Whither Indo-Afghan relations

As US mulls the new strategy in Afghanistan and West Asia, India finds her space limited due to ground realities and changing strategic environment in the region. The Firstpost reported on 15 Oct that a Taliban delegation has met with US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar to discuss ending the Afghan conflict. The direct negotiations — a longstanding Taliban demand — were held as Khalilzad seeks to coordinate efforts with regional countries, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, to convince Afghanistan’s largest militant group to engage in talks. The meeting with Khalilzad and other American officials took place in Doha on Friday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement. Taliban and US negotiators discussed a “peaceful end to the invasion in Afghanistan”, Mujahid said, referring to the US-led intervention in 2001 that toppled the Taliban regime.

The apparent rapprochement between US and Taliban was (most probably) helped by Pakistan and KSA at a time when Afghanistan gets into the election mode within a security environment marred by increase in number of attacks by Taliban and Daish.US policy makers in the White House as well as the Hill have realized that Taliban are the major stake holders in Afghanistan and there is no other way to end the ‘longest war’ undertaken by US military in history, without talking to them.

The current US strategy in Afghanistan and West Asia is driven by four major factors; One, maintain reasonable influence in Afghanistan as part of exit strategy for US military, Two, try to use the Afghan(Taliban) leverage in the region to strategically suffocate Iran and bring in regime change in the Islamic republic through Non Kinetic means, something John Bloton said in a new year message to Fox news on Ist January; Three, make sure that the power vacuum in Afghanistan is not exploited by Russia or China, and Four, reengage Pakistan to achieve all of the above.

India has occupied disproportionate space in Afghanistan through a complex matrix of investments, running vilification campaign against Pakistan using Indian sponsored media in Afghanistan, expanding her covert war against Pakistan through RAW and her surrogates in the NDS, supporting Daish and TTP to conduct a campaign of terror in the areas west of River Indus, including Balochistan, Kulbhushan is a case in point, and, using Chabahar-Zaranj, Delaram rout to bypass Pakistan through a trade manoeuvre targeting Pak-Afghan economic lifeline. India has also tried to conduct a ‘water war’ against Pakistan by telling Kabul that the natural flow of rivers into Pakistan had to be choked to help build Afghan economy.

South Block in New Delhi and the head honchos of Pakistan haters cabal in BJP are already worried about the changing situation in Afghanistan. India appears to be losing all cards in the poker game in West Asia.

With the new Iran sanctions looming in November, India finds herself sitting on the horns of a dilemma

As reported by economic times on 8th October, Indian Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said, that two (Indian) state refiners have placed orders for importing crude oil from Iran in November, the month when US sanctions on Iranian oil purchases take effect. “Two of our oil companies have made nominations to purchase Iranian oil in November,” he said speaking at The Energy Forum . “We do not know if we will get waiver (from US sanctions) or not.” This is the first time Pradhan has spoken about India’s stand on buying Iranian oil once the US sanctions on Iran come into force from November 4. Later, talking to reporters, he said India has its own energy requirements which it has to fulfill. “We will be guided by our national interest,” he said.

India has already annoyed Trump by signing a deal with Russian Federation to procure the S400 Air Defence System and throwing the CAATSA(Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) into the dustbin. Can she annoy the US by going ahead with procurement of Iranian Oil in November?

Indian challenges in Afghanistan and West Asia have morphed into a monstrous diplomatic migraine due to her highhandedness and lust for expanding power, a brief analysis of this migraine is appended below:

With Taliban getting on board in Afghanistan and an emerging architecture of power based in Eastern and Southern Afghanistan, India finds herself totally isolated and out of the equation. RAW-NDS-Daish nexus built through a system of bribes and incentives and delicately placed by Ajit Doval to keep Durand Line on fire will be dismantled by the new regime in Afghanistan. Indian investment of billions of dollars in Afghanistan and her so called soft power in Kabul will be washed away into Kabul River.

Indian overdependence on Chabahar and her ability(painstakingly built over a decade) to circumvent Pakistan will boomerang on her face as Taliban gain a political stronghold through negotiations with the US; Pakistan’s strategic space will expand with every passing day.

Indian investments in Afghanistan to dent Pak Afghan relations will become a liability, something India will learn the hard way. Should the failed Doval- Modi circus in Afghanistan let India think of meaningfully re-engaging Pakistan for peace and stability in the region and is India going to look for a land bridge through the natural and economic conduit provided by Pakistan to make sure her investments in Afghanistan remain beneficial?

In case India needs to engage Taliban, is she willing to request Pakistan as done by the mighty US? It is interesting to note that the so called policy makers of South Block are already contemplating such moves to preserve their interest in Afghanistan.

Pakistan appears to have regained her central position in Afghanistan and West Asia and remains the only guarantee for a lasting and comprehensive peace; from now on, all roads to Kabul will pass through Islamabad. Pakistan has always displayed her resolve and will to support an Afghan- led and Afghan- owned peaceful settlement of Afghan imbroglio.

Afghan people have suffered tremendously because of power game played by outsiders and extra regional forces; three generations have sacrificed their future due the shenanigans and covert games played by likes of Doval-Modi circus, TTP and Daish, its high time that Afghanistan and Pakistan join hands to disenfranchise these forces of disintegration and develop a new trajectory of peace and prosperity in Afghanistan.


n             The writer is a freelance journalist

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