FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Still in the pipeline
Posted:Dec 17, 2015
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By Vivek Katju
 
Vice President Hamid Ansari joined Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Presidents Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan and Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow of Turkmenistan in the ground-breaking ceremony of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (Tapi) gas pipeline in Mary, Turkmenistan. Ansari hailed the pipeline as a major step towards regional integration. It is to be completed by 2018. Will the Afghan political and security situation allow that to happen?
 
The prevailing conditions in Afghanistan were under focus at the Heart of Asia conference in Islamabad last week. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj lead the Indian delegation. While attention was on the decision taken on the sidelines to resume the India-Pakistan dialogue, what took place between Afghanistan and Pakistan will have a major bearing on Indian security interests and the possibilities of enhancing connectivity with and through Afghanistan.
 
Afghanistan’s government is currently stable but Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah is marginalised. His supporters are growing disillusioned with this extra-constitutional arrangement. There is also no indication that the agreement for constitutional amendments to create the post of an executive PM will actually be implemented. If Abdullah’s patience gives way, the entire edifice will collapse. This will certainly and adversely impact the coherence of the security forces. Meanwhile, former president Hamid Karzai is seeking to undermine the present government.
Afghanistan’s security situation continues to be difficult. When Ghani was in Islamabad, the Kandahar airport was under Taliban attack. A few days later, the Taliban targeted an area close to the Spanish embassy in Kabul. The spread of the Taliban to northern Afghanistan is especially dangerous. Their capture of Kunduz for almost a week exposed the weaknesses of the security system. Afghan security forces are doing their best, but the Taliban challenge will be grave as long as Pakistan does not move against them, which is unlikely to happen.
 
The Islamic State (IS) is visible in Afghanistan. But the extent of its inroads is unclear. Many feel the IS in eastern Afghanistan is only a cover to enable Pakistan to attack Tehreek-e-Taliban elements there. In any event, the Taliban will remain a more potent threat.
Ghani spent enormous political capital wooing the Pakistan army to contain the Taliban and bring them to the negotiating table. He was embittered when Pakistan revealed that Mullah Omar was dead, although it had kept up the fiction that he was alive. The generals also gave a long rope to Mansour, chosen by them to succeed Omar, to continue attacks through the spring and summer to consolidate his position. Ghani poured vitriol on Pakistan, but he is committed to engaging the Taliban and knows that the generals hold the keys for such a process.
 
Last week, Ghani decided to again rely on the generals to deliver the Taliban for negotiations. This did not go down well with all sections of the Afghan officialdom — intelligence chief Rahmatullah Nabil resigned. Ghani is likely to pursue the course but will the generals deliver? That will require a complete change in their outlook towards Afghanistan. There is no evidence yet of such a transformation and it is most unlikely.
Swaraj did well to raise the issue of the transportation of Indian goods to Afghanistan via the Punjab border at the conference. Ghani, too, asked for such access. However, it is almost certain that the generals will not allow such overland transit, consistent with their desire to reduce Indian interaction with Afghanistan to a minimum. Why have they then agreed to the Tapi pipeline? Because it will, when completed, be a strategic lever to offset the Indian advantage on the waters flowing from India to Pakistan.
 
Indian policymakers have done well to agree to supply attack helicopters to the Afghan forces. This marks a welcome departure from the old diffident policy on defence supplies. It also shows that Ghani is no longer willing to keep Indian assistance out to appease the generals. However, Ghani is inconstant, and his priority is Pakistan. It will, therefore, be appropriate to enhance India’s engagement with all sections of the political class, especially with old friends. But do not expect any timely movement on the Tapi pipeline, for the imponderables are too many.
 
The Indian Express, December 18, 2015
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Relations between India and Peru  are united by El Niño and the monsoon yet separated by vast distances across oceans.  Jorge Castaneda, Ambassador of Peru to India, talks to INDIA REVIEW & ANALYSIS exclusively about what is bringing the two geographically-apart countries closer.
 
read-more
Indian judge Dalveer Bhandari was re-elected to the International Court of Justice on Monday as the UN General Assembly rallied behind him in a show of force that made Britain  bow to the majority and withdraw its candidate.
 
read-more
Those with a resolve make a big difference to the society. They inspire others to make the best out of a bad situation, steer out of morass with fortitude. Insha Mushtaq, the teenage girl who was pelleted to complete blindness during 2016 emerged as a classic example of courage.
 
read-more
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Sunday said India and China have "great potential" and they could work together at a "practical level".
 
read-more
This week a major United Nations gathering on climate change gets underway in Bonn, Germany.
 
read-more

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's efforts to build India's global appeal for investors seem to have finally yielded returns in terms of the country's performance in the World Bank&rsquo...

 
read-more
Column-image

Title: The People Next Door -The Curious History of India-Pakistan Relations; Author: T.C.A. Raghavan; Publisher: HarperCollins ; Pages: 361; Price: Rs 699

 
Column-image

Could the North Korean nuclear issue which is giving the world an anxious time due to presence of hotheads on each side, the invasion of Iraq and its toxic fallout, and above all, the arms race in the teeming but impoverished South Asian subcon...

 
Column-image

Title: A Bonsai Tree; Author: Narendra Luther; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 227 Many books have been written on India's partition but here is a firsthand account of the horror by a migrant from what is now Pakistan, who ...

 
Column-image

As talk of war and violence -- all that Mahatma Gandhi stood against -- gains prominence across the world, a Gandhian scholar has urged that the teachings of the apostle of non-violence be taken to the classroom.

 
Column-image

Interview with Hudson Institute’s Aparna Pande, whose book From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy, was released on June 17.