Indo-Afghan Strategic Pact and Regional Stability
The strategic partnership agreement signed by Afghanistan and India during Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s visit to New Delhi has decisively puts India in the centre stage of the endgame in Afghanistan as it awaits the US and NATO to pull out of that country by 2014.
The emergence of India as a major player in determining the post-ISAF future of Afghanistan is a severe setback to the security of Pakistan’s western border. The agreement contains a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in the field of mineral resource development that should upstage China; Indian commitment to assist in training, equipping and capacity building programmes for Afghan security forces and finally the commitment to strengthening trade, economic, scientific and technological cooperation with the landlocked Afghanistan. All of these have, in one way or other, a bearing on national and strategic interests of Pakistan in particular and China in general.
After more than two decades of being virtually marginalised in Afghan affairs, India has made a diffident entry in the wake of ouster of Taleban in 2001 by the US. The Americans initially did not encourage upfront Indian involvement and let it focus on “soft power” — economic aid and trade as one of the largest donors pledging $2 billion for building roads, hospitals, schools and parliament house. Indian PM Manmohan Singh envisioned “Afghanistan’s economic integration with the Indian economy”. The accord signals India’s push for huge oil and mining assets of Afghanistan where China has also shown interest. Singh also hoped that both countries would try to operationalise their trilateral MoU signed with Iran to end Afghanistan’s landlocked isolation and dependence on Pakistan to reach the sea. It brightens India’s chances of bagging a lucrative mining contract for Hajigak, said to be the region’s largest untapped reserve of iron ore, and provides an opportunity to hunt for oil in northern Afghanistan.
The emerging scenario in Afghanistan doesn’t auger well for Pakistan. This was amply reflected in IG FC Maj-Gen Obaidullah Khan Kattak recent address in which he said that India and other foreign intelligence agencies are involved in subversive activities aimed at destabilising Balochistan. Addressing a press conference at FC Headquarters on Friday, he said, “It’s not a groundless accusation, we have solid proof of Indian involvement.” He further informed, “Afghanistan’s soil is being used for subversive activities in Balochistan. We are not blaming Afghanistan rather we have concrete evidences in this regard… We have taken up this issue with Afghan government, NATO and ISAF while Afghan government has assured us of complete cooperation.” The Indian subversive activities in Balochistan have gone unobserved for a long time but now enough evidence is available to indict the Indian government and military for indulging in worst forms of terror breeding. If truth be told, Afghanistan has become the new battle ground for a 64 year old proxy war between India and Pakistan. Both surprising and worrisome, India has emerged as a major proactive player this time. Over the past seven years, she has moved aggressively by offering a range of assistance projects of over $1.5 bn and establishing diplomatic missions throughout Afghanistan. Taking advantage of impoverishment of Afghanistan, New Delhi deployed 4000 spies under the garb of Indian doctors, engineers, scientists, executives and labourers etc. India is also providing well-coordinated military supplies to the northern alliance through the air base in Tajikistan. This includes weapons, equipment and spare parts aimed at strengthening the anti-Pakistan elements and instability in Afghanistan on boil. The Indian footprints in Swat and the Pakistani tribal belt includes Indian currency, Indian bullets, Indian small and heavy explosives, blood banks and all supportive products i.e. special hideouts like tunnels, caves, underground passages to help sustain a long-term war. This technology cannot be available to amateur fighters.
Since Afghanistan is transitioning from insurgency to civil war, an enhanced Indian security presence would only add to the deteriorating situation of security in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The very presence of an Indian force will be a magnet for renewed attacks on foreign forces in Afghanistan and cross-border terrorist activities. Ms. Christine Fair of RAND Corporation unearthing some facts about the Indian consulates in Afghanistan and Iran stated that “it would be a mistake to completely disregard Pakistan’s regional perceptions due to doubts about Indian competence in executing covert operations. That misses the point entirely. And I think it’s unfair to dismiss the notion that Pakistan’s apprehensions about Afghanistan stem in part from its security competition with India. Having visited the Indian mission in Zahedan, Iran, I can assure you that they are not issuing visas as the main activity! Moreover, India has run operations from its mission in Mazar and is like doing so from the other consulates it has reopened in Jalalabad and Qandahar along the border. Indian officials have told me privately that they are pumping money into Baluchistan”. The leading newspaper of Sri Lanka, Daily Mirror, while criticizing the role of Indian intelligence agency RAW, states that among its most ambitious operations that are currently underway, is the move to separate Baluchistan province from Pakistan by supporting the rogue elements. The idea behind Indian intervention into Afghanistan is to keep Pakistan and its intelligence agency on the defensive by fictionalizing and alleging its hand in supporting Taliban or Al-Qaeda militants. That is why, while Pakistan is doing utmost in controlling the state of affairs on border with Afghanistan, it is falling prey to the complex game India is playing to destabilize Pakistan in order to expand beyond its borders and create hegemony in the region.
In a nutshell, Indian presence in Afghanistan whether diplomatic or economic has less to do with reconstruction and more to do with keeping the turf conducive for the workings of RAW against Pakistan. Likewise, New Delhi’s seriousness to increase its military presence in Afghanistan has exposed its hollowness and duplicity for orchestrating the nefarious act. India’s military intervention would only serve its expansionist pursuit while keeping Afghanistan on boil. It is for international community to realize that the security situation and insurgency issue in Afghanistan are not going to be solved until the Indian influence on the Afghan government is neutralized.