Indian Role in Afghanistan

RPK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He said:

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

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

RPK

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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World rejects India's Taliban stand


LONDON: A one-day international conference on Afghanistan on Thursday rejected India's argument that there were no degrees of Talibanism. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, hosting the conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, announced in his opening address the establishment of a $500 million 'trust fund' to buy "peace and integration" with warriors who are engaged in violence for economic rather than ideological reasons. A whopping $140 million has been pledged already for this year.

During his pre-conference discussion with the British foreign secretary David Miliband, external affairs minister S M Krishna had specifically said, "There should be no distinction between a good Taliban and a bad Taliban." But this clearly fell on deaf ears. It was also unclear whether remnants of Afghanistan's Northern Alliance, once cultivated by India, would be accommodated in any way. There was also no reference to the erstwhile foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, who put up a spirited fight in the first round of the recent controversial presidential election and exposed fraud before withdrawing from the contest.

Krishna was allocated a seat in the second of three rows of attendees at the conference which in itself reflected India's peripheral role in Afghan affairs in the eyes of the international community. This, despite India being the biggest regional aid-giver to Afghanistan, with a commitment of $1.3 million. Earlier in the week, Turkey, an ally of Pakistan, did not even bother to invite India to a confabulation on Afghanistan.

Krishna was among more than 70 foreign ministers and officials of international organisations who attended the convention at the 185-year-old Lancaster House, a coveted venue for summits and high level interactions.

Pakistan supports a differentiation between Taliban segments, including being generally soft towards the Afghan Taliban, which was sponsored by the Pakistani Army's Inter-Services Intelligence. In an interview to a British daily on Thursday, foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi claimed: "Pakistan is perhaps better placed than any other country in the world to support Afghan reintegration and reconciliation."




As a goodwill gesture, the conference was preceded by a lifting of United Nations sanctions on five leaders of the obscurantist Taliban regime, which was ousted by armed forces led by the United States after the 9/11 attack on New York by the Afghanistan-based Al Qaida. Among the beneficiaries is a former foreign minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil.

However, Brown warned, "But those insurgents who refuse to accept the conditions for reintegration, we have no choice but to pursue them militarily." It is widely believed that hardcore elements among the extremists will not accept the amnesty.

In keeping with United States President Barack Obama's plan to start withdrawing American troops in a little over 18 months, Brown also declared that to fill the breach the strength of the Afghan army would be increased to 134,000 by October of this year and to 171,600 by October 2011. Corresponding enlargements would also occur in respect of the Afghan police. The template for Afghanistan is similar to the one utilised in Iraq, that of handover of responsibilities province by province to national security forces.
 

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Clear views from the Afghan summit

London's conference on Afghanistan concentrated minds, but did not answer the vital question: will the new strategy work?

If nothing else, the London conference on Afghanistan concentrated minds. It defined the parameters of success and failure. It went some way towards charting a co-operative path out of the morass after eight years of often directionless drift. It dangled the prospect of a longed-for peace. But it provided no answer to the only question that really matters: will the new strategy work?

The war's western principals have now made clear how they plan to proceed and roughly how long they think it will take. The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, no great democrat but a great political survivor, completed his latest rehabilitation. The key regional player, Pakistan, renewed its pro-western vows just as divorce beckoned.

But Taliban leaders looking down from their Hindu Kush fastnesses stuck stubbornly to the old script. "Invading forces" must withdraw before there could be any talk of talks, they said.

Today's conference was a "waste of time". And offers to rehabilitate Talib foot soldiers were an infidel "trick".

Important things changed in London nonetheless. Karzai's prominent appeal to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, presumably agreed in advance, for guidance and assistance for the new peace and reintegration programme was a sharp move. Potential Saudi leverage over the militants, going back to the Soviet invasion, is unmatched.

As recent events in Yemen show, the old Saudi posture of standing back, cashing the west's oil receipts, and indulging Wahhabi fantasies of an untrammelled, conservative Islam is no longer affordable. The London message to all parties – the need to commit – seems to have been heard at last.

