19. India’s Strategic Environment Part Two

The Article referred to in Part 1 continued: Take Afghanistan, with which India shares a technical border, a notional line in official maps, but a country with which India has no direct land, rail, or sea link. India has committed $1.3 billion in various projects, built a 218-km highway between Zarang and Delaram to provide better connectivity to the Iranian port of Chabahar, gifted hundreds of buses, minibuses, utility vehicles and three airbuses to Ariana, the Afghan airlines which flies thrice daily flights into New Delhi; we are constructing the Afghan Parliament building, the Salma dam power project in Herat province—the list is seemingly endless. Yet, there is not a single Indian doctor in Kabul’s Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health. Our embassy in the Afghan capital, which is awash with pirated Bollywood films, has come under attack twice in two years, in the process we have lost a diplomat, a military attaché, and elsewhere an engineer’s head was brutally hacked off . The result? Under sustained pressure, there has been an exodus of Indian personnel working in projects in Afghanistan, half of them have left, and Indian projects are on hold, being scaled down, and no new ones are on the anvil.
This situation has prompted New Delhi to do a smart U-turn on Iran, and South Block has consequently been knocking on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s door, hoping to get a foot in, and possibly a couple of meaningful sentences edgewise, over the torrent of recrimination.
Meanwhile the United States, which hopes to reduce its troop presence in Afghanistan drastically before it becomes an election issue, has disregarded India’s advice that there are no ‘good Taliban’ and ‘bad Taliban’ and in fact they are all bad. Americans will retreat into bases in the north of the country in an effort to reduce dependence on Pakistan. Karzai, who has consorted with every intelligence agency and every power, is living on borrowed political time. As India enters into a strategic partnership with Karzai, who may have to cohabit with the Taliban, how long will he be a political factor in Afghanistan?
As Rajiv Dogra, a former Indian diplomat puts it: “We are on a slippery slope in Afghanistan. Karzai is a puppet, already twisting in the wind.” Karzai may ultimately be left in the lurch by being forced to work with the various incompatible factions of Hekmatyar, Haqqani, and Mullah Omar. A serving diplomat minces no words. “Our hour of reckoning is fast approaching in Afghanistan,” he prophesies darkly.

Answer the following questions. No Cut and Paste jobs , please. Give me evidence that you have understood.

30 thoughts on “19. India’s Strategic Environment Part Two

    1. India wants a non-Taliban Afghanistan, closer relation with Iran/W.Asia through Afghanistan. A stabler Afghanistan is in India’s interests economically also-Afghanistan has $100bn worth mineral wealth waiting to be explored.

      Pakistan wants to maintain its strategic depth-in Afghanistan, always anticipating attack from India. It is supporting Taliban/ Haqqani network, despises any US/ India led settlement; hence the resentment against initiatives by Karzai.

    2. As per the article, India has vested good interests in the country. Despite a huge mile away, India has relatively contributed a lot in restoring good will and improving the foundations of the country in areas from where the foundations have been shaken due to the recent wars. This needs to be looked upon by The Taliban nation as a huge help rendered. But sadly the state of the affairs seems to be on a downside. India wants to restore Democracy that it enjoys to the fullest in another country like the Taliban.

      In contrast, Pakistan aims at a different level. Bu infusing huge military aspects, promoting local groups of terror and supporting their cause for infiltration and terrorist activities, Pakistan aims at investing an interest in Taliban as an ally and a help in terms of “its need of the hour”.

    1. Afghanistan is geostrategically significant to us. This is Kautilya’s Mandala Theory: gaining influence with the neighbour of our neighbour. This is our move to contain Pak.

    2. India uses the Kautilya’s approach as friend of the enemy; in other words looks at friendly and cordial relations with Afghanistan. Its a sharp edged concept of diplomatic relations and aims at garnering support and strength through mutual understandings. Since Pakistan seems to be a different comfort level altogther, India hopes its relations with the Afgan Nations seems productive.

    3. India uses the Kautilya’s approach as friend of the enemy; in other words looks at friendly and cordial relations with Afghanistan. Its a sharp edged concept of diplomatic relations and aims at garnering support and strength through mutual understandings. Since Pakistan seems to be a different comfort level altogther, India hopes its relations with the Afgan Nations seems productive.

