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India Stranded in Afghanistan

March 10, 2010

 By Seema Mustafa | Express Buzz

National security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon went to Afghanistan a week after the terror attack on a small hotel housing mainly Indians, ostensibly to beef up security arrangements. While this was clearly one of the main tasks of his visit, it will not be speculation to add that a prime concern here is to re-gain India’s faltering grip in Kabul. More so after its diplomacy received a severe setback at the London Conference on Afghanistan where India was unable to garner support for its position in the region.

So while security is a pressing concern, India has become a target for the Taliban as well as various anti-India outfits operating in and out of Afghanistan. In the absence of a clear-cut strategy and vision, India finds itself isolated, with Turkey seizing the initiative to bring Islamabad and Kabul together on a ‘talk to Taliban’ policy. Pakistan, which has been spearheading a campaign to make India pull out of Afghanistan, has succeeded to a point where while New Delhi’s efforts at reconstruction are recognised by the West, its strategic considerations find no supporters. As the London Conference amply demonstrated the US and its NATO allies have decided to go along with the good and bad Taliban policy of Pakistan, drawing a distinction between the hardliners and moderates so as to begin talks with the latter.

On terrorism too Pakistan has been able to convince the world that it is as much a victim as India, and that it needs all the help it can get to protect its people from the extremists. It is of course true that terror has struck Pakistan hard and fast, but it is also true that Pakistan still seeks to protect those groups that it has used for terrorism within Jammu and Kashmir, and other parts of India. But given the fact that it has been able to convince the US under Barack Obama that it has dealt with, and is dealing with terrorism, it is now back in the good books of the western world and is not just recognised but also applauded as a worthy ally in the war against terrorism. The US knows, as does Pakistan, that the Obama exit policy cannot be possible without Islamabad’s help and support and is prepared to let the fires of Kashmir simmer, in return for dousing flames in Afghanistan.

One of the prime individuals behind Pakistan’s success in bringing the world around to what had appeared to be, and for India still is, a completely untenable stand is Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani. This quiet general who refuses to meet even the Pakistani media for interviews, keeps away from the spotlight, does not belong to the elite, has managed more than his predecessor did with his aggressive rhetoric. He has managed to convince Washington that the Pakistan Army can still perform through the successful operations in Swat and parts of Waziristan. Those who were sceptical of his prowess in Islamabad’s elite circles now admit that Kayani is a ‘professional’. He has also managed to win over some civilian support by convincing them that the army is not interested in political control.

As a result Pakistan has been able to reclaim its ‘strategic’ assets in Afghanistan and is presently brokering a dialogue with the Taliban, with full support of Afghan President Hamd Karzai who was earlier totally opposed to the idea. Menon, thus, has to rebuild fences with Karzai and ensure that Pakistan’s writ does not run in Afghanistan to a point where Indian interests in the region are jeopardised. This task was very achievable at one stage, but given India’s overconfidence and inability to think ahead, the advantage was lost last year.

It is true that India has made it clear that it will not close down consulates just because of absurd allegations by Pakistan, and will continue to remain engaged with the people of Afghanistan. But terror attacks are cutting into this resolve, in that pilots are now reluctant to fly Indian Airlines into Kabul, and doctors as well as others engaged in the process of reconstruction do not want to be part of the process. Security cannot be ensured as India is clearly being targeted, and the fact that the Americans are not particularly supportive was evident in Richard Holbrooke’s first remarks insisting that he did not think India was the target of the terrorists. He retracted subsequently, but the political significance of his first response was not lost in Kabul, Islamabad or New Delhi. The Americans have worked out their exit policy, and are moving frenetically forward. Pakistan is the ally, as is Karzai now, but India remains out on the fringes and is not essential to US strategy in the region except as a country that needs to be managed from time to time.