Pakistan, too, is back onside after a difficult year politically and rifts with the Obama administration.

Pakistan's relations with Kabul are also much improved. Islamabad seems to belatedly recognise that its aim of curbing Indian influence in Afghanistan is best served by supporting the western-backed government, especially given the prospect, post-London, of power-sharing with Taliban elements friendly to, or schooled by, Pakistan.

Interviewed before the conference,the foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, said Pakistan was ready and able to mediate any future talks with the Taliban. His offer has taken on added significance after it emerged that some elements of the Taliban held secret talks with a UN special envoy this month. This increased engagement by regional countries signals acceptance of the British argument that Afghanistan poses regional problems requiring collective, self-generated regional answers.

The regional approach, coupled with the emphasis on Afghan self-reliance in security matters, a progressive reconciliation and reintegration process, and ongoing financial, developmental and institutional assistance, is the way Britain and the US hope finally, and in the not too distant future, to extract their legions. Like past empires, they have learned the hard way that nobody wins in Afghanistan. London confirmed the best they now hope for is an orderly and honourable retreat, scattering alms as they leave.

Yet to succeed, even this limited, stripped-down objective must negotiate a string of booby-traps both numerous and daunting, such as endemic corruption. Karzai's suggestion today that it may be 15 years before Afghanistan's security forces achieve reliable self-sufficiency seems more realistic than the more ambitious transitiontargets touted by Gordon Brown.

In the regional context, India's refusal or inability to respond substantively to efforts to reboot its peace process with Pakistan is deeply troubling for western policy-makers. Another Mumbai-style terrorist attack, blamed on Pakistan-based militants, would spark "limited war" between the two, most probably in Kashmir, a well-placed diplomat predicted. That could spell disaster for the Afghan strategy. Yet it seems to some that India is waiting for the bombers to strike again.

Most tendentious of all is the dazzling assumption, propagated by Brown today and Barack Obama in his state of the union address, that the Afghan troop surge will work. Nothing in the past two years, a time of significant Taliban advances, justifies any such unqualified conclusion. It's a live hope, not a dead certainty. Because Afghanistan is different, there can be absolutely no guarantee of success. Who's saying that? General David Petraeus, architect of the original Iraq surge, that's who. And he should know.
 

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India offers 100 fellowships to Afghan farm students

LONDON: External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna on Thursday announced two Indian initiatives to help assist the rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan.

Mr. Krishna is here to attend a conference on Afghanistan.

Mr. Krishna said in a statement that since agriculture was key to Afghanistan’s development, India had decided to offer 100 fellowships every year over the next five years for its agricultural students to do Masters and Ph.D. programmes in Indian universities.

Building project
He said India strongly supported the proposed Afghan National Institution Building Project agreed upon at the conference.

Without naming any country but in an apparent reference to Pakistan, he said: “For Afghanistan’s stabilisation it is essential for the neighbouring and regional countries to ensure that support, sustenance and sanctuaries for terrorist organisations is ended forthwith.”
 

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Good opportunity earned should not let it go...

I think its truly an good opportunity for us.... India should not leave this opportunity and learn from past mistakes.... Opportunity earned is advantage taken.... Its an good opportunity because....
a) It will keep us ahead of the race in south asian region..
b) Its of strategic importance ...
c) Just our presence in that region will help us to help us to keep pakistan away in dilemma and its focus would get diverted.... and the will feel the real heat of loosing their foothold in that area.. which they call as their backyard... its not good to treat another country like so bad..
d) Having good access to the intelligence of Taliban insurgents and further pressurizing Taliban and LeT into Pakistan Territory.. which they are afraid of.. this will allow to intensify the presence of US in Pakistan and mounting pressure on pakistan to act against Taliban..

So, its one opportunity and multiple advantages.... we need to grab it ASAP...
 

