Jamal Hussain |
Remember the famous dictum: “If wishes were horses beggars would ride them”. After going through the article “Afghanistan 2017 Witnesses the Power Tussle of Two New Strategic Trilaterals” by Dr. Subhash Kapila, one is tempted to modify the well-known idiom to read “if wishes were horses, Subhash Kapila would ride them’. In the article the gentleman has pummeled Pakistan calling it “the regional spoiler state, a compulsive disruptor of Afghanistan stability”, and goes on to term the country as a “strategic stooge of China.”
Stability in neighbouring Afghanistan is of primary concern for Pakistan and for Kapila to maintain that the China-Pakistan-Russia troika has no vital stakes in the development and reconstruction of war ravaged Afghanistan and to postulate “the United States-Afghanistan-India trilateral offers the best chance to the people of Afghanistan,” borders on absurdity. Afghanistan has common land borders with the all the three countries (Pakistan, China and Russia) that Kapila has castigated and as an Indian he should know how critical it is for a nation to have neighbours that are friendly and stable.
Yet Kapila, his Indian and American counterparts continue to hold Pakistan responsible for the military debacle of the combined Afghan National Army and the NATO forces operating under ISAF.
One could fault the strategy Pakistan might have adopted to promote stability in neighbouring Afghanistan but to question its motives is illogical. The US – India duo on the other hand has no land borders with Afghanistan and the good doctor would have his readers believe the two have greater concern and stake in Afghanistan’s stability and progress than its immediate neighbours.
Kapila subsequently contradicts himself by stating one of the three objectives of China in Afghanistan is to exploit the vast mineral resources lying untapped in Afghanistan without offering its return for development of Afghanistan.While similar charges can be labelled against both USA and India, even if one was to assume Kapila’s charges are true, how can the vast mineral resources lying in Afghanistan be exploited unless the country is stabilized and the infrastructure developed and improved to support the exploration and transportation of the minerals.
For an academic, given his credentials Subhash Kapila does qualify to be one, the use of term “strategic stooge” and wild charges without any supporting evidence gives away his biases and frustration. Perhaps if he were to overcome his prejudices and study the history of the region as a true scholar rather than a brazen Indian lobbyist, he would come to very different conclusions. A quick glance at the contemporary Pak-Afghan relationship should clear the air.
The international border dividing Pakistan and Afghanistan also known as the Durand Line has been exploited by India since independence to muddy the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan. At the Indian behest, no sooner had Pakistan gained independence, Afghanistan promptly aligned itself with India, simultaneously backing the secessionist politicians in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Why blame massive corruption and nepotism within the rank and file of the officer class in the Afghan National Army when it is convenient to shift the blame towards Pakistan, specifically its premier intelligence agency, the ISI.
Despite these very hostile stances at the macro level, in many other areas the relationship between the two remained cordial and peaceful up until the latter part of the 1970s. Even when Pakistan’s security was under serious threat during the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pakistan Wars, the Afghan border remained peaceful, much to the disappointment of the Indians.
Afghanistan under King Mohammad Zahir Shah was relatively stable and peaceful up until 1973 when he was replaced by Mohammad Sardar Daoud Khan in a nonviolent coup. The Saur Revolution of 1978 set in motion a chain of events, which eventually led to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on December 24th, 1979, where a puppet government headed by Babrak Karmal was installed. The vast majority of Afghans revolted and started a guerrilla campaign against the invaders.
The Soviet invasion also triggered a mass exodus of Afghan refugees who sought shelter in Pakistan. It was time for Pakistan to repay the debt of 1965 and 1971 and it responded with open arms housing them at a great financial and social cost. The Afghan freedom struggle essentially was a nationalist movement but it was promoted as a religious war where the Muslims across the globe were invited and encouraged to participate.
The concept of Jihad against the infidels of all ilk took shape during the campaign that has given birth to al Qaeda and other extremely violent groups like Daesh. Pakistan was not alone in commitment of this folly; USA was a major and active participant. Dr. Kapila, please note the newfound friend of India was as much a complicit in the creation of the monsters that since then have become the bane of the free world.
Taliban rule the relationship between Pakistan and Taliban remained at best testy and following the ouster of the Taliban post 9/11, Pakistan’s rapport with the National Alliance governments first under Hamid Karzai and currently Ashraf Ghani has remained frosty and hostile.
