Afghanistan continues to be an overt or proxy ‘playing ground’ for diverse outside powers, both near (Russia) and far (US, West). The decade old US meddling after the failure of Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 has yielded more familiar results i.e. exacerbated ethnic and cultural tensions, warlordism, drug-trafficking and rampant corruption. It is not that these traits did not exist in the Afghan society before US invaded Afghanistan but US invasion provided a surge in these attributes.
Afghanistan is a fault line where many outside powers are jostling for both influence and position. Some of this jostling remains overt, as in the case of US and its allies, and some of it is not, as in the case of Indian proxy war on Pakistan through Afghanistan. The Indian activities in Balochistan and Fata got a boost when US homed on to it for replicating its mandate in Afghanistan and preserve its interests post withdrawal. After intense interaction between the respective national security advisors, India agreed to fit into American boots. By doing so India would be benefited on two counts one; by safeguarding US interests in Afghanistan it can accrue more American favors ranging from military to nuclear technology and two; it will expand its anti-Pakistan network in Afghanistan and continue sponsoring terrorist activities across borders into Pakistan. As a first step to place India in Afghanistan, US helped India sign an accord with Karzai titled ‘Strategic Partnership Agreement’ that would allow India exploit its provisions to cement its involvement in Afghan military and civil affairs.
Taking the lead from the ‘Agreement’, India is now geared up to impart extensive training to the fledgling Afghan National Army at training institutions across the country. Three areas have been identified under the ‘Agreement’ so far. One; increase in number of Afghan trainee officers, two; specialized training to already serving mid and higher-level officers in ANA and three: training Afghan soldiers in counter insurgency and counter terrorist operations. The Indian military institutions earmarked for the purpose comprise the Commando School in Belgaum in south India, the Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare (CIJW) School in Mizoram in the north East and the High Altitude Warfare School in Sonamarg, Indian Occupied Kashmir.
While America would expect more from India and subject it to ‘do more’ pressures on Afghanistan, Pakistan has had enough of its bitter rival’s already expanded role in Afghanistan post Taliban regime. There are active negotiations taking place between the US and India to replace US trainers in Afghanistan for providing continuity in training of Afghan security forces once US withdraws from Afghanistan. Whenever and wherever the US trainers have been adjusted they always facilitated CIA and other intelligence agencies carry out their covert activities. Indians replicating the role of US trainers in Afghanistan spells danger for Pakistan. The placement of Indian trainers may create more rifts in the already volatile bilateral relationship between India and Pakistan. Some of the opinion makers even go to the extent to term it on par with Kashmir.
The regional security dynamics in South Asia are driven by the conflict between India and Pakistan. Pakistan fears strategic encirclement by India if the Afghan government leans too much towards India, while India is afraid of Pakistan using Afghanistan as a convenient strategic staging area and a back door. Giving a military role to Indians in Afghanistan will simmer the existing tensions between the two countries on various issues while America wraps up its Afghan venture. With the added dimension of nuclear-armed India - Pakistan rivalry combined with likely strife taking place between the warlords and the central government in Kabul and a perpetual conflict between the warlords and the Taliban may create a civil war that no one would like to happen.
It will be in the interest of the region if the US reconciles with the India-Pakistan milieu in the Afghan context and leave Afghanistan to the Afghans to decide their own fate.
(The International News)