    1. Pakistan has utilised a theory of gaining supreme control to a nation that had foreign troops come in and rule till a time democracy was slowly picking up space. Pakistan improves the need for the Taliban nation by funding the militant groups and promoting the terrorist activities though military (i.e ” use of artilerry; use of war through terroist activities) as a key tool such that the Afghan nation would garner support and strengthen its activities as per Pakistan’s discretion.

      USA as always, again a played a flip-flop situation by removing its troops. It terms the nation as “bad nation” and reduce its dependence on Pkistan.

    2. Pakistan (PK) in relation to Afghanistan(AFG) has been pursuing a policy best defined by general Zia “the water must be kept boiling,but at the right temperature,neither hot nor cold”.It is pursuing this policy by using the Quetta shura,of whom the haqqani group is the most effective.However,the offshoots principally Tehreek-e-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP) has proved to be thorn in the PK society,which is continuing to grow.PK may well become a failed state,but not due to external pressure but due to internal fissures.

    1. US nourished Taliban to combat Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1970s. Now, it looks like a ‘Bhasmasura’ story for the US. Pakistan is using Haqqani network to have a political settlement made on terms suitable to it. The US troops are not able to prevent ISI/Haqqanis. Now it is in compromise mode-talking of a good and bad Taliban, removing some Taliban leaders from its terrorists’ list.

      The moot question is after the compromise, on whose head will the ‘Bhasmasur’ keep his palm?!

      1. Aneesh has a given a good view. I shall add another view, perhaps it may happen or not. US calling its troops and then calling the nation as a “bad” one is a diabolic game. This means that probably the US troops are facing a tough task of facing the ISI activities and constantly hitting “pakistan by asking to stop militant practices in afghanistan thorugh its reviews.

        Will and Could US prepare for ” SEAL like attack on the Afghanistan soil ” secretivly to eliminate terror activities??

        1. @Arun: “Will and Could US prepare for ” SEAL like attack on the Afghanistan soil ” secretivly to eliminate terror activities??”

          –My view:

          1. Not likely. It will be too costly for US. Rather, their aim is to get some peace and begin exploring for minerals. Amazing that a seemingly barren land Afghanistan is, has almost $1tn worth of minerals!

          2. And, when some political settlement comes in, if we don’t move in quickly, US and China will begin mining.

          @ All: How do you think our Foreign policy should change w.r.t. the subcontinent to meet new challenges posed due to US and China’s increasing presence?

    1. The United States has the leading role in the overall reconstruction of Afghanistan by pumping in billions of dollars for building national roads, government and educational institutions etc.

      Pakistan on the other hand seems to funding, training and providing artillery, guerilla warfare training and other crude and harmful aspects in Afghanistan.

    1. In the present climate, would China want to antagonise US w.r.t. Pakistan? It is already occupied in S.China Sea-where a new cold war seems to be brimming with US wanting to internationalise the issue.

      But, China might find it strategically beneficial to get deeper into Pakistan by giving it aid-as it may help it further its String of Pearls policy.

      In this climate, should India pursue closer military/diplomatic relations with Israel? How much can we trust US to help us on the issue of combating terrorism in an imploding Pakistan?

      What do you all think?

      1. @Sir : the view held by Aneesh is good.

        @Aneesh: Recently in the UN , the US president Barrack Obama vouched in favor of a permanent seat on the UN Security Council for India — and by extension a veto.

        China had made it clear that, despite the willingness of the other four veto powers, it will not allow either India or Japan to have a permanent seat. In the case of India, this does not stem from any concern to ensure a balance between it and Pakistan. China’s burgeoning relationship with Pakistan is purely strategic, based on Chinese self-interest. That self-interest has led Beijing to increasingly view both India and Japan as rivals to be confronted and curtailed.

        By developing strengths in its military/diplomatic relations with Israel, is debatable. I don’t think it is a wise improvement of the application of tactics to be applied if a lock out happens if China is going in a plunge of a war like scenario upon India. We must remember that the Policy makers must anticipate any situation as mentioned and should be on the watch out for such events.

