Afghanistan’s future: Domestic & external factors
Through a pre-emptive strategy, India is trying to convince the world in general and Afghan neighbors in particular that, its collaboration with the later aims at securing its soil from foreign invasions and attacks, which have taken place historically.
In this context, the statement of Indian external Affairs Ministry spokesperson is very evident once he said, “There is a history of Afghan soil being used for terror attacks on India. We can’t have that again.” While recounting the historical facts, the statement has credence. It was all Indian Territory east of Afghan soil, as there was no intervening country in-between. Since those attacks and invasions, the geopolitics of the region has changed largely. There is a new country, a new geographical reality, with the name of Pakistan ever since 1947. Now Islamabad has taken over the status of former Delhi, having a geographical contiguity with Afghanistan, which India lost in 1947.
Thus, the New Delhi-Kabul nexus in practical term shifted to Islamabad-Kabul nexus. Now there cannot be attack on India directly from the Afghan soil. Therefore, the Indian assertion for its influence on Kabul for the sake of its security may not be a valid argument.
Historical relationships between Delhi and Kabul were because of Muslim rulers in India and because of Pakhtun population and inhabitants of the same tribes on either side of the Indo-Afghan border. Both factors now have been changed in physical terms. India however, maintained its relationship with the successive Afghan rulers from Zahir Shah to Hamid Karazai, except for the brief sway of Taliban regime from 1996 to 2001. The postcolonial New Delhi-Kabul nexus have mostly been driven by the common enmity of both against the State of Pakistan. Again, this antagonism was Indian driven, rather Afghan originated, indeed, to undo the very foundation of Pakistan, which then India leaders took as a great setback, since they never desired Indian partition.
In the process, India has truly followed the strategy of its ancient military strategist, Kautilya who believed that, “immediate neighbours are considered as enemies, but any state on the other side of a neighbouring state is regarded as an ally”. Pakistan indeed is experiencing the unfolding of this strategy of Kautilya by his modern Indian followers ever since. Initially, India provoked the Kingdom in Kabul to create a new Pashtun state through the balkanization of Pakistan; merger of KPK and FATA, in a bid to cut the Pakistani in size. Failure to that, it successfully disintegrated Pakistan by creating insurgency and later through a physical attack on the East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. India has not given up its grand strategy of further destabilizing and disintegrating Pakistan even today.
For the implementation of its reprehensible designs, India with the help of the United States has created for itself sufficient space in Afghanistan, sequel to the incident of 9/11. Being among the top few donors, India has invested over $2 billion in the garb of Afghan reconstruction in last 11 years. It has created a lot of good will among the political lot, most of whom are India graduate and it is funded too. India is providing military training to 200 Afghan military officers on yearly basis. It has contributed a lot towards training of Afghan intelligence services. How can one expect that, Indian trained military officers and intelligence services would be friendly to Pakistan? Then, Indian Embassy and its consulates in Afghanistan are hub of its intelligence agency; RAW.
Indian agents are harboring, funding and providing arms and ammunition to militants in Balochistan, FATA and even KPK. After all, this is what Kautilya’s philosophy is all about. Otherwise, even a layman can visualize that what love affairs India has with the people of Afghanistan. While keeping its own over 35% population below the poverty line, how can India justify investment in Afghanistan? Besides, India has interests in the mineral resources of Afghanistan and its neighbourhood; the Central Asian states, through the concept of extended neighbourhood.
While the US and NATO forces will leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the situation in Afghanistan is becoming uncertain. India is considering for itself the role of successor state of the United States. It intends controlling Afghanistan or at least influencing it politically, economically and security wise. The scenario would be unacceptable for the Afghan neighbours, especially Pakistan. Besides domestic factors, the growing uncertainty may create a situation in the country that plunge the country into a regional conflict. Very recently, the British historian and writer William Dalrymple has warned that Afghanistan could be ‘second Kashmir’ once the US forces pull out of the landlocked country.
Based on his historical knowledge, he predicted that, “there might be another proxy war between India and Pakistan.”If United States continues following its current policy of status-quo and the Afghan Government remains irresolute, there are simmering conflicts in the post 2014 Afghanistan. The infuriation includes both domestic and external factors. Domestically, President Hamid Karazai has failed to persuade and bring together, Taliban and other opponents groups including warlords. He is trying to explore and work for the options, which keeps him relevant during and after 2014 elections, as well as, in the post US drawdown. He foresees an Afghanistan where his interests are better served, rather the interests of Afghan people. Northern Alliances and minority groups are looking for their interests. However, despite their unison, there has to be a Pashtun led Afghan Government as a result of the 2014 elections for its minimum acceptability to the majority population.
Whereas, US pursues its own interests, by quietly handing over the security responsibilities to Afghan national security forces, not fully geared up yet. The superpower is undertaking a fragmented negotiation with selected Taliban and other militants directly and indirectly. The strategy would achieve for the US and NATO a clean break, while maintaining a smart contingent of its special forces, at the strategic bases in Afghanistan, built and strengthened in last twelve years utilizing 80% of its total expenses in that country.
Externally, all Afghan neighbours would like to secure their interests, thus paving way for an intrusion by the neighbours. The major powers would like their dominance through a setup that at least is not threatening their strategic interests. Russia supported the US and the NATO in Afghanistan for fight out militancy in its Muslim majority republics, who wanted independence. It would like a moderate setup in Afghanistan to replace Hamid Karazai. China would like to secure guarantees from the future Afghan setup for not supporting East Turkistan Islamic Movement in its autonomous region, Xinjiang. India would try to find for itself the role of a successor state after US. Pakistan however would make all-out efforts to have a friendly setup in Afghanistan, for the obvious reasons of its security. It would like to pursue the US and the future Afghan Government to minimize Indian role, which indeed create a security dilemma for Pakistan along its western borders.
It is therefore, in the supreme interest of Afghanistan that, that before drawdown of the NATO and the US forces, a consensus is developed among all Afghan factions and groups including Taliban. Besides, for a long-term peace, the United States has to make sure that; Indian role in Afghanistan is minimized within the ambit of its diplomatic norms. Afghan Government must ensure that its soil is not being used against its neighbours either by its own intelligence agencies or by any other. Furthermore, Afghans should be the masters of their own destiny. They should decide future of their country by incorporating all the ethnic and sectarian groups. All stakeholders should ensure independence, sovereignty and integrity of Afghanistan.
An all-inclusive political set up, chosen by the people of Afghanistan will be a win-win situation for all. Whereas Afghan neighbours must guarantee non-interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. Afghan Government too needs to guarantee its neighbours that, it neither would provide sanctuaries to the terrorists from other countries nor would allow its militants to operate in the territories of neighbouring countries.
(Dr Raja Muhammad Khan-The writer is Islamabad based analyst of international relations)