What role is India playing inside Afghanistan

India is rueful at being excluded from the Afghan peace process many times including the recent meeting. It wants to use the Afghan government as a stooge to become a stakeholder.

India Afghanistan

The USA knows without Pakistan’s wholehearted assistance, there is no end to Afghan imbroglio. Many a time, India tried to fish in Afghan hot waters. It offered to mediate with the Taliban. But, the USA rejected Indian overtures.

USA’s realization

India’s hand could have flared up fighting instead of dousing it. Undeterred by USA’s cold shoulder, India is still trying to carve out a niche in Afghan solution. Even when fighting was going on, India meddled in the Afghan jihad, insurgency, or by whatever name you call it.

Afghanistan is commonly known as the graveyard of empires. Several rulers tried to overpower it, but in vain. They had to bite the dust. Genghis Khan lost a son during the siege of Bamian. Alexander the Great had to beat a hasty retreat. In the nineteenth century `Great’ Britain, at the acme of the imperial power, invaded Afghanistan. It was humbled, marking the beginning of the British Empire. They never again attacked Afghanistan taking refuge under their strategy of ‘Masterly Inactivity’.

The erstwhile Soviet Union rushed its troops to Afghanistan in aid of the tottering Afghan government. In retaliation, the USA and its allies cobbled up Afghan resistance, mujahideen, to fight the Soviet forces. The Soviet Union had its nose bloodied on Afghan soil. It retreated. The sole superpower, the USA, attacked Afghanistan to oust the Taliban.

The US wanted India to send more troops to prevent a Taliban takeover or a civil war. But, India was nonchalant.

A bitter lesson of the war is that it is the USA, not the Taliban who are weary of the unending fighting. A Taliban commander quipped, `you have the watches, and we have time’. American mothers are no longer fond of contributing body packs to a pointless war.

Read more: Who is sabotaging Afghan peace agreement

The toll of war

A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post (December 9, 2019) reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the Afghan war. They kept making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and concealed unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable. Since 2001, an estimated 157,000 people were killed in the war in Afghanistan.

Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, told government interviewers in 2015: “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking. ”If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction, 2,400 lives lost,” Lute added, blaming the deaths of U.S. military personnel on bureaucratic breakdowns among Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department. “Who will say this was in vain? “Since 2001, over 775,000 U.S. troops have been deployed to Afghanistan. Of those, 2,300 died there and 20,589 were wounded in action.

Since 2001, the Defense Department, State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development spent between $934 billion and $978 billion, according to an inflation-adjusted estimate calculated by Neta Crawford, a political science professor and co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University.

Read more: Khalilzad says India must take part in Afghan peace process

These figures do not include money spent by other agencies such as the CIA and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is responsible for medical care for wounded veterans. The documents also contradicted public statements from U.S. presidents, military commanders and diplomats who assured Americans year after year that they were making progress in Afghanistan and the war was worthwhile.

India meddling in Afghanistan: is peace even a possibility now?

Remember India has no border with Afghanistan. Yet it created its own brand of mujahideen belonging to Northern Alliance. India not only provided multi-faceted aid to the Alliance but even trained Northern Alliance fighters.  Indian ambassador Bharath Raj Muthu Kumar, with the consent of then foreign minister Jaswant Singh, secretly coordinated military and medical assistance to the Alliance.

The support involved helicopters, ordnance, mortars, small armaments, refurbished Kalashnikovs seized in Kashmir, combat and winter clothes, packaged food, medicines, and funds. These supplies were delivered circuitously with the help of other countries (Aeini and Farkhor air bases in Tajikistan) or through Massoud’s brother in London, Wali Massoud. India opened four consulates at Kandahar, Jalalabad, Heratand Mazar-e-Sharif, besides its embassy at Kabul.

India also pampered Ahmad Shah Massoud as its protégé for use on Afghan chess-board as and when circumstances so allowed. India is still using these consulates to stoke up secessionist movements in Balochistan and volatile tribal belt. India established a Free Balochistan office in New Delhi under Naila Baloch. The inauguration was attended by many Indian government/intelligence officers.