The retreat of the Soviet forces from Afghanistan is viewed by many as a vindication of Pakistan’s Afghan policy. What followed subsequently sowed the seeds for the current dilemma the country faces. As the USSR disintegrated, the Americans whose military aid was crucial to the success of the Afghan Mujahedeen decided to disengage from the region. In the power vacuum the Afghans resorted to what they routinely engage in: infighting among themselves. In the resultant instability law and order deteriorated and criminal gangs proliferated.
Pakistan had invested heavily in the liberation of Afghanistan and it had hoped for a stable government there. When the Afghan Taliban emerged as a force that appeared to have the potential to seize power and bring stability there, Pakistan threw its lot behind them despite their very rigid and harsh interpretation and enforcement of the Islamic Sharia. During the six years’ Taliban rule the relationship between Pakistan and Taliban remained at best testy and following the ouster of the Taliban post 9/11, Pakistan’s rapport with the National Alliance governments first under Hamid Karzai and currently Ashraf Ghani has remained frosty and hostile.
The Indian involvement in Afghanistan is principally motivated towards hurting the Pak-Afghan relationship, which has been ongoing since 1947. It has taken a sinister turn with the installation of the Northern Alliance dominated government in Afghanistan after the ouster of the Taliban, and the implementation of the Doval Doctrine of offensive-defensive mode under the premiership of Narendra Modi.
For an academic, given his credentials Subhash Kapila does qualify to be one, the use of term “strategic stooge” and wild charges without any supporting evidence gives away his biases and frustration.
The subversive acts against Pakistan are being planned and conducted through the Indian proxies comprising the Baloch insurgents, Jundallah faction, sectarian outfits and the notorious TTP. These groups are recruited, financed, equipped, trained and launched in the Balochistan province of Pakistan, FATA and Karachi, the capital of Sindh using the various Indian consulates established in the Afghan provinces that are established ostensibly to monitor and disburse the Indian economic aid to Afghanistan.
“Pakistan is the most hated nation in Afghanistan” crows Kapila. The possibility of a Taliban defeat is fast becoming a distant dream and the likelihood of their returning to power in some form and the gruesome fate of Babrak Karmal and Najibullah after the Soviet puppet regimes in Afghanistan were toppled must be a nightmare scenario for the leaders of the Northern Alliance. Their failure to overcome the Taliban resurgence despite the massive American military and financial aid is difficult to justify unless a convenient scapegoat is found. The need to project Pakistan as the devil incarnate thus has become necessary.
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Imagine the Afghans of Northern Alliance with the full might of the mighty US airpower at their beck and call, financing worth billions of US dollars, the most modern training lessons from NATO and equipped with the latest western military hardware are still coming out second best against the ragtag Taliban Afghans. Why blame massive corruption and nepotism within the rank and file of the officer class in the Afghan National Army when it is convenient to shift the blame towards Pakistan, specifically its premier intelligence agency, the ISI.
The US – India duo on the other hand has no land borders with Afghanistan and the good doctor would have his readers believe the two have greater concern and stake in Afghanistan’s stability and progress than its immediate neighbours.
The Taliban do not need financing from the ISI. Western reporters have concluded the Taliban generate over a billion US dollars per annum from legal and illegal trades from the areas under their control while the total ISI budget is less than half of that amount. As far as supply of modern arms is concerned, again western analysts report massive arms support to the Taliban by Russia, which is revelling at the prospect of taking revenge for the US role in Afghanistan in the 1980s—one cannot help but wonder at the irony of the role reversal within a half century.
Yet Kapila, his Indian and American counterparts continue to hold Pakistan responsible for the military debacle of the combined Afghan National Army and the NATO forces operating under ISAF. Were aliens unaware of the ground realities in the current world order to read the Indian and US version of the role of Pakistan in the ongoing war between the Taliban and the US backed Afghan National Government, they would conclude Pakistan as the superpower and the Afghan US conglomerate as the underlings.
Dr. Subhash Kapila has concluded his outburst by emphasizing that “the United States has to clamp down hard including military intervention to stop Pakistan Army’s unending destabilisation of Afghanistan”. How very interesting—at one place he considers India as a “leading power in global power calculus” and yet wants the USA to pull its chestnuts out of the fire. If only wishes were horses Subhash Kapila would…………
Air Commodore (retd) Jamal Hussain has served in Pakistan Air Force from 1966 to 1997. He was awarded Sitara-e-Basalat for his services in the year 1982. He regularly contributes articles on defense-related issues in the Defence Journal from Pakistan, Probe Magazine (Dhaka – Bangladesh) and Dawn, The News, and The Nation English Dailies from Pakistan. He is the author of two books on ‘Air Power in South Asia’ and ‘Dynamics of Nuclear Weapons in South Asia’. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.