispensation in Kabul floundered, Pakistan began to target India.

Indian engineers at work at the Afghan parliament construction site

But the game is becoming deadlier and bloodier now. American President Barack Obama favours a political solution, wants to negotiate with the Taliban, stabilise Afghanistan, and withdraw a substantial number of troops at the earliest to appease a domestic audience. This has given the necessary opening to Pakistan to regain its lost influence in Kabul. And it’s trying to achieve the goal quite ruthlessly—by commissioning terror groups to muscle India out.“There’s no question of retreating from Afghanistan,” says a senior Indian diplomat. Such brave words are perhaps for public consumption, for there are tell-tale signs of India scaling down its presence here. Nearly 50 per cent of Indian personnel working on various projects in Afghanistan have been sent home. The Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health in Kabul—the only children’s hospital in the country—is without an Indian doctor; any medical guidance from New Delhi is rendered through teleconferencing. And though four other medical missions are working now, India isn’t taking on any new projects, content to complete the two on hand—the Salma dam and construction of the Afghan Parliament—of the $1.3-billion worth of Indian projects initiated here. The SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association) scheme, hugely popular as it empowered Afghan women, has been put on hold; Indian-run vocational courses have been suspended; and the training of Afghan civilian personnel, whether in government or civil society, will only be imparted in India now (see infographic).

Treatment through videoconferencing at the Indira Gandhi children’s hospital

A senior MEA official justifies the scaling down saying no new projects are being taken up “because we have not been asked to by the Afghan government”. He points out that many of the 3,500 Indians in Afghanistan now are there of their own accord—and are not working on Indian government projects. “If some of them now want to return to India, how can we stop them,” he asks.

Considering the popularity of these projects, it’s debatable whether India would have desisted from proposing new projects to the Afghan government. New schemes would have augmented further the formidable soft power India already enjoys here—Bollywood remains extremely popular, and now even TV serials command an enviable following (TV star Smriti Irani is fast becoming a household name). India remains the favourite destination of Afghans—the Indian embassy and four other missions here issue 350 visas daily, a fact borne out by the packed thrice daily flights between Kabul and New Delhi.

So is it that President Hamid Karzai’s government doesn’t want Indians here?

Indian engineers working out at a gym in Kabul

Karzai has been an ally of New Delhi, well disposed to India because of, among other things, having studied here. He has also had testy relations with Pakistan, distrustful of its machinations and proximity to the Taliban. Most Afghan observers say things began to change when Karzai began to reach out to Pakistan last year. Partly, he did this out of desperation—the US and other western powers began to gun for him months before the November election, believing he didn’t serve their interests. In addition, Obama unveiled his new Afghan policy, opting for a surge in Afghanistan and promising a scaling down of American troops by mid-2011. This fanned the already existing speculation that the Obama administration wasn’t really averse to the return of a ‘reformed’ Taliban.

Shops selling Indian film CDs and audio cassettes are a common sight in the capital

Boxed into a corner, Karzai began to play a few cards of his own. He opened channels of communication with the Taliban to cobble together an arrangement. He reached out to Mullah Baradar, an influential Taliban leader. Karzai’s audacity stung Pakistan, which was kept out of the negotiations. Islamabad retaliated, arresting Baradar and sending the message loud and clear—peace in Afghanistan cannot be contemplated without a role for Pakistan.Meanwhile, Pakistan was shuffling its own cards, launching an unprecedented crackdown on the Pakistan Taliban in the tribal areas. It earned the country crucial brownie points, convinced the Americans that army chief Ashfaq Kiyani was serious about his intent to fight terror, and enabled Pakistan to claw back from the margins to occupy centrestage in the unfolding drama in Afghanistan. Some, however, say it’s more the British than the Americans who have allowed Islamabad to emerge as the sole arbiter for peace and stability in the war-torn country.
Karzai decided to blow with the wind. He toured Pakistan recently, described it as the twin of Afghanistan and showered lavish praise on Islamabad. It’s through Pakistan that Karzai now hopes to strike a peace deal with the Taliban, and share power with them. To this end, the Afghan president has convened a peace jirga for April 29. Says Haroun Mir of the think-tank Centre for Research and Policy, “Karzai will try to get his deal with the Taliban approved by the jirga.”