Read more: Afghan peace deal risks collapse as violence spirals out of control in Afghanistan

Russia and Iran are supporting the Taliban with a view to counteracting the common enemy, the Islamic State, which is allegedly seeking a foothold in Afghanistan. India is pressing Iran to agitate the question of safety of Hazara Shia in a Taliban government-to-be.

Why is Afghan peace elusive

American soldiers willy-nilly perform duties. Yet they need international support to avoid a collapse. Post-exit situation is complex.

There are many points to ponder. Taliban’s foreign guests include ISIS-Daesh and Al Qaeda warriors from the Middle East and Central Asia. Isn’t it against Pakhtun-wali tradition to stab protected `guests’ in the back? Where shall they go? Will USA revamp its Mid-East policy to deal with them? Besides USA, Pakistan and Taliban, India (Chahbahar Port), Iran, China and Turkey (Turkmen-Turkic community) have stakes in Afghanistan?

Afghan economy is in shambles. Could the USA spend $43 billion (it would save annually from exit) on Afghanistan development? Could China, India, Iran and Turkey together (besides the USA) start a nouveau Marshall Plan in war-ravaged Afghanistan to avoid a clash of interest?

What about the post-exit 250,000-strong Afghan army with the Taliban? No spill-over effect of Taliban-enforced Shari’a on modernist Pakistan? Could India stop isolating Pakistan from SAARC? How would rebellious Pakistani Taliban and recalcitrant elements in Balochistan react to the US exit? Will Ashraf Ghani government and other puppets reconcile, at heart, to US exit?

ISI bashing

Indian media without corroborative evidence has published a `blueprint’ of future activities of Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan. Hindustan Times June 4, 2020, reported `a counter-terror official in Delhi said ISI officials have created the financial and logistic support network to facilitate their operations.

As per the false`blueprint’, Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence, or ISI, is supposedly infiltrating the Lashkar and Jaish terrorists into the Islamic State-Khorasan Province that has been in tatters after the arrest of its chief Abdulah Orakzai aka Aslam Farooqui and his top commanders by Afghan security forces. It also pushes unfounded claims that relocated Lashkar groups have organised attacks in Afghan cities and ambushed border security posts of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces in coordination with the Taliban, its sword arm the Haqqani Network and Al Qaeda.

In another attempt to portray Pakistan in a bad light, in the last week of May, a source apparently told Hindustan Times, a group of 30 Lashkar cadres had moved into Dangam district of Kunar province. They were led by Bilal alias Zarqawi, an ex-ISI officer who had been in charge of a major terror training centre in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as well as for the Jalalabad operations’.

Read more: Hurdles to Afghan Peace: Pak still has foremost role to play

India is distorting Pakistan’s prime minister’s informal speech before the US Institute of Peace in Washington last July to tarnish Pakistan’s image. He had said,’Pakistan still has “about 30,000 to 40,000 armed people who have been trained and fought in some part of Afghanistan or Kashmir’ (Hindustan Times June 5, 2020). Indian media linked the PM’s statement to a UN report. The Report stated `there are some 6,500 Pakistani nationals among foreign terrorists operating in Afghanistan, and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT)’/ Pakistan’s foreign office contended that India’s `external affairs ministry was using the UN report to “slander Pakistan”.

Inferences

India is rueful at being excluded from the Afghan peace process many times including the recent meeting (6+2+1 grouping). It wants to use the Afghan government as a stooge to become a stakeholder. To achieve its objective, it is striving hard to bridge the Ghani-Abdullah divide, and bring together other major leaders who forged relations for decades.

India’s frantic efforts to secretly abet violence in Afghanistan may backfire. But, India is cock-sure that the world would continue to believe its anti-Pakistan tirade.

Mr. Amjed Jaaved is an editor to The Consul. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.


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