        US has always played a safe and double game policy. India should clearly develop policies that meets the eviction of terror if at all a dire situation may arise.

    2. PK can not rely too much on China (CN).As long US aid keeps flowing in,CN will compete with the aid.As soon as US leaves,CN will scale back its commitment,for then it wont have anyone to compete with in the matter of influencing PK foreign policy.It will have just enough clout to ensure PK does its best to reign in Uighur muslim rebels in its northern province.As for it steping up to take the mantle of stabilising PK,it will not do that because its foreign policy is pragmatic.Any spillover will only affect AFG and India,CN will relatively be safer.And,seeing the deteriorating security position,using Gwadar port for onroad oil transportation to CN by using the karakoram highway would remain a pipe dream .

    1. This is a very tough question to answer…would we able to do a 1971 vis-a-vis Balochistan, pre-empting US doing a Libya in Pakistan? Should we? Tough to decide as Pakistan is a nuclear power, and there is no deterrent as such between India-Pak like a well developed economy(unlike between China-India that would make a full blown war a costly proposition).

      Would the US dare to do a Libya in Pakistan? Probably not. Atleast for the time being. It is election season in US and public opinion matters. And let’s not forget Kayani has reminded Obama that Pak is no Libya (courtesy A Q Khan)

      1. @aneesh : I agree with your view.
        Let’s look at this: USA is a super power and has its dominant role in the affairs of world on a different platter. “India is an emerging eye of the East”. Now if India does a Libya in Pakistan definitely not. Its way too complicated. Pakistan has its ally – China in its kitty who is vying for a chance to strike back at the US for its actions.

        Definitely India will not be sitting empty handed. It will play its hand in bringing out a diplomatic strategy to be issued and sort the issues using dialogue. The way India would react would not be just watching the Libya like situation to occur, rather sort the issues at the table openly. But as Aneesh said the situation would not happen

    1. We have invested millions and sent our engineers, diplomats to work in Afghanistan-their lives are at risk, from the Taliban. We are aiming to get to the high table(UNSC). Russia is inviting us to join SCO as a full fledged member.

      We have got to take decisions and act quickly. Tough decisions regarding reconciliation, transition to democracy,are to be taken. The New Great Game is moving to the next level with the withdrawal of US. Will the US get a military base in Afghanistan? Should we try to get one? What do you all think?

    2. When investing in a need/ choice in any domicile requires careful thought. Any Investor who invests always looks for something good to come and profitable at same time. Sometimes as an investor you have to accept the negatives that come alongside. India too had its share of thoughts, ideas and patterns of approach and has invested in Afghanistan and has faced setbacks.

      What matters is to counter the unfortunate happenings, critical and crucial decision making by the Government and policy makers must plan and apply the same. Aneesh has raised a good question to ponder.

      @Aneesh : By becoming a member in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a debatable one as India is an observer state and taking on some huge Communist giants is like asking for trouble. Better to wait and watch. Aiming for a military base in India is not advisable, but rather lets improvise on defence strategies back at home as there is a lot happening.

      1. @Arun: I meant to ask, if we should try and get a base for our troops in Afghanistan?(US is most likely gonna get one)–>Our policy and Iran’s policy with Afghanistan is same–>Influence over W.Asia, and also over Pak.

        US is here to stay. We have a tendency to be idealistic and see peace everywhere a la Gandhi. But, like it or not, we HAVE to work with the US. If we don’t and remain “neutral”, China, Russia or Pak will occupy the space. If things get ugly US can go, but we cannot afford to, for we are at the heart of Asia.

        And why not? We have poured in our billions, sent our diplomats and doctors and engineers to Afghanistan to work. And they get killed by the Taliban. Why not lobby with Karzai for a base(along side US’ base) and try to protect our diplomats from getting bombed?

  1. Rajiv Dogra meant that the Washington is moving too fast and leaving the door open for Pakistan to increase its influence in the country.
    India wants U.S to politically legitimize Taliban, so that they can get rid of Pakistan’s influence and have better trade with central Asia and Iran.

    1. @Rama: I think India wants a non-Taliban, Afghan-led government. If Taliban gets politically “legitimized”, it is as good as having a proxy for Pak in Afghanistan.

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