Sunday April 21, 2024

India and Afghanistan

The suicide and gunfire attack on the Indian consulate in Jalalabad near the Pakistan border over th

By Ahmed Quraishi
August 13, 2013
The suicide and gunfire attack on the Indian consulate in Jalalabad near the Pakistan border over the weekend highlights once again New Delhi’s role in Afghanistan.
It also underlines a key fact: India should expect to pay a price for seeking a role in the war-torn country. This price may not be as steep as the one paid by Pakistan, the United States, and the international coalition that bore the brunt of the decade-long war, along with the Afghan people of course.
By comparison, India has had an easy ride in Afghanistan, avoiding any major financial or military commitments while using the American backdoor to cultivate influence in Afghan regions close to Pakistan border; that, of course, being the main bounty for New Delhi. So, with the least losses, India now hopes to sustain a strategic presence in Kabul.
But should India expect that its Afghan adventure will be a free lunch, without the losses piled up by the Afghans, the Pakistanis, and US military?
The attack on the Indian consulate is a clear indication that the answer is no. India will pay a price for taking sides in the Afghan conflict, just like Islamabad and Washington have. India would be naïve to think it can support one Afghan group against another without creating enemies.
New Delhi does have formidable enemies in Afghanistan. For years, India funnelled money, weapons and intelligence to the Northern Alliance, a rainbow coalition of minorities fighting Afghanistan’s Pakhtun majority. Today, India is firmly allied to the Karzai-led government that has little credibility or support outside Kabul.
No wonder the Indian embassy has been attacked twice, in 2008 and 2009. Two Indian-controlled guesthouses were bombed in 2010.
New Delhi would love to pin these attacks on Pakistan, and the idea finds fancy with some elements in Karzai’s government and the Pentagon who would love to pass on the buck for the failure of Operation Enduring Freedom to Pakistan.
To indulge the Indians, let’s assume that Islamabad is involved in those attacks in some way. Even so, it is impossible to believe that such repeated and brazed attacks on Indian installations inside Kabul are remotely possible without the help of genuinely disgruntled Afghans willing to target Indian interests. Add to this the layers of intelligence networks existing in and around Kabul, all of which makes any Pakistani attempt to organise attacks without being caught a logistical impossibility.
Helping rebuild Afghanistan is a great cause, where India has contributed generously. It is a cause that Pakistan shares. In Jalalabad alone, at least three major Pakistani projects, two educational and one in infrastructure development, have been completed. Hospitals and faculty blocks at universities and hospitals named after Pakistani notables are being rolled out in multiple Afghan cities with Pakistani funding. And none of this matches the billions that Pakistan spent on providing healthcare, education, housing and jobs to three million Afghan refugees over three decades, possibly the biggest with no-strings-attached aid to Afghan people in recent times.
So, the theory that Pakistan is jealous at India’s marvellous reconstruction role in Afghanistan is ridiculous. The theory is designed to attach exaggerated nobility to Indian intentions in Afghanistan. It is also not true that Islamabad considers Afghanistan its backyard and hence wants to cut any Indian role. This is another theory designed to misrepresent Pakistani intentions and delegitimise its interests.
India’s role in Afghanistan extends far and wide beyond its current rebuilding in Pakistan. Meddling in Afghanistan is not without a price.