During his recent visit to the US, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan seems to have convinced American President Donald Trump that if the latter offers to mediate in the so-called Kashmir problem, Pakistan will bring Taliban on board and facilitate honourable exit of the American troops from Afghanistan. It took Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s diplomatic acumen to explain to President Trump Pakistan’s game plan and to make him issue a statement that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and that third party mediation is not required.
When American troops set foot on Afghan soil, they did not ask for permission of the Taliban; now when they have decided to leave, why do they need concurrence of the latter? President Trump is contesting elections for the second term and he needs to convey to the American people that he is going to save billions of dollars, which were unnecessarily spent on Afghanistan, hence the USA’s hasty retreat. The truth is that the Americans understand it better than anybody else, simply because they have dealt more extensively with the Taliban than anybody else that the latter will agree for something today and will retract tomorrow on any flimsy pretext.
Moreover, American attempt to involve Pakistan to broker a deal with the Taliban, in the long run, is going to be a futile or rather counterproductive exercise. Pakistan has been using extremist groups to attain strategic depth in Afghanistan and in order to achieve its objectives, today it will convince America that it will facilitate honourable exit for the latter and tomorrow it will start using Taliban to foment trouble in Afghanistan and India, in particular, and in some other countries, in general. If one surveyed Afghan people, they could perceive Pakistan as enemy Number One; they maintain that because of the machinations of the latter, permanent peace has not found a place in the Afghan land and democratic institutions could not flourish there. Pakistan has been consistently nurturing and using Islamic extremists (Taliban) in Afghanistan to grind its own axe. It had been blackmailing that country for long because it is providing its port Karachi for the import, export needs of its land-locked neighbour, Afghanistan. How economically Pakistan has been taking the Afghan people for a ride also can be exemplified in one respect; sub standard wheat with the higher price was continuously exported to that country taking advantage of the fact that logistically it is nearest to land-locked Afghanistan.
Another big reason of dislike for Pakistan is the Durand line which the Afghans believe that the British used as a tool to divide the Pashtuns. In the year 1893, the British divided the Pashtun areas keeping Peshawar, FATA belt within the borders of the British India while giving bigger chunk to Afghanistan. Implore any Pashtun either from Afghan territory or belonging to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, he will express his desire of seeing united Pakhtunistan one day. In regards to a country which hates Pakistan extensively, the latter cannot become a guarantor of peace once Americans leave the former.
There might be some friends in Talibani Pashtuns for Pakistan but all other ethnicities living in Afghanistan harbour deep animosity towards that country. It is noteworthy that Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and Shia tribes living in bordering areas of Iran, hold Pakistan responsible for the disturbances and instability their country is undergoing. One can safely reach a prognosis that once NATO forces exit from Afghanistan, Pakistan with the help of its Talibani supporters will let loose all the hell there as it had done after the withdrawal of the Soviets. Americans, as they think they are smarter than people of other nations, must know this reality. Then why are they going out of their way to bring Pakistan on board in respect of their talks with the Taliban, is beyond comprehension.
Pakistan has been using extremist groups to attain strategic depth in Afghanistan and in order to achieve its objectives, today it will convince America that it will facilitate honourable exit for the latter and tomorrow it will start using Taliban to foment trouble in Afghanistan and India, in particular, and in some other countries, in general
If any country which has done any developmental work in Afghanistan in past many years, it is India. Salma dam, constructed and funded by India in Herat province has been named as Afghan-India friendship dam by the government of Afghanistan. India has built Parliament building of that country and numerous other infrastructure projects are going on which are funded by it. Afghans acknowledge their friendship with India and value economic cooperation also. India has built Chabahar port in Iran and has also built a road connecting it with Herat province of Afghanistan. Recently, consignments of wheat from India have been sent to Afghanistan through the said route. Pakistan is likely to arm-twist Afghanistan on account of sea connectivity it provides to the latter through Karachi port. In that scenario, Chabahar- Herat route will become a lifeline for the Afghans. Afghan government of present - it may not survive post-withdrawal of NATO forces - earnestly wants India to be involved in talks with Taliban and especially so when the latter has close to three billion dollars investment in Afghanistan.
Seemingly, a deal has been struck between the USA and Pakistan; the former will catalyse IMF funds for the latter and latter will use its good offices with Taliban to facilitate the so-called honourable exit from the Afghan land for the former. In respect of India, the geo-political scenario looks to be pretty grim in Af-Pak region. In all likelihood, Pakistan will send Talibani guerillas to foment trouble in Kashmir and try to jeopardize India’s economic activities in Afghanistan. It will also play spoilsport for Indian trade with central Asian republics through Chabahar- Herat route. Who will make President Trump understand that a country, which harboured Osama bin Laden, was not
trustworthy. In the past and will never be in all the years to come.
(The writer is Mumbai-based columnist and documentary maker)