A headlong rush for Equal = Equal with India’s largely benevolent role from Taliban times in Afghanistan given short shrift by being equated with Pakistan’s more than hefty malign role since that time .Resolve India-Pakistan tensions
BOSTON: Blame for the problems of Afghanistan is widespread. The Pakistanis are at fault; no, the Afghans; no, the United States. NATO isn't stepping up to the plate. Is it the Taliban, Al Qaeda, or Pakistan's intelligence service that is pulling the strings? Is President Hamid Karzai powerless, or is he boosting the warlords, or is he a puppet for Americans, or all three?
But a large part of the problem is being missed. There is talk about the U.S.-Pakistan-Afghanistan tripartite, but it's the wrong focus. The focus should be on the Afghanistan-Pakistan-India triangle.
During the Cold War, Afghanistan was a proxy battleground between the United States and the Soviet Union. One could argue that America was the winner in that battle (the Soviet Union and Afghanistan certainly weren't), except that America's actions then created the threat from the Taliban. There were no winners.
America and the Soviet Union brought two other neighbors into that Cold War fight: Pakistan and India. India stood by the Soviet Union, as it quietly did in many other areas. Pakistan and its intelligence service became the middleman between the United States and the mujahedeen, who later formed the Taliban.
When Soviet forces pulled out in 1989, Pakistan continued to support the rebels; India supported the forces that years later became the Northern Alliance. The battle for influence in Afghanistan has not stopped. India is working on hearts and minds, opening consulates and providing over $750 million in infrastructure and training support, while Pakistan is trying to bridge the hostility that has existed since the Afghan and Pakistan governments ended up on different sides. And so the proxy war continues with a different cast.
As long as India and Pakistan remain hostile to each other, Afghanistan is strategically important to both. It is vital to Pakistan that it not have unfriendly powers on both its east and west borders, just as from India's perspective, Afghanistan would provide a good strategic high-ground to squeeze Pakistan. Economically, too, Afghanistan holds great promise. The United States last year tied Afghanistan and Pakistan together through the creation of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones, which would get U.S. tax exemptions. Afghanistan also is key to the trade routes and energy pipelines of Central Asia. So, if the United States is going to reverse this sad decline in Afghanistan, it will need the support of both India and Pakistan. These two great nations should learn from past mistakes — fighting over Afghanistan is not the solution. The costs are too great. Washington and Kabul need to find ways to invest both nations in helping to make Afghanistan a success.
This is going to require a fundamental change in attitudes in both the Indian and Pakistani governments. But there are some concrete efforts that could start the process.
First and foremost, a quadrilateral group composed of India, Pakistan, the United States and Afghanistan should be created to put both New Delhi and Islamabad in a position where they would engage one another on solutions to Afghanistan's problems.
Second, Pakistan should start to allow Indian goods to travel through Pakistan to Afghanistan, significantly reducing the costs of much of the assistance that India currently provides.
Third, the four countries should put more effort into renewing the long-discussed pipeline through the three nations, providing much needed energy to the region and an alternative to the Iranian pipeline.
Eventually, India, Pakistan and the United States should consider a joint Provisional Reconstruction Team in the northwest of Afghanistan, away from the Pakistan border.
All these efforts are going to be long in coming. But, unless a way to mitigate the underlying Pakistan-India tension in Afghanistan is found, the country will continue to be a battleground for this largely unspoken war. The benefits of building cooperation and trust in Afghanistan will help address the wider India-Pakistan conflict and enhance security across the region.
Xenia Dormandy is executive director for research at the Belfer Center at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. This article first appeared in The Boston Globe.
Ironic given that it was India’s, along with Iran’s and Russia’s, protégés in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance, who came in so handy in providing a national liberation garb for a US punitive venture, not that such was unjustified, post 9/11.
India sending USD 750 Million in aid to Afghanistan is a lot different than Pakistan permitting armed jihadis bent on wreaking havoc virtually unhindered passage across the Durand line.
On the four suggestions provided, let me say this.
Who needs yet another talking shop and why should India permit Pakistan any traction from funds that have been raised out of Indian taxes? Let the Pakistani’s spend their own tax revenues on Afghanistan as they see fit.
On transshipment through Pakistan, that is a concession of limited to no value for India. presently. It suits India just fine when Pakistan acts difficult on issues like the transshipment of protein enriched biscuits for Afghan school children. The fact that Pakistan and Afghanistan are coreligionists adds a degree of piquancy . In the longer term that provides the pressure on India for maintaining funding for transport infrastructure in Afghanistan that would bypass Pakistan. India, I would hope will not grudge the benefits that would accrue to Iran besides off course Afghanistan on that spending.
Having to deal with one security sensitive country, Pakistan, in the Iran – Pakistan - India pipeline is bad enough. Having to deal with two, Pakistan and Afghanistan, for pipelines coming from the Central Asian Republics, is too much.
India’s interest in reconstruction in Afghanistan is not limited to “North Western” Afghanistan. I am sure that India can and will, if they are already not doing so, make offers of reconstruction in other areas that Afghanistan will find acceptable. The article seems to forget that Afghanistan is a sovereign nation and as a sovereign nation is entitled to decide where bilateral aid is to be spent independent of the prescriptions of third countries.
Simply put there appears to be very little to suggest that “fighting over Afghanistan is not the solution” as “the costs are too great”, from an Indian perspective.
Sorry, not buying .
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