The veil is still there, but fashion is back too; mannequins display the latest cuts

But why convene a peace jirga? Mir says Karzai’s position in Parliament has been undermined, and he believes the best option for him is to get the support of tribal elders who command clout outside the house, among the masses. Karzai is also planning a ‘Kabul Conference’ later to consolidate his support base and win legitimacy for the jirga’s decision.

An indubitable survivor, Karzai knows his peace plan could run into rough weather, particularly as his own cabinet colleagues are opposed to it. Many of his colleagues belong to ethnic minority groups or are dubbed ‘liberal Pashtuns’, leaders who had suffered tremendously under the rule of the Pashtun-dominated Taliban. They are opposed to any deal with either Pakistan or its proxy, the Taliban. Which is why a senior Afghan government advisor admits, “Karzai has lost the game in his mind as he feels cornered from all sides. Though he is talking about a deal with the Taliban, even he knows that it will be like signing his own death warrant. We’ll have to wait and watch on what he does ultimately.”

Obviously, Karzai’s machinations have made India nervous. In a rethink of its own policy, India has indicated that the rehabilitation of Taliban soldiers who joined the movement for money and are now willing to abjure violence is acceptable. But it remains steadfastly opposed to the reintegration of the Taliban, or sharing power with them. As a senior Indian diplomat puts it, “If that happens, it will mean not only a legitimisation of the Taliban ideology but also a clear indication of throwing the Afghan constitution into the dustbin.”

The OPD is bustling at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health in Kabul

There are many here who blame India for its plight. They say India was not assertive about its presence here, thus failing to win the confidence of those who, hemmed in between Iran and Pakistan, considered it a natural ally. Says Moridian Dawood, advisor to the Afghan foreign minister, “India seems apologetic about its presence. It’s a regional player and must behave like one, instead of insisting on a benign presence with a penchant for staying in the background.”
Many in the Afghan establishment echo Dawood’s view, pointing out that even Karzai had told Indian officials that since New Delhi didn’t have the stomach to back him in the face of US opposition, he had no choice but to throw his lot with Pakistan. Not only Karzai, many liberal Pashtuns complain that India didn’t openly back them, preferring to cultivate its old friends in the erstwhile Northern Alliance. No doubt, India tried to correct this perception, locating many projects in the Pashtun-dominated provinces rather than at places where ethic minority groups are in a majority. But this has not quite earned it enough dividends.

Should Karzai and the Taliban strike a deal, Afghanistan could again slip into chaos, imperilling India’s $1.3 billion investment and the energy it expended to acquire a salience here. No wonder, Indian officials are burning the midnight oil, trying to refashion its Afghan policy. Should it put its weight behind the groups which constituted the Northern Alliance, a formation that’s bound to oppose a return of the Taliban? Or should it play both ends, refrain from shutting the door on the Pashtuns? Says Dawood, “I don’t believe this is the end-game. But India, which enjoys so much popular support among Afghans, must have the stamina and patience to stay the course. It can’t afford to run away.”


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
India prepares for Afghan winter

Geopolitical notes from India
M D Nalapat

India’s involvement in Afghanistan has long been a problem not only for Pakistan but for the US.The reason for this lies in the Cold War, and first Zbigniew Brezezinski ( National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter) and later William Casey, President Ronald Reagan’s CIA chief. Both masterminded the development of a virulent ideology of hatred that could be injected into the minds of impressionable Muslim youths from across the world,and which would lead them to even give their lives against forces that they believed were anti-Islam. Both Brezezinski and Casey thought that the USSR was the natural target of the fanatics who had been newly minted by the CIA.They never even once considered the possibility that the US may also be seen by these radicals as being anti-Islam

General Zia-ul-Haq was ready to hand over facilities and manpower in Pakistan to the CIA, so that hundreds of thousands of non-conventional fighters could be trained and sent across the Afghan border. Fortunately for Zia, the leaders of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union were bureaucrats and cowards,who did not dare to even throw a hand grenade into Pakistan,even though the country became the base for operations against Moscow in Afghanistan. The training given by the Pakistan army,combined with the weapons made available by the US, ensured the deaths of several hundred Soviet soldiers each month,and consequent panic in Moscow. At that time, during the early part of the 1980s, quiet overtures were made to then Prime Miniister Indira Gandhi to help Soviet forces in Afghanistan. However, Indira Gandhi was an Asian nationalist,who was unhappy at the military occupation of a neighbour by the USSR,and declined any help.During the entire Afghan war (1979-88), not a single Indian soldier was sent to Afghanistan,nor were Soviet troops allowed to use India for logistical support

