As the chilly winds sweep past the Koh-e-Paghman and blow through the bazars of Kabul this year, the people of Afghanistan look beyond the winter season with of hope. This winter has seen major changes in the region and beyond which could have long lasting effects on Afghanistan and rest of west Asia.

The Russian initiative to involve Pakistan and China in their parlays in Moscow in December last year was cautiously welcomed by regional players; the three countries warned of the growing threat of the Islamic State and deteriorating security situation. They also agreed to invite the Afghan government in future talks. Meanwhile, deadly terrorist attacks were witnessed on both sides of the border targeting innocent civilians and diplomats in Parachinar, with blame games and an exchange of heated debate between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

While it has become a stereotype to blame terror outfits residing on the opposite side for terrorist attacks, the major beneficiary in the blood bath on both sides of Durand Line has been none other than India. While the leadership in Pakistan remains engrossed in Panama leaks and creates new fault lines and furthers a divided polity, India is gradually succeeding in developing an anti-Pakistan perception within Afghanistan.

Post ISAF, Afghanistan is already reeling under pressure from resurgent Taliban groups and Dr Ghani seems helpless. Afghanistan’s poor governance is a major factor where a divided polity and rampant corruption has accentuated the strategic imbalance in the entire system. This was recently echoed by a US Commander in Afghanistan. The Taliban resurgence is a result of ungovernable spaces left by the Afghan National Army and infighting between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah. The National Unity Government (NUG) painstakingly brokered by Uncle Sam is a union in the name only; on the ground, it has become a turf war between the Northern Alliance and the Pashtun power base in South East Afghanistan. No wonder then, that the inclusion of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar by Ashraf Ghani is an effort to woo the Pushtoon populace and strengthen his political position.

India, who never reconciled with prospects of a united and progressive Afghanistan, has played the dubious and dirty game of supporting anti Pakistan and anti Pushtoon forces within Pakistan. Recent disclosures by RAW’s top gun Commander Kulbhushan Yadev have clearly indicated Indian involvement and a strategic push to build a terrorist structure on both sides of Durand Line as well as the Pak-Iran border. RAW has openly used her proxies within Afghan NDS to support terrorists’ activities through an orchestrated kinetic campaign. In the non-kinetic realm, Bollywood and the Indian diplomatic corps has played the classic Chanakya to make sure Islamabad is seen as the ultimate enemy in power circles in Kabul and intelligentsia within broader Afghanistan.

India has also tried to manipulate power brokers and security stakeholders in Kabul through a system of bribes and inducements; it is a known fact that some of the Afghan NDS cells are highly penetrated by RAW and these cells have left no stone unturned to sponsor terrorist activities within Pakistani soil.

Ajit Doval has also tried to bring in Daish aka ISIS within Afghanistan to keep the Durand Line on fire and create an alternate terrorist organisation in west Asia. Although ISIS has not seen much success within Afghan soil, it has tried to woo in anti-Pakistan terrorist organisations like TTP. RAW’s terror network along the Durand Line has been able to invoke a feeling of distrust between twin brothers, Afghanistan and Pakistan through a synchronised campaign in kinetic and non-kinetic domains.

RAW’s strategy is explained in the ensuing lines: One; pick up strategic points of exploitation during important diplomatic initiatives between Pakistan and Afghanistan, for example, high profile visits of heads of states or talks between high level diplomats or international conferences. Two; conduct terrorist strikes through RAW sponsored surrogate groups like TTP and ISIS against high value targets within Pakistan or Afghanistan, the recent attack on Emirates diplomats is case in point. Three; launch a media blitz through Indian and Afghan media cells to create a smoke screen and blame Pakistani or Afghan agencies to maximise the strategic effect. Four; follow it up in international seminars and conferences by posing India as the dove of peace and Pakistan as the villainous terrorist state.

If we deeply analyse major terrorist attacks on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border, this consistent pattern is clearly visible. Why have Pakistan and Afghan governments failed to discover this pattern and can something be done to stem the nefarious campaigns of RAW in Af-Pak?

Afghanistan is the heart of Asia, it has been bled white by extra-regional powers in the past; although India has always considered Afghanistan as the inner circle of influence through Indira doctrine, her ability to create an architecture of terror in Afghan lands is a new phenomenon and must be tackled by adroit diplomatic and intelligence manoeuvre.

Indian frustration in Afghanistan can be gleaned from assertions by Dr Subhash Kapila, a known RAW operative, who runs the South Asian Analysis Group (SAAG). In an article titled “Afghanistan cannot be abandoned to China-Pakistan-Russia Troika in 2017”, Dr Kapila has tried to rubbish the Russian initiative of inviting Pakistan and China for a long lasting solution of Afghanistan conflict. He lambasts the US by asserting, “Afghanistan seemed to have disappeared from the United States radar in the months to the run-up to the US Presidential elections resulting in a void which the China-Pakistan-Russia Troika has exploited to US disadvantage. In 2017, the United States would be well-advised not to let the China-Pakistan-Russia trilateral muscle into what rightly deserves to be called United States strategic turf”.

In a nutshell, the head of RAW wants the Trump administration to join hands with RAW’s dirty business of blood bathing in Afghanistan. Interestingly, President Trump is all ears to Mr Putin on major issues confronting the world, it can be assumed that the Trump-Putin duo would be able to chalk a peaceful course of action in major conflict zones across the globe including Afghanistan.

The future trajectory in Afghanistan is of hope, the international community must realise that peace spoilers like India must be told that enough is enough. Meanwhile Pakistan has to reoccupy the strategic space through a bold and robust diplomatic manoeuvre across the Durand Line. Pakistan also needs to increase her footprint of soft power by helping the Afghan people and the government in higher education, poverty alleviation and health sectors. The Pakistani military could think of helping Afghanistan by establishing a science and technology university on the lines of NUST; this could be a gift of eternal friendship for our brethren in Afghanistan. Pakistan also needs to open media outlets including entertainment channels who could bring the people of both countries together.