Instead of mindlessly succumbing to US pressure and US strategy for the region, New Delhi needs to urgently define its own interests and work out a related strategy. Talks with Pakistan, although very necessary, cannot be successful or pay India necessary dividends if these are not factored into a long-term policy for the region. Otherwise, as the recent foreign secretary level talks showed the exercise will be not just meaningless but even damaging to the peace process. Dialogue, thus, has to be factored into a strategic policy and not become the policy itself. It has started seeming for quite some time now that the government has outsourced thinking and policy making to the US, and quite happily accepts the finished product and starts implementing it without further thought.

Security for Indians in Afghanistan can only be possible if the terrorists know that any such action will draw the same response from the US and Afghan forces as if Americans or others were killed. And this can only be if India is able to get on to the same page as the rest. By now Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should have realised that India’s strength does not, and never can come from becoming a subordinate to the US. It comes from having a voice in the neighbourhood — West Asia, South Asia, China and Russia. Unfortunately the UPA government by following the policies initiated by the NDA, has ensured a certain marginalisation of India in the entire region. The reluctance to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation despite the enthusiasm of then Russian President Putin, the refusal to speak for the Palestinians, the inability to articulate a policy dear to West Asian hearts, the vote against Iran at the IAEA at a politically crucial time, the confused policy for Sri Lanka and Nepal… the list is long but suffice it to say that market economics can never be a substitute for sound diplomacy. After all if New Delhi does not speak for anyone, no one will stand up for it either. And this is now evident right at India’s door. 

National security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon went to Afghanistan a week after the terror attack on a small hotel housing mainly Indians, ostensibly to beef up security arrangements. While this was clearly one of the main tasks of his visit, it will not be speculation to add that a prime concern here is to re-gain India’s faltering grip in Kabul. More so after its diplomacy received a severe setback at the London Conference on Afghanistan where India was unable to garner support for its position in the region.

 

So while security is a pressing concern, India has become a target for the Taliban as well as various anti-India outfits operating in and out of Afghanistan. In the absence of a clear-cut strategy and vision, India finds itself isolated, with Turkey seizing the initiative to bring Islamabad and Kabul together on a ‘talk to Taliban’ policy. Pakistan, which has been spearheading a campaign to make India pull out of Afghanistan, has succeeded to a point where while New Delhi’s efforts at reconstruction are recognised by the West, its strategic considerations find no supporters. As the London Conference amply demonstrated the US and its NATO allies have decided to go along with the good and bad Taliban policy of Pakistan, drawing a distinction between the hardliners and moderates so as to begin talks with the latter.

 

On terrorism too Pakistan has been able to convince the world that it is as much a victim as India, and that it needs all the help it can get to protect its people from the extremists. It is of course true that terror has struck Pakistan hard and fast, but it is also true that Pakistan still seeks to protect those groups that it has used for terrorism within Jammu and Kashmir, and other parts of India. But given the fact that it has been able to convince the US under Barack Obama that it has dealt with, and is dealing with terrorism, it is now back in the good books of the western world and is not just recognised but also applauded as a worthy ally in the war against terrorism. The US knows, as does Pakistan, that the Obama exit policy cannot be possible without Islamabad’s help and support and is prepared to let the fires of Kashmir simmer, in return for dousing flames in Afghanistan.

 

One of the prime individuals behind Pakistan’s success in bringing the world around to what had appeared to be, and for India still is, a completely untenable stand is Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani. This quiet general who refuses to meet even the Pakistani media for interviews, keeps away from the spotlight, does not belong to the elite, has managed more than his predecessor did with his aggressive rhetoric. He has managed to convince Washington that the Pakistan Army can still perform through the successful operations in Swat and parts of Waziristan. Those who were sceptical of his prowess in Islamabad’s elite circles now admit that Kayani is a ‘professional’. He has also managed to win over some civilian support by convincing them that the army is not interested in political control.

 

As a result Pakistan has been able to reclaim its ‘strategic’ assets in Afghanistan and is presently brokering a dialogue with the Taliban, with full support of Afghan President Hamd Karzai who was earlier totally opposed to the idea. Menon, thus, has to rebuild fences with Karzai and ensure that Pakistan’s writ does not run in Afghanistan to a point where Indian interests in the region are jeopardised. This task was very achievable at one stage, but given India’s overconfidence and inability to think ahead, the advantage was lost last year.