The situation changed after Mikhail Gorbachev,in his endless quest for accomodation with the US and its allies, abruptly withdrew Soviet forces from Afghanistan,leaving behind the Najibullah government, with whom India quickly established close ties. However, the fact that it had first been set up by Moscow made the new Afghan government anathema to the US and Pakistan. While Bill Clinton was President of the United States, covert support was given to a specially-created militia force that was given enough cash to buy over much of the opposition to it. CIA dollars helped the Taliban to take over in Kabul by 1996,although the credit for this was generously given by the Clinton administration to Benazir Bhutto,who accepted it graciously.

Since then, it is Pakistan that is seen as the creator of the Taliban,whereas in fact the militia was the creation of the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency of the Pentagon,working through an oil company close to the Clinton team India had been watching since 1995 the moves by the US to create and send into the field the Taliban. Then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao presciently predicted to this columnist that “ the fanatics being trained in Pakistan by America will soon become a danger to both countries”. He began in his own quiet way to ensure that support reached elements in Afghanistan opposed to the Taliban. It is no secret that India was the principal backer of the Northern Alliance, followed by Iran. Although Russia too has been given the credit for backing this anti-Taliban force,the fact is that President Yeltsin faithfully followed the Gorbachev line of making concession after concession to Washington,with nothing in return. India allowed the Northern Alliance to take over the Afghan embassy in New Delhi, which became the international fulcrum of the resistance to the Taliban. Interestingly, throughout 1997 and 1998,the Clinton administration informally conveyed its displeasure to India at the backing given to the Northern Alliance,even though after the 2001 Afghan war, US commentators were briefed about “ strong support to the Northern Alliance against the Taliban”, an untruth that has now assumed the status of fact in almost every US and EU commentary about Afghanistan

Along came 9/11,and the prompt Indian offer of assistance to the US. This was spurned by the Bush White House in favour of the prescription of the CIA and the Pentagon,which was to once again make Pakistan the conduit for operations in Afghanistan, a situation that prevails to the present day. Looking back,it was fortunate for Delhi that Washington declined its offer of help, for Indian military involvement in Afghanistan would have made the country as hated by the Afghan people as NATO is today. Once 9/11 took place,those in Washington who had masterminded and implemented the 1994-96 policy of assistance to the Taliban fell silent,and massive assistance began to get funneled to the Northern Alliance. Exactly as the Taliban did in 1995-96,the Northern Alliance used CIA cash to buy over the opposition,and quickly took control of Kabul as well as 80% of Afghanistan. However,fatefully,they were prevented by the US from going upto the border with Pakistan, and it is precisely in this zone (forbidden to the Northern Alliance) that the Taliban regrouped. Indeed,much of the growth was because of the US itself, for funding was given to several individuals who the CIA thought were anti-Taliban,but who in reality backed the militia.Thus, the Taliban grew from 2005-7 largely because of CIA cash.That agency had - and has - no clue as to who its friends and enemies are in the region

Today, the estimate in Delhi is that almost 40% of the land area of Afghanistan is in the effective control of the Taliban,and the worst case scenario is that they will occupy another 20%,although this time not Kabul. So far as India is concerned,it would be wiser to concentrate on that part of Afghanistan that is free of the Taliban,and once again repeat the 1995 strategy of backing anti-Taliban elements. As President Dimitry Medvedev of Russia seems to be following in the footsteps of Mikhail Gorbachev, the only other country that can assist India in Afghanistan is once again Iran. Hence,there is likely to be a thaw in relations between Teheran and Delhi,which had been made frosty after the Manmohan Singh goivernment joined hands with the US in the IAEA to condemn Iran.

This time around,such an outcome is not certain, given the deteriorating position in Afghanistan,and the consequent need for an Indo-Iranian strategy aimed at blocking the Taliban from once again taking over the country. In this context, those reports coming out of the US that speak of a Taliban-Iran alliance are ridiculed in Delhi, which is aware that these are as false as were reports of the imaginary WMD stockpiles in the possession of Saddasm Hussein This time around,however,India will seek to ensure that the bulk of the Pashtun people do not follow the Taliban.Because of pressure from a panicky General Stanley McChrystal, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is being forced into making overtures to the Taliban,even though he is aware that any involvement of Taliban elements in an Afghan government would be akin to Hindenburg allowing the Nazis entry into the German government in 1933. Not everybody is as clueless about reality as the CIA. South Block is backing President Karzai in his efforts to detach the Pashtuns from the Taliban,and is hoping that the CIA will not be allowed to repeart the very mess in Afghanistan that it created in 1994 when it began grooming what became the Taliban about eighteenmonths later.