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If china comes to pakistan to keep a military base, then we have no other go that keep a base in the Afghanistan possibly the IAF airstrips also. We should not do the same mistake as we did with the bangladesh, need to be more proactive in this issue as this will the i the interest of national security
 

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Indian Motion
From New Delhi's perspective, the "AfPak" debate is all about the "Pak."
BY KAPIL KOMIREDDI | FEBRUARY 4, 2010


There was a lone dissenter at last week's Afghanistan conference in London: India.

As representatives from more than 60 countries convened at the historic Lancaster House, New Delhi's representative to the summit, Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna, emphasized to his British counterpart that it would be a monumental folly, at this juncture, to make a distinction "between a good Taliban and a bad Taliban" or to legitimize the former through reaching out. From India's perspective, because the Taliban was originally an extension of Pakistan's intelligence agency and because it has been used by Islamabad to mount attacks against India, there can be no "good Taliban."

But Krishna, seated in the second row, was politely ignored. Alas, it wasn't the first time.

The contours of the Afghanistan debate as it plays out in Washington, London, and Islamabad are well known. But India arguably has just as much at stake as the Western countries -- if not more. New Delhi is worried that legitimizing elements of the Taliban may increase India's vulnerability to terrorist attack. While the world discusses security strategies for Afghanistan, India focuses on how these proposals will impact its relationship with Pakistan. For New Delhi, the "AfPak" debate is really just about "Pak."

Thus far, India's policy toward Pakistan has been hands-off, leaving it to the paymasters in Washington and London. In the immediate aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, New Delhi even acceded to Washington's requests and took no action against Islamabad in order to facilitate the war in Afghanistan.

But now that dynamic is changing. As control of Afghanistan is being gradually handed back to the Taliban, an increasingly alarmed New Delhi will start looking for ways to prevent trouble. Although deployment of troops has been categorically ruled out by Defense Minister A.K. Antony, pressure will probably mount on the government to reconsider that decision. New Delhi will actively work to resuscitate remnants of the Northern Alliance, India's longstanding allies against the Taliban. Most immediately, India will apply pressure on Pakistan, demanding that Islamabad act against the plotters of the Mumbai attacks. While New Delhi's recent offer to resume diplomatic talks with Pakistan is a positive sign, should another terrorist attack take place, India will not be as patient as it was last time.

India may well feel slighted when it comes to gratitude from the global community on Afghanistan. Currently, New Delhi is the fifth-largest donor of civilian aid to Kabul. India has constructed the new parliament building, the Palace of Democracy; trained the country's parliamentarians; and donated aircraft to resuscitate Afghanistan's national airline, Ariana. Its workers are engaged in major infrastructure projects ranging from highways and electricity grids to dam projects, telecommunications, and the expansion of a TV network. As India's junior foreign minister, Shashi Tharoor, put it, "The reason that Kabul has 24 hours of electricity a day is because of Indian engineers who have actually delivered the power supply."

Besides, the wild popularity of Indian cinema and TV shows in Afghanistan means that India enjoys a soft-power edge over every other country currently engaged there. Unsurprisingly, in the most recent opinion poll, India emerged with the highest favorability rating of any country involved in Afghanistan: 74 percent.

Yet in the endless debates focusing on Afghanistan, India's role in the region has usually been ignored by the United States and Europe -- often deliberately, as New Delhi is quick to point out, in order to appease Pakistan.

Washington is keenly aware of the benefits that New Delhi brings to Afghanistan. But so far it has been wary of openly embracing India as a partner. As Gen. Stanley McChrystal wrote in his assessment of the war last fall, "Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people." But a larger role for India in Afghanistan, he warned, "is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan and India."

What this means is that India, the only stable secular democracy in the region, is being actively prevented from helping in Afghanistan in order to appease the Pakistani regime, lest it re-enact the carnage that was visited upon Mumbai in 2008 and the Indian Embassy in Kabul in 2008 and 2009. Which raises the question: Is the U.S. objective in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban, or is it to secure the country for Pakistan? To New Delhi, the answer looks increasingly like the latter.

