Another strategic worry for India

Saleem Qamar Butt

For more than 40 long years, India has consistently backstabbed Pakistan by misusing Afghan soil through buying and launching proxies inside Pakistan. Close sponsorship of the former Northern Alliance and the last two puppet regimes in Afghanistan has been no secret and even publicly acknowledged by the former American Secretary of Defence, Ashton Baldwin Carter (from February 2015 to January 2017). The main stakeholders in Afghanistan purposefully turned a blind eye to India’s nefarious role in Afghanistan as by collaborating with India and the Taliban’s arch foes was directly hurting Pakistan and indirectly stabbing the Afghan Taliban.

In my analysis titled, “Recognising Spoilers in Afghanistan Peace Process” published in May 2019, I opined that ‘it is so strange that President Ashraf Ghani, after controversially extending his undue tenure as President, instead of placing an interim government for holding free and fair elections is expecting from Pakistan to get him on the negotiating table with the Taliban, while at the same time asking for guarantees from the Taliban, Pakistan and other regional countries that Afghan soil would not be used by terrorists. Whereas the same assurance has to come from his own government whose nexus with the Indian deep state is very well known by the world as was also stated by the former US Defence Secretary.

Another spoilers’ agenda point being floated around is seeking an undertaking by the Taliban that poppy cultivation/drugs production will not be allowed on Afghan soil. At the same time, Afghan government is allowing terrorist attacks on Pakistani troops busy in fencing Pak-Afghan’s international borders and on checkposts guarding the borders against illegal crossings and smuggling. While Ambassador Khalilzad and Taliban are making slow and cautious progress on the first two out of four main points i.e. ceasefire and US/allies forces’ withdrawal schedule, which will be followed up by the pledge by Taliban to not host any terrorist on Afghan soil (tantamount to pre-supposing that future dispensation will be dominated by Taliban) and making the Taliban agree to talk with the sitting Afghan government (looks remote at the moment).

It is quite a positive development that almost all regional countries are seemingly supporting the peace process except Afghan’s sitting government along with its sponsor India, happy with using Afghan soil for launching hostile proxies in Balochistan and the former tribal areas of Pakistan for the triple squeeze on Pakistan to dilute its justified stance on Indian occupied Kashmir. The Taliban, having fought successfully against all odds in the last more than eighteen years, are already feeling emboldened and reassured, especially after recognition by the US, China, Russia and other stakeholders as main actors in the Afghan imbroglio appear mindful of engaging with the Afghan people and therefore may agree to indulge in dialogue with all inclusive representatives, despite Ghani’s spoiling efforts to cause division on ethnic lines.

India’s diplomatic and multi-channel approach to win over the Taliban as well as America, China and Russia’s support for a role in Afghanistan needs to be effectively exposed and countered by all official and other available tracks of diplomacy. Although Pakistan, China and Russia are expected to be hoping for the best outcome for the return of peace in Afghanistan, yet preparing for the worst if spoilers succeed, America was forced to abandon Afghanistan with partial reconciliation with the Taliban and a potential worst-case scenario of Afghanistan relapsing into another chaotic situation. Therefore, all positive regional stakeholders need to synergise efforts for making reconciliation efforts a success by supporting the ongoing peace process and join heads to figure out a post-partial or complete reconciliation political dispensation in Afghanistan that is all inclusive and a true representative of the long suffering people of Afghanistan through free and fair elections under an interim government in Afghanistan and international observers. US/allies and all regional stakeholders also need to work out a workable solution for the socio-economic and security viability of Afghanistan after a deliberate drawdown by the US and allies. The Taliban are expected to have also matured in the last two decades and demonstrate due respect to Afghan women, other ethnic communities, and regional and extra-regional concerns especially with respect to extremist ideology, remnants of Al Qaeda, the Islamic State or any other non-state actors’ presence in Afghanistan.

As of now, the Modi and Doval team is finding itself pathetically isolated as the Indian government had gone too far against Pakistan and China to please America which even annoyed its old allies Russia and Iran. While Russia, China and Iran started talking to the Taliban many years ago in order to address their concerns directly with the Afghan Taliban if they returned to power, India, like her new patron USA, remained fixed in supporting the total failure of the puppet Afghan government. Therefore, all delayed Indian chameleonic diplomatic overtures towards Taliban are getting a genuine rude response from the victors who seem determined to flush out the Indian plague from their motherland. Pakistan also needs to stay sober and keep up the great work done so far to bring peace in Afghanistan in collaboration with regional and extra regional countries. Of course, remaining gratefully mindful of Pakistan’s greatest sacrifices and national interests, now China ought to take the lead role in the region for smooth and peaceful political dispensation in Afghanistan for the success of her BRI dream, which is giving sleepless nights to China’s strategic competitors.

(Courtesy The Nation)