The Indian Factor in Pak-Afghan Relations

22 Jul

By Tariq Rizwan
Despite India’s longstanding friendship with former USSR and persistently stabbing Afghans in the back by assisting the Soviet occupation forces in massacring thousands of Afghans in its decade long occupation, unfortunately Afghanistan is once again considered a close ally of Modi Sarkar. While exploiting the historical links between Kabul & Delhi during Mughal Era, aid provided to Northern Alliance/US alliance during the ouster of Taliban regime in 1990s and the growing trade, the all time antagonist India is alarmingly strengthening clutches on Kabul.
India is running a chain of unannounced Consulates in Afghan cities along Pak-Afghan border without plausible trade. Indian investment in selected projects is targeted towards Pakistan like construction of water dams/storages to block downward flow of water inside Pakistan and enjoying tremendous influence on Afghan foreign policy prompting mistrust between Islamabad & Kabul as witnessed by the recent clashes on Torkham border. India remained a strong ally of former USSR during the three decades war in Afghanistan, hence, equally responsible for the destruction of war torn Afghanistan by providing all kind of assistance to the occupying Soviet troops. Indian mines, laid across Afghanistan during Soviet occupation, remained a high risk and considered a threat to Afghan and ISAF/US troops operating in the country.
India has completed various construction projects including Dilaram-Zaranj road project to link New Delhi with Kabul via Iranian Chabahar Port and divert Afghan trade from Pakistani Ports of Karachi and Gwadar. In the garb of such rebuilding efforts, Indian RAW is making tremendous ingress in Afghanistan. It is resulting in destabilizing Western Pakistan including Balochistan, KPK and FATA. India is running a network in these areas by providing weapons, logistic and financial support to the groups, involved in militant activities with focus on CPEC route. Indian RAW agent Kulbushan Yadav and TTP commander Latifullah Mehsud, presently in Pakistan’s custody are witnesses in this regard.
US, in order to shift its policy to Far East, has finally selected India as a close ally in the region to cater for Washington’s interests in Afghanistan as well as contain China. Therefore, Indian presence in the region especially in Afghanistan is undermining friendly relations between Pakistan & Iran on one hand and Pakistan & Afghanistan on the other. The Indian glamour diplomacy has worked well. Due to Indian cultural invasion, the recent Gallup survey has revealed that 75% Afghans prefer India over US and China, with 50% expressing approval, the most positive rating of India for any other surveyed Asia-Pacific country.
Though US is trying to settle India in Afghanistan as a policeman but India has some contradictory goals in the region to that of US. A US Congressional Research Service report says that India’s goals in Afghanistan are to deny Pakistan a strategic depth and the ability to block India from trade and other connections to Central Asia and beyond. The report has been prepared as research and reference material for US lawmakers, including a brief description of India’s Afghan policies. India is making efforts to prevent militants in Afghanistan from attacking Indian targets in Afghanistan.
Though India aims to prevent Pakistan from regaining “preponderant” influence in present day Afghanistan yet it does not want to be saddled with the burden of helping secure Afghanistan after the US departure. India is afraid of threat of nexus between Kashmiri and Afghan Taliban as evident from past Afghan Taliban’s hosting of Al Qaeda during 1996-2001. Al Qaeda’s association with Kashmir based groups is very strong due to Illyas Kashmiri factor, killed in a drone attack in Waziristan. Some of these groups have committed major acts of terrorism in India, including the terrorist attacks in Mumbai and Pathankot. India wants to confuse the Kashmiri freedom struggle with US counter terrorism agenda and overcome the threat through US global efforts of countering terrorism.
Apart Afghanistan’s recent military and strategic engagement with Pakistan in its fight against Taliban militants was seen by India as a major policy shift from former President Hamid Karzai’s government, which accused Islamabad of destabilizing Kabul. Ghani’s maiden visit to India is also aimed at shoring up Indian investment. India is focusing on trade not to become controvercial. India has, so far, invested over $2 billion in infrastructure projects and the social sector in the country in recent years. India though delivered three unarmed helicopters to Kabul yet consciously stayed away from engaging militarily in the 13-year-long war. New Delhi has also recently rejected a request to supply some military equipment.
Indeed, India is doing all possible efforts to keep the key neighbors Pakistan and Afghanistan at bay. Recently, Indian Prime Minister Nerender Modi has emphasized “We share Afghanistan’s pain over persisting terrorism and extremist violence that destroy lives, derail progress and his country would continue to provide capacity-building support for Afghan security forces”. The recent tripartite agreement among India, Iran and Afghanistan is considered a great success for New Delhi’s agenda to keep Pakistan away from Iran and Afghanistan. Moreover, to deny Pakistan’s Gwadar Port the access and benefit of being the gateway to Central Asia and China to reach out to warm water and oil rich Middle East.
Afghanistan is neither part of Central Asia nor South Asia, but only western neighbor of Pakistan. The strategic location of the Pakistan and Afghanistan has been declared as a “cockpit of Asia” by Lord Curzon. Geography has placed the region at the crossroads of global and regional politics. But the war-torn region faces diverse problems of conflicting group-identities, narcotics trade, a small arms highway, money laundering, mineral smuggling and cultural clashes. Despite, the region has tremendous strategic importance and particularly economic interests-as a potential conduit for energy routes (oil/gas pipelines of Central Asia).
Being one of the poorest and land locked country, Afghanistan has a natural way out through Pakistan, regulated under 1965 Afghan Transit Trade Agreement that allowed transit to Afghan imports from all the countries through the port of Karachi. It was replaced by Afghan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) signed in 2010. Despite irritants in Pak Afghan relations, both are have very strong common bonds including geography, history, to some extent language Pashtu and religion. They are natural allies against terrorism. Both are worst victims of terrorist acts, want peace and prosperity in the region. All the extra regional powers including India have expansionist designs while Afghan soil and feel no pain for the agonies of local populace. Pakistan and Afghanistan are inter-dependent having common objectives in terms of security, trade and development. Hence, there is a dire need to enhance bilateral cooperation in all fields and take all necessary measures to overcome the existing mistrust and differences between the two neighbors.
The writer is a freelance journalist

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