India’s investment in Afghanistan at risk
INDIA had excellent relations with Afghanistan since the time King Zahir Shah was at the helm, and later had close relations with Afghan governments installed after Saur revolution supported by the Soviet Union. However, India lost its clout during Afghan jihad as well as during Taliban era. After 9/11 events, India entered into strategic partnership with the United States that created a unique opportunity for India to reassert its historical and traditional influence in Afghanistan. Since then, Indian RAW has been using Afghan soil and proxies for terror attacks in Pakistan. India convinced the Kabul regime that ‘good terrorists’ (TTP elements) would prove an asset. But they turned their back on RAW and NDS and many of them joined ISIS. However, recent developments in Afghanistan and in the region as well as Trump’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan indicate that India runs risk of losing all of its investment in country.
All major regional powers, except India, have been trying to carve a niche for themselves in the future of Afghanistan. For instance, Russia took the diplomatic initiative to build a regional consensus through organizing major regional conferences on Afghanistan in Russia and allied countries in Central Asia. The Taliban approved of Moscow’s initiative and attended the conferences. Similarly, China has stepped up its engagement in Afghanistan and is a countervailing force to India. Aside from its unique role in the Afghan peace process through its strategic partnership with Pakistan and because of its improved ties with the Taliban, China has established for the first time bilateral security cooperation with Kabul. The Chinese military has been assisting its Afghan counterparts in anti-terrorism operations and capacity building for the Afghan forces, which means obscuring any chance for India to establish its foothold in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the latest announcement of Beijing’s decision to build a military base in the strategic Wakhan corridor bordering China, Tajikistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir is considered a bold move and an unprecedented decision by the Chinese leadership to intervene militarily in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, India’s efforts to open a transit corridor to Afghanistan and Central Asia through Iran’s Chabahar port bypassing Pakistan had for a while come to a standstill because of the renewed US sanctions on Iran. This is by far the biggest setback in India’s strategic investment in the context of regional competition for access to tremendous energy resources in Central Asia. Furthermore, the US decision to withdraw its 50 per cent forces from Afghanistan and initiation of direct talks with the Taliban has dampened India’s hopes. Last but not the least, Pakistan is playing a key role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiations table.
Afghan National Unity Government has decided to send a delegation to participate in the next round of Afghan peace talks. However, the Taliban refused to meet Afghan Government delegation in January’s scheduled round of talks in Jeddah. Taliban delegation members did not meet Afghan delegation in the First Round of Talks held in the UAE. Taliban representatives maintain that the issue being discussed in the talks relate directly to the US; hence they will not meet Afghan NUG delegation. Taliban are negotiating a deal with the US from the position of strength. Through their refusal to include Afghan Government delegation for talks they are also undermining the status of the Afghan Government. Pakistan has actively demonstrated its diplomatic outreach for making the process a success. Pakistan facilitated first round of negotiations; and in the aftermath, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister visited Afghanistan, Iran, China and Russia taking important regional players into confidence about the progress.
India appears to have lost ground in Balochistan as Baloch dissidents feel that India has betrayed them. In November 2018, the Sindh Police’s Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) booked Harbiyar Marri, a fugitive leader of the proscribed Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), and his 12 aides for attack on Chinese Consulate in Karachi. Last week, mastermind of attack on Chinese Consulate, Aslam Achchu was killed in Kandahar while six of his companions were injured. It is not known yet as to who killed him, but Dr Juma Khan Marri dissident-turned patriot has raised quite a few questions. For one, why RAW sent Aslam Achchu to Afghanistan, asking whether it was a conspiracy or RAW wanted to get rid of him so that he may not divulge information about RAW’s machinations and involvement in vile acts. Dr Juma observed that every intelligence agency protected its assets, then why RAW sent Achchu to Afghanistan.
Dr Juma Marri said that Modi had announced support to Baloch separatists but later withdrew his support because he felt that all money will go down the drain, as their efforts were frustrated by Pakistan’s LEAs. Earlier, India had reportedly given one million dollar to Harbyiar Marri, Dr Juma asked whether he shared that money with his associates, and secondly why he was quiet on Aslam Achchu’s assassination who was his top-ranking BLA commander. Aslam Achchu was killed along with his companion in an attack on his residence in Kandahar when a meeting of terrorists was underway, said sources privy to the matter. The four injured terrorists were moved to Kandhar’s medical facility, but Aslam Achchu along with his companions succumbed to his injuries. It may be recalled that, Aslam alias Achchu was wanted in many heinous crimes including attack on Chinese Consulate in Karachi; he was carrying out terror activities in Pakistan from Afghan soil.