As for Pakistan, once again,this neighbour of India is becoming the worst victim of a stategy of using extremists to fight extremism. Being friends with the US is all right and indeed desirable,but only if a country ignores the advice given to it by Washington. The pro-Taliban moves by the Pentagon oin Afghanistan are acting as a reality check on those in the Manmohan Singh government who had earlier believed that all wisdom flowed out of the US administration. India is preparing itself for a long Afghan winter.


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
India to play role in Afghanistan 'with or without America'

WASHINGTON: Amid talk of the US looking for a strategy to exit Afghanistan, India today made it clear that it would continue to play a role in the war-torn nation "with or without America" as it has crucial stakes in the stability of country on its periphery.

Ahead of the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Barack Obama during which Afghanistan will figure, sources said India's policy on Afghanistan will be determined by its own interests and not by what others do.

Singh will be here on a four-day visit to attend Nuclear Security Summit on April 12-13.

"We will play a role in Afghanistan with or without the US because Afghanistan is in our immediate periphery and we will do all to protect our periphery," sources said.

The sources noted that India and the US had common goals in Afghanistan that the country should be stable, peaceful and there should be no outside interference. But the question was about reaching there, they said while emphasising the need for coordination.

The comments came in the backdrop of a talk that the US was planning to leave Afghanistan for which it was looking for a strategy.

At one time, the US had talked about handing over the security of Afghanistan to regional countries like Pakistan, Iran and others. This, however, could not happen because of the US' own problems with Iran and internal situation in Kyrghzstan.

Indian government believes that Pakistan would not be entrusted with any prominent role in the affairs of Afghanistan even though "some parts" of Pakistan would be used by the US in Afghanistan.

About options that India has in case the US-led forces quit Afghanistan, the sources said India will devise its strategy according to the evolving situation and work with those who matter.

On Pakistan's role in Afghanistan, the sources said it has been saying that it was willing to do more in that country in terms of fighting terrorism. "India will be happy if Pakistan does our job against terrorism," they said.

With regard to the conditions within Afghanistan, the sources said military situation was better than six months ago but politically, the country remains fragmented.

During their meeting, Singh and Obama are expected to discuss Afghanistan in the context of the new strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan unveiled by the US President a few months back.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss Pakistan where some important developments have taken place over the last few days, with Constitution being amended to strip the President of some sweeping powers.

However, Indian establishment is not impressed by these developments as it feels that the military continues to wield enormous influence and power in Pakistan, preventing it to be a democracy in the real sense.

The sources said India will face problems like access to the establishment, dealing with problem of terrorism and understanding what Pakistan is doing in Afghanistan.

Besides, there is the risk of nuclear material falling into the hands of terrorists, which is a matter of serious concern for India.

National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao are expected to raise articulate these concerns at the official-level meetings to be held on the sidelines of the two-day Nuclear Security Summit.

Singh and Obama will also discuss the next steps in the Indo-US strategic relations, which were recently marked by the conclusion of agreement on reprocessing.

The reprocessing agreement, a crucial step for implementation of the historic Indo-US civil nuclear deal, was reached last month.

The two leaders are expected to give directions to the future of the bilateral ties, ahead of the second strategic dialogue to be held two months later in Washington. External Affairs Minister S M Krishna will be traveling here for the same.

The first strategic dialogue was held in New Delhi last year.

Talking about implementation of the Indo-US nuclear deal, the sources noted that almost everything had been tied up and only a few pieces were remaining

With regard to the Reprocessing agreement, the sources noted that it reflected significant achievements for India. One of them is the provision for setting up more than one facility for reprocessing spent fuel.

Under the 123 agreement, India was to set up one such facility and the US negotiators insisted on this. However, the Indian side cited practical difficulties in this regard and managed to convince the US.

Secondly, physical protection of the reprocessing facilities would be the responsibility of IAEA and the US would have no "intrusive" role.

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