Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

India Should Work with Like-Minded Countries

Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

India Should Work with Like-Minded Countries

Article excerpt

As the time for US withdrawal from Afghanistan (end 2014) approaches, many analyses are being put forward, each with different conjectures and scenarios. While some stipulations are obvious, the development throws up a range of possible combinations and permutations. That the USA will not abandon the region (as in 1990) is certain. While its level of presence in the region may be reduced, its military presence (howsoever reduced) in Afghanistan, and military contact with Pakistan, will certainly remain. A surge in Taliban activity in Afghanistan and the frontier areas of Pakistan is another certainty. For this and other reasons, relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan may see a further downslide after 2014, as Pakistan is given to interfering in Afghanistan's political scenarioas was most evident in the period 1995--2001. No doubt, the government of Afghanistan will even more aggressively talk of the militant hideouts in Pakistan's tribal areas as being the main threats inside Afghanistan. In turn, Pakistan will point to Kabul's inability to deal with the threat, and hence accuse it of making Pakistan a ?scapegoat? at the same time as it will blame threats to Pakistan on militants using Afghan territory.

The internal situation in Afghanistan itself may not be stable because of a bitterly contested presidential election between Karzai's prot?g? candidate (as the President cannot seek another term constitutionally), loyalists, and the opposition parties. The bitterness of the rivalry can be a serious source of instability if it spills over, post the elections. It also means an enhanced security challenge for Pakistan, as the resultant surge of the Afghan Taliban after 2014 will bolster the Pakistani Taliban in the tribal areas, as well as its links with militant and sectarian organizations, and madrassas inside the provinces of Pakistan.

There is no doubt that Pakistan has been an important factor in India's Afghanistan policy, as have also the relations with the erstwhile Soviet Union in the Cold war period, and the traditional Pushtun pro-India feelings dating back to pre-Independence times. It is also a fact that, barring the Taliban period, Indo-Afghan relations have generally been smooth. However, it is equally true that, post 2001, India's Afghanistan policy focus has been to strengthen its economy generally, and build its human capital and physical infrastructure more particularly. It is because of these policy moves that roads, medical facilities, etc. have been built, and several educational programmes launched. Also included are the building of electricity transmission lines, the Salma Dam power project in the Herat province, the construction of the Afghan parliament building, the expansion of the Afghan national television network, and the construction of the 218 kilometre-long Zaranj-Delaram highway. India and Afghanistan signed a preferential Afghan-Indian trade agreement in which each gives concessions to the other on items like dry fruit to India, and tea/sugar, etc. to Afghanistan. In 2011, a Strategic Partnership agreement between the two was signed whereby India agreed to assist in the training and equipping of Afghan security forces.

There is also no doubt India's influence has grown considerably in Afghanistan, and covers not just the Pashtuns but other ethnic groups as well. India's advantage is that, apart from its entrenchment in the Afghan economic fabric, it enjoys popular goodwill in Afghanistan (which Pakistan does not, probably because of it being increasingly embroiled in its own serious internal problems in Karachi, Baluchistan and the tribal areas). That notwithstanding, Pakistan has exploited its geographical advantage in its own favour, as for example in the conclusion of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement. This explicitly prohibits goods exported from India to Afghanistan to pass through its territory, although Afghan exports to India are permitted to travel through its territory. …

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