Washington's critics trace the origins of today's crisis to the United States' abrupt abandonment of Afghanistan in the late 1980s. The trouble with this version of history is that it skips over the 1990s. But contrary to what is now conventional wisdom in the West, the Taliban in its current incarnation is not a remnant of the Cold War. It is a creation of Pakistan. It was during the 1990s that the Taliban -- actively backed by Pakistan -- seized control of Kabul. Since then, New Delhi has witnessed Afghanistan become a launching pad for anti-India terrorism.

Today, the tragic irony of President Barack Obama, who invokes the virtues of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi while simultaneously making overtures to the Taliban in an oxymoronic pursuit for "moderate extremists," has not been lost on India. A tiny but vocal band of skeptics in India is already questioning the wisdom of New Delhi's alignment with the United States over the last ten years. Of course, it is unlikely that New Delhi would directly oppose U.S. policy in the region. But in the first year of the Obama administration, much of the progress achieved over a decade of aggressive diplomacy to bring India closer to the United States has been undone.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/02/04/indian_motion?print=yes&hidecomments=yes&page=full
 

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Centre mulls more Afghan security

New Delhi, March 2: The Centre is considering plans to deploy more Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel in Afghanistan, a move that may see embassy officials, aid agencies and private-sector employees there get personal security.

Security agencies believe that with Pakistan’s unease at Indian presence in Afghanistan, terror strikes on Indian establishments may continue. New Delhi hasn’t, however, accused Pakistan of engineering Friday’s strike in Kabul in which six Indians were killed.

Senior home ministry officials are waiting for the report of the Indian investigators who are now in Kabul to probe last week’s attack before chalking out a detailed security plan. National security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon is scheduled to land in the Afghan capital on Friday along with officials of the Intelligence Bureau.

A senior home ministry official said it was now certain that more ITBP personnel would be deployed. “Our aid and reconstruction activities in Afghanistan will continue. A team of Indian officials was in Kabul a few months back to assess the situation. Their assessment, along with that of the current team (sent after the terrorist strike on Friday), will help us in formulating a new security plan,” said the official.

There are about 4,000 Indians engaged in projects being funded from India’s $1.3-billion assistance to the war-torn nation. The officials are vulnerable as they work in hospitals, schools, power plants and other public places.
 

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Natural law brings AfPak crashing

By M K Bhadrakumar

Be it a baseball struck in a neighborhood sandlot game or in high-wire diplomacy, an elementary principle of physics holds good - what goes up must come down. In a way, the sheer dynamics of the nosedive of the United States' AfPak diplomacy in the four weeks since the London conference on Afghanistan on January 28 can be attributed to gravitational pulls.

Earth's gravity does not permit animated suspension, and US's AfPak special representative Richard Holbrooke has found it difficult to keep up the entente cordiale worked out in the British capital. United States President Barack Obama may need to act faster than he would have thought.

The US's AfPak special representative Richard Holbrooke has run into head wind almost simultaneously in four key capitals in and around the Hindu Kush - Islamabad, Kabul, Tehran and New Delhi.
Holbrooke no doubt achieved spectacular success in London, by rushing an agenda of "reintegration" and reconciliation of the Afghan Taliban through the assembled gathering of statesmen. The gathering included such inveterate critics of the doctrine of the "good Taliban" as India, China and Russia. But Holbrooke kept the lot together. That was probably the finest hour of AfPak diplomacy.

Pakistan sets ground rules
But did he force the pace? No sooner had the crowd dispersed from London, than AfPak diplomacy began unraveling. First, Pakistan went ahead and "captured" the Taliban's deputy head Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. The funny thing is that Baradar was shaping up as a key interlocutor for AfPak diplomacy. The Mullah or his men were darting in and out of the Persian Gulf oasis towns having secret rendezvous with American envoys. Call it Track II or whatever, but a track was being cleared for the US's reconciliation with the Taliban's Quetta shura - its top leadership organ.