 

It is true that India has made it clear that it will not close down consulates just because of absurd allegations by Pakistan, and will continue to remain engaged with the people of Afghanistan. But terror attacks are cutting into this resolve, in that pilots are now reluctant to fly Indian Airlines into Kabul, and doctors as well as others engaged in the process of reconstruction do not want to be part of the process. Security cannot be ensured as India is clearly being targeted, and the fact that the Americans are not particularly supportive was evident in Richard Holbrooke’s first remarks insisting that he did not think India was the target of the terrorists. He retracted subsequently, but the political significance of his first response was not lost in Kabul, Islamabad or New Delhi. The Americans have worked out their exit policy, and are moving frenetically forward. Pakistan is the ally, as is Karzai now, but India remains out on the fringes and is not essential to US strategy in the region except as a country that needs to be managed from time to time.

 

Instead of mindlessly succumbing to US pressure and US strategy for the region, New Delhi needs to urgently define its own interests and work out a related strategy. Talks with Pakistan, although very necessary, cannot be successful or pay India necessary dividends if these are not factored into a long-term policy for the region. Otherwise, as the recent foreign secretary level talks showed the exercise will be not just meaningless but even damaging to the peace process. Dialogue, thus, has to be factored into a strategic policy and not become the policy itself. It has started seeming for quite some time now that the government has outsourced thinking and policy making to the US, and quite happily accepts the finished product and starts implementing it without further thought.

 

Security for Indians in Afghanistan can only be possible if the terrorists know that any such action will draw the same response from the US and Afghan forces as if Americans or others were killed. And this can only be if India is able to get on to the same page as the rest. By now Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should have realised that India’s strength does not, and never can come from becoming a subordinate to the US. It comes from having a voice in the neighbourhood — West Asia, South Asia, China and Russia. Unfortunately the UPA government by following the policies initiated by the NDA, has ensured a certain marginalisation of India in the entire region. The reluctance to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation despite the enthusiasm of then Russian President Putin, the refusal to speak for the Palestinians, the inability to articulate a policy dear to West Asian hearts, the vote against Iran at the IAEA at a politically crucial time, the confused policy for Sri Lanka and Nepal… the list is long but suffice it to say that market economics can never be a substitute for sound diplomacy. After all if New Delhi does not speak for anyone, no one will stand up for it either. And this is now evident right at India’s door.

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6 comments

  1. TALIBAN NEEDS INDIAN DANDA, NO US ARMY OR NATO ARMY CAN UPROOT TALIBAN. AFTER US ARMY FINISHED WITH THIER PLAY AND PICNIC IN AFGANISTAN IT’S THE TURN OF INDIAN ARMY TO TWIST ARM OF TALIBAN AND PAK ARMY LIKE THEY DID IN 1971 BY MAKING 90,000 OAK SOLDIERS AS POW


    • LOL! you cracked ME! As if India did it all by itself…

      Now that you have commented,,,,

      RUN THE TALIBAN ARE COMING!!! 🙂


      • the taliban will never take the indians as foes full stop
        nujat pakistani pakhtun


  2. @ Jat: kashmir ke stone pelters ko control karo baad mein Taliban ka khwab dekho.


  3. India stranded in Afghanistan??? Tera kya hoga kalia I mean India which looks like kalia and is full of kalias anyway. Banya is crying out loud – oh my money that we spent for terrorist activities infrastructure building is now a sunk cost. What a shame india you have been deserted by the Americans and your Mossad friends. Ab pachtai kya howat jab chirian chug gaeen khait. Don’t cry india but remember don’t do it again otherwise next time you won’t be able to cry.


  4. Bhag india bhag taliban aagaye hain aur woh tumhari butts pay peshwari chappal say kick lagaingay jaldi say bhag.



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