Afghanistan: An Indo-US chessboard
Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan
With the beginning of 21st century, there has been an increase in the Indo-US collaboration. US invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 provided India an opportunity to fulfil its long desired strategic goals within Afghanistan as well as through its geopolitics. U.S has always desired a greater Indian role in Afghanistan, following its initial quick successes there. Under the rapidly changing scenario, United States wants a major Indian role in Afghanistan after 2014.
While India and U.S are collaboration with each other in Afghanistan, they are hectically involved in undermining Pakistani role and its intrinsic commitment with the people of Afghanistan. On its part, Pakistan has always emphasised US and its NATO allies that, tackling Afghanistan needs altogether a different approach. Being a US ally, it sincerely suggested US to have a political engagement with the Taliban and other militant groups fighting against the US invasion in Afghanistan.
Not only Pakistan, but also some of US military commanders like General McChrystal proposed a similar recipe to overcome the Afghan crisis. In 2009, he assessed Afghan situation and sent a confidential report to Pentagon. The report, declared the then US strategy of dealing with Taliban and other militants groups as failing. He emphasized US for a renewed strategy to deal Afghanistan. He emphasized US that, while fighting insurgents, civilians of the area need protection and there was a need to have close interaction between ISAF and local populace in Afghanistan. He also recommended the Pentagon and State Department for a “More constructive engagement with Taliban fighters willing to talk.”
Another irritant for Pakistan is disproportionately sponsoring India in Afghanistan. Ever since the start of Indo-US collaboration, Pakistan considers that, Indian engagement in Afghanistan has no rational. Pakistan desires that Indian, “level of engagement [in Kabul] has to be commensurate with [the fact that] they do not share a border with Afghanistan, whereas we do.” Incidentally, McChrystal also identified to US Government that, “Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan…is likely to exacerbate regional tensions.”
After having known the complications linked with it, even today, US “welcome India playing a more active role in Afghanistan, a more active political and economic role.” In this regard, Mr Leon Panetta, US Defence Secretary is on record saying that, “India to take a more active role in Afghanistan as most foreign combat troops leave in 2014.” It is worth mentioning that, former Indian Army Chief, General (R), Shankar Roy chowdhury, visualizes that, Afghan war, indeed is a “war of necessity” for India. He is a strong advocate of the fact that, Indian Army should contribute in the building of Afghan National Army (ANA). In his opinion, this is “the obvious area on which India should focus in its own long-term interests.” Gen Chowdhury anticipates benefits for India from Afghan war, forgetting the miseries, this infighting and war has brought for the Afghan people. By building of ANA, there will be an adversarial army along the western frontiers of Pakistan, where traditionally, Pakistan never deployed its Army.
Whereas there is a convergence of Indo-US interests in Afghanistan, both consider Pakistan as an irritant for persuading their strategic objectives. Pakistan has contributed a lot for the people of Afghanistan. These contributions include; financial support, facilitation in Afghan transit, housing millions of Afghan refuges ever since 1979, political and moral support. Indeed, in housing millions of Afghan refuges, Pakistan badly suffered internally. Through their investment after 2001, both India and US are now trying to eclipse the Pakistani contributions and sacrifices. India and US should recognize the Pakistani sacrifices during GWOT and encourage it to play an active role for bringing stability in Afghanistan, which will also facilitate US for an honourable exit.