Or, at least, that was how Washington assessed the situation. Of course, these goings on were completely in the know of Pakistan. But there was a crucial difference: they were not being conducted through Pakistani mediation. So, Pakistan just nabbed Baradar. The dilemma facing AfPak diplomacy today is: how do you negotiate when you don't have an interlocutor? A kind of recess is developing in the AfPak diplomatic calendar.

Pakistan's message is straightforward: any negotiations with the Taliban ought to be conducted through the proper channel, namely, Pakistan's ISI. Actually, it is not too much to demand. Pakistan committed a great deal of resources to stop the Taliban disintegrating through some of their darkest days between 2001 and 2004. Islamabad cannot be expected to just roll over and let the Americans inherit the crown jewels ("strategic assets") when the hour of glory is nearing.

Karzai delivers a blow
Witnessing the determination in Islamabad to lock the stable doors to prevent the studs from being stolen, Kabul seems to have followed suit. Afghan President Hamid Karzai went ahead with a decree "Afghanizing" the country's election commission. Curiously, Karzai acted unilaterally, just as Holbrooke was on a visit to Kabul.

There is some dramatic irony insofar as Karzai intended his move with the primary purpose of preempting the sort of regime change that Hobrooke attempted during the last presidential elections. Karzai has decreed that the Afghan election commission shall henceforth have no more foreigners - that is to say, there is no more scope for the US to plant proxy agents who might dictate terms within the election supervisory body.

The timing is interesting insofar as the Afghan parliamentary elections are due in August. Karzai expects insurgent groups to increase their participation in the elections to make the new parliament more representative. He has negotiated with the Taliban with this objective in mind. Karzai hopes to see the new parliament as an Afghan political base for himself that would insure against any US attempts to oust him.

AfPak diplomacy, on the other hand, is moving on an altogether different track to engage the Taliban with a view to integrate the latter in the Afghan mainstream politics, which would certainly necessitate Karzai making way for an "interim government" within a year or so. If he succeeds in constituting a new parliament with a four-year term as prescribed by the constitution, the US game plan will crash land.

The political stakes are indeed high. Karzai has, plainly put, cocked a snook at AfPak diplomacy. Washington has been left with no option for the present but to take Karzai's blow and pretend nothing happened. The only way out now will be to deny Karzai the international funding without which he may be hard-pressed to the elections in August. But that is a blatant strong-arm tactic. Besides, Karzai is a tenacious leader and may still find a way out to hold the elections, and that could deal a blow to American prestige.

Conceivably, Holbrooke left Kabul with mixed feelings. It is unclear whether Karzai took him into confidence about his move to clip the AfPak wings, though Karzi probably did not. Quite obviously, Karzai's move is primarily directed at the sort of diplomacy Holbrooke practises - loaded with a lot of muscle power.

An Iranian set-up
From Kabul, Holbrooke apparently headed for his first ever tour of Central Asian capitals as "part of an accelerating intensification of our [AfPak] diplomatic outreach efforts". But Iranian reports have since interpreted that Holbrooke's real mission was to hold a clandestine meeting with the Jundullah terrorist leader Abdul Malik Rigi at the US airbase at Manas on the outskirts of the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek.

Washington is studiously keeping mum at the Iranian allegation. But Tehran has followed up on the matter with Bishkek. The Kyrgyz ambassador in Tehran has been summoned to the foreign ministry and asked to explain how his country's government got mixed up with a notorious terrorist like Rigi.

The story is still unfolding and there is no need to second-guess that if the Iranians chose to divulge so much already to the media, they must know a lot more. Rigi is presently undergoing interrogation at the hands of the Iranian authorities. If the Iranian media reports have any basis, AfPak diplomacy stands exposed as inept and ludicrous. The Iranians seem to have not only plucked Rigi out of the hands of his American mentors (which doesn't speak highly of the US intelligence capability) but it is all but certain that Pakistani intelligence may have directly or indirectly been privy to the Iranian operation.

