It has been seventeen (17) years to the United
States led ongoing war in Afghanistan but, even today, the desolated country is
a hotbed to the turmoil and instability that not only grabbles Afghanistan but
the entire region as well. The “War on Terror”, ensued from 9/11, when United
States and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) invaded Afghanistan,
has been incessantly raging, with no sight of ending, peace and stability in
the region and in the country, in particular. With weak government at the helm
of affairs of Afghanistan and Taliban not coming to the negotiating table, the
current scenario of Afghanistan inhibits many complexities and conundrums. Not
only that, but, with the passage of time, the regional actors and their
interests – converged or diverged – in Afghanistan, have made exacerbated the
already stricken country. Initially, it was United States, ISAF, Afghanistan
and Pakistan, later, India, China, Russia and Iran, making Afghanistan a
mishmash, ready to be blown.
India has lately been emerged as a strong
regional player in the great game of Afghanistan, with her massive
reconstruction and rebuilding drive. India and Afghanistan have long enjoyed
cordial ties, as India had in past assisted Afghanistan on humanitarian basis.
The two countries relationship remained at low ebb, when Taliban took over
Afghanistan’s wheel in control, leaving India vulnerable on many fronts. A
gloomy epoch between the two countries as India faced many setbacks from the
Taliban regime, Indian Airline hijack of 1999, being one case in point. India,
when Taliban were at the helm of affairs, backed ardently the Northern Alliance
group who was working against the Taliban. Though, their relationship have
reached its zenith after the Taliban demise, when India had commenced the “New
Chapter” into the Indo-Afghan relationship by engaging herself, in varied ways,
into Afghanistan’s reconstruction and rebuilding efforts, like never before.
Indian aid is in bulk making her regionally ahead of all others. India, the
South-Asian giant, has ingrained herself into Afghanistan immensely, that some
even term India as acting a soft power in Afghanistan. 1 Besides heavy investment, Indian approach in
Afghanistan is to encounter the extremism threat, making sure that Afghan soil
would not be used, for an attack, on Indian soil. India also wanted to reach
out the Central Asian markets like Russia and China did. Above all, Indian
presence will make sure to neutralize the Pakistan threat in Afghanistan and in
region, as most of them believe.
Pakistan has been
vary and at times suspicious of Indian presence in Afghanistan, in such bulk.
The two countries have been accusing each other incessantly of using Afghan
territory to meet their ends, in their larger game. Pakistan has constantly
accused India of providing assistance to (Baluchistan Liberation Army) and
carrying out activities inside Pakistan that merely destabilizes the country
(Kulbushan yadhav case in point). India, in response, has denied it and accused
Pakistan of might again using the rogue element and Afghan soil to master a
Mumbai-like catastrophic incident. India is involving herself in Afghan
governance and security matters which basically give Indians a more leverage in
Afghanistan at local level than their counterparts. Pakistan view such Indian
presence as hostile to her security and sovereignty and even echoed out loud
that such presence will endanger the stability in the region, as India is
virtually entrapping Pakistan from both sides – East and West – thereby,
fringing her as well her “Strategic Depth”, which Pakistan has long been
seeking to acquire, just to counter India at any given time if war occurs
between the two, into Afghanistan, presumably, with amicable government at the
helm of affairs in Kabul. India wants to rid Pakistan of Afghanistan, given the
latter two animosity at each other, and would probably succeed if the
Indo-Afghan engagement furthers into the same direction in near future.
Nevertheless, both India and Pakistan have been using Afghanistan as a proxy to
belittle each other’s interests.
Afghanistan, being a neighbor to Pakistan, as
well as share certain chunk of porous border, has been at loggerheads with
Pakistan and inclined more towards the Indian side, which lately has made
Pakistan awfully furious, given the size in which India is present in
Afghanistan. Afghanistan, too, like India and west, accuse Pakistan of having
safe havens and training camps of Taliban on her home territory and
subsequently, which is what, aggravating the already instable country. Afghanistan
has lately come overtly to castigate Pakistan of harboring non state actors
while in tandem laid her extended cordial hand to Indian side, as India has
been pushing her boundaries inside Afghanistan extensively. The common hatred
of India and Afghanistan alike, of Pakistan, keeps the two countries more close
to each other.
United States has been of little help when it
comes to Afghanistan besides only raising and limiting the size of the troops.
Latest policy under Trump is no exception to it. Americans on one side
persuading Pakistan to engage the Taliban into the negotiations with the Afghan
government and neutralizing the safe havens of Taliban insider her territory
while on the other side gave Indian an almost free hand in venturing her
interests in Afghanistan, which directly coinciding with Pakistan’s interests.
United States has been asking India to do more on reconstruction and capacity
building efforts i.e. on her soft power, which the Americans had, as a matter
of fact, denied way back in the past, when the relationship was not as cordial
as it is today between the two. Pakistan has accused Americans of being
ambiguous towards their approach of seeking peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Not only India is in play but other regional actors like China, Russia and
Iran, too, have vested interests in Afghanistan, precisely, making Afghanistan
a dreadful hotpotch. As far as United States is in control, it will not pave
the way for above mentioned countries. While in tandem has given the Indians a
hang-loose approach in Afghanistan which bewilder Pakistan of United States motives
that she wants to fetch.
India an emerging world economy has set her
feet into Afghanistan with huge chunk of investments and rebuilding efforts
with a view to strengthen institutions and political process, seeking route to
Central Asia via Afghanistan. Virtually, has taken Afghanistan out of
Pakistan’s hand, at ground level. India is devising a strategy to play big and
India and Afghanistan have latterly been in
close proximity to each other. Their relationship now knows no bound as the two
are cooperating with each other on every possible front. Despite facing severe
hurdles from different corners, their engagement coupled with husky commitments
from both sides, remain intact. One possible reason behind it is that their
relationship is not anew; rather it dates back to the couple of century, when
India was a British colony.