A storm in Delhi
But what happened on last Tuesday was much worse. For no apparent reason, Holbrooke waded into the explosive subject of the terrorist attack in Kabul on February 25 which resulted in the killing of nine Indians, including two senior army officers. At a press briefing in Washington on Tuesday, he rubbished the preliminary assessment of Indian (and Afghan) officials that it was a targeted attack by the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-i-Taiba masterminded by the ISI.

"I don't accept the fact that this was an attack on an Indian facility like the embassy.'' Holbrooke said. ''They were foreigners, non-Indian foreigners hurt. It was a soft target. And let's not jump to conclusions. I understand why everyone in Pakistan and everyone in India always focuses on the other. But, please, let's not draw a conclusion which - for which there's no proof."

The Indian embassy was attacked by a suicide bomber last October, with 17 people killed. It was also bombed in July 2008 when 60 people died.

In principle, Holbrooke had a point, as the inquiry into last week's Kabul attack is still underway. But there is evidence that the terrorists went from room to room and sought out the Indians before killing them. Delhi is shocked that Holbrooke would go out on a limb apparently to cover up for the ISI.

But why he spoke at all - and its awkward timing - is becoming important. After all, diplomacy is also about remaining silent. Especially when Delhi and Islamabad are entangled in high-strung diplomacy under close US watch from behind the curtain.

The feeling in Delhi is that Holbrooke spoke on purpose. He is no doubt a consummate diplomat.

Holbrooke was likely indulging in a complex image-building exercise. The Baradar setback aside, Holbrooke has been having a rough time with the Pakistanis. According to the Delhi grapevine, he refers to the Pakistanis in a highly disparaging way as "useless fellows". The reading in Delhi is that the Pakistanis receive Holbrooke with elaborate courtesy and lavish hospitality, but prefer to do hard business with the Pentagon on the substantive issues of AfPak policy.

Holbrooke probably hoped that by placing ambassador Robin Raphel, who enjoyed past connections with the Pakistani establishment and the Taliban leadership, as his deputy in Islamabad he would get an inside track on the Quetta shura. But for Pakistan, anything involving the Quetta shura is for now deadly business. Pakistan is using Raphel to lobby in Washington for increased aid and so on, but it keeps the Quetta shura out of the matrix.

The harsh reality is that Pakistan is in a position to make or unmake AfPak diplomacy - and also AfPak diplomats. It holds the trump cards to deliver the Taliban to the negotiating table. And Islamabad is skilled enough to manipulate Washington.

In sum, with Karzai spinning out of control and Islamabad making a mockery of AfPak diplomacy, Holbrooke most probably spoke out of pressure. Viewed from Delhi, Holbrooke made a high-profile attempt to ingratiate himself with the powers that be who control Lashkar-i-Taiba. Whether he will succeed in this enterprise or not remains to be seen but he has certainly annoyed the Indian establishment.

The Indians made diplomatic demarche both at Delhi and at Washington, taking exception to Holbrooke's "unhelpful" outburst over the Kabul terrorist strike. After repeatedly rebuffing Holbrooke's request to visit Delhi for consultations, Indians finally received him only in late January in the immediate run-up to the London conference. Holbrooke blithely forecast at his press conference on Tuesday that he hopes to visit Delhi next with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. How Mullen (or Delhi for that matter) views the prospect remains to be seen.

Will Obama step in?
Why is AfPak diplomacy in such disarray? It isn't entirely Holbrooke's fault. For one thing, South Asians aren't like the "junkyard dogs" that he came across in the Balkans in the mid-1990s. They are a deeper lot credited with oriental patience and can be every bit as tenacious as Holbrooke himself must be.

Then, there is also a far deeper issue. Holbrooke is seriously handicapped by an AfPak brief that keeps evolving in his hands. This was not like the case with Yugoslavia where the Bill Clinton administration pursued a cold-blooded agenda. The Washington Post reported that the AfPak diplomacy has confused all protagonists, including the Afghans.

At any rate, Holbrooke has been left somewhat stranded on the center stage. The worst thing that can happen to a diplomat is to be expected to stay in the limelight and yet not do anything.

Second, unlike in the 1990s, the US's influence is much diminished today, but its diplomats work as if they operate in a unipolar world. The plain truth is that regional powers like India, Iran or even Pakistan are far from convinced about the US's AfPak policy. And they can be expected to do their utmost to safeguard their interests, no matter what the US diplomats prescribe as good enough.

The tailwind that the London conference was expected to generate dissipated all too soon and AfPak diplomacy is running into head winds that may make forward movement difficult. But Obama gets an opportunity to tack into the wind in early April when he is due to meet the prime ministers of India and Pakistan on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.



Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.
 

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(same post with the 'inappropriate' language removed)

Why would India want to have a role in Afghanistan? Afghanistan is the center of global terrorism, the home base of taliban and a strong hold of Al-Quada. It is also a land locked country with 99% muslim population and a neighbor of Pakistan, India's sworn enermy. Time and again it has proven that who ever dares to venture into Afganistan, be it British, Soviets or now US, will eventually shoot themselves in the foot. These people are wild and indominable.

Now look at India. India has an image problem with the muslim world, it is viewed as an ally of US, has cozy relationship with Israel and a sworn enermy of fellow muslim bretheren Pakistan. If india does indeed send troops to Pakistan, it will be seen as a huge provocation in the muslim world, and will for sure invite more jehadis & terrorists, which India already has enough of, to the country.

Also in the eyes of the jihadis, India is a muslim country gone bad. It has a huge muslim population, was ruled by muslims for millenium. Thus bringing India back into the islamic grip is seen by the jehadis as a holy duty and conquering india would thus have higher priority than any other none-muslim country. Under such circumstances, If I were an indian politian, I would try anything to keep india out of the current christian-islam struggle.

Also logistically it's not possible for India to station troops there. As someone said this requires to bring Iran into a anti-taliban coalition. Do you guys realize that Iran is 1000 times closer to Taliban than it is to US. Unless the Ayatollahs fall from power, there is no prospect of Iran providing passage way to India into Afghanistan.

Reportedly the US invited both Russia and China to participate in the fight against taliban in Afghanistan, and both declined with good reason. Don't think India is that stupid.
 

Vinod2070

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This is mostly your imagination. India has one of the largest Muslim populations enjoying democracy the like of which Muslims enjoy nowhere, even in Muslim countries. India has good relations with most of the Muslim world.

There is no image problem for India in the Muslim world. Most of the muslim world has good relations with the USA, many with Israel too. China has relations with Israel as well.

Regarding the "fellow muslim bretheren Pakistan", one just has to see the depth of Afghanistani enmity for these brothers. They have not forgotten what their Taliban proxies did to them. No love lost for Pakistanis as far as Afghanistan is concerned. Remember this country didn't even recognize Pakistan and even now doesn't recognize the Durand line and would like to "liberate the tribals" living there.

You post is mostly an ill informed rant.
 

Vinod2070

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Also in the eyes of the jihadis, India is a muslim country gone bad. It has a huge muslim population, was ruled by muslims for millenium. Thus bringing India back into the islamic grip is seen by the jehadis as a holy duty and conquering india would thus have higher priority than any other none-muslim country.
These Jihadi scum may imagine what they want. India was never a Muslim country. It was ruled by invading Muslims for a small part of her history like it was by the British. The British were kicked out and before that India had already kicked out the foreign Muslim invader rule from most of India. Read history to find the details.

Check out this post:

http://www.defenceforum.in/forum/sh...ary-on-Partition&p=85563&viewfull=1#post85563

The over-all all-lndia causes of partition are well enough known. At the root of it all was history. The Hindus had an acute sense of grievance over the Muslim mayhem in India. But the Muslims on the other hand were dismayed that Islam, which had prevailed everywhere else, had been checkmated in India. In the celebrated words of poet Hali:

Woh deene Hejazi ka bebak beda
Nishan jiska aqsai alam mein pahuncha
Kiye passipar jisne saton samandar
Woh dooba dahane mein Ganga kay aakar.

(The fearless flotilla of Islam, whose flag fluttered over all the world, the ship that crossed the seven seas, came here and sank in the Ganga.)

In the eighteenth century, Hindu society stood up triumphant from Attock to Cuttack and Delhi to Deccan --- having contained the poison of the preceding centuries like a `Nilakantha'. Islam stood tamed --- and Indianized. And then came 1761 and the defeat of the sovereign power of the Mahrattas in the Third Battle of Panipat, which opened the way to British rule in India. It also revived the Wahabis and the Waliullahs, who took Islam back to fundamentalism and greater fanaticism in hopes of an Islamic revival.
 

Vinod2070

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Also, right now their focus seems to be on Muslim countries that are not Islamic enough! No?
 

tony4562

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This is mostly your imagination. India has one of the largest Muslim populations enjoying democracy the like of which Muslims enjoy nowhere, even in Muslim countries. India has good relations with most of the Muslim world.

There is no image problem for India in the Muslim world. Most of the muslim world has good relations with the USA, many with Israel too. China has relations with Israel as well.

Regarding the "fellow muslim bretheren Pakistan", one just has to see the depth of Afghanistani enmity for these brothers. They have not forgotten what their Taliban proxies did to them. No love lost for Pakistanis as far as Afghanistan is concerned. Remember this country didn't even recognize Pakistan and even now doesn't recognize the Durand line and would like to "liberate the tribals" living there.

You post is mostly an ill informed rant.
There is a difference between China and India in the eyes of muslims. Right now anti-us sentiment runs strong among them, and China is seen as outside the US camp whereas India is seen as very much in it. Also you need to differentiate the goverment and the people, yes some muslim countries (btw not too many, justb Eqypt and Turkey if I remember correctly and Turkey's prime minister just had a hot-headed run-in with Simon Perez) have diplomatic relationship with Israel, out of convenience, but generally speaking anti-semitic sentiment across the Islamic world has never run higher. Even though I'm from east asia which for the time being is not threatened by the islamic extremism, I have come to my realization that world wide the muslims are on a mission to conqur the world, and India is top in their agenda.
 

Vinod2070

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There is a difference between China and India in the eyes of muslims. Right now anti-us sentiment runs strong among them, and China is seen as outside the US camp whereas India is seen as very much in it.
There is some deep problem with this narrative. India allows every religion to be practiced freely. You just need to see how much freedom China gives its Muslims. They have a raging Muslim insurgency which they are controlling with iron fist.

China-US relationship is again very strong. Most of these issues are make believe. They may think of India as a softer target compared to China, anything else is BS.

You are wrong about just "Eqypt and Turkey" as well, there are several more.

These Jihadis have had their arse handed to them. Right now they are no more than a nuisance. They are not going to capture a single street corner, leave alone a nuclear armed country.

Those N. bombs are not made for show, they are made to be used when needed!
 

tony4562

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Nukes are useless against spread of extremism. Ironically its the goverments and armies in the muslim world that are keeping islam extremism in check. And for India, and too lesser extent also China or any country with sizable muslim population, the danger mainly comes from within, external factors like al-qaida or foreign insugency fighters and ideologues could only play the role of catalysts. India, if I remember correctly, has over 150 million muslims spread throughout the country, and you can probably not tell muslims just by look, for me that's whese the danger starts. If only 1% of those 150 million people actively take part in jihad, you are screwed. Muslim extremism is spreading like wild fire, almost everywhere in the world including US and UK, there is no reason to believe that India with such huge muslim population is immune to it. China has problem with extremists too, but muslims are mainly confined in the remote west, and even there they are not majority. And most importantly at all, we look different so its not possible for the extremists to sneak upon us.
 
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Vinod2070

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I disagree with the threat assessment provided by you. Muslim extremists have not shown the ability to take over even small countries with minuscule forces let alone a country the size of India!

Indian Muslims have proven themselves as totally patriot for decades. There is no reason to get alarmist over that as well.

Anyway we are going off topic and I would suggest that you open a new thread if you want to discuss this particular line.
 

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