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Alongside few areas of concern, 'Advantages' India has in Afghanistan

WebdeskAug 23, 2021, 08:58 AM IST

Alongside few areas of concern, 'Advantages' India has in Afghanistan

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Nirendra Dev


Indian foreign policy engine room can always underline that it is now the right time to 'correct' that major lapse in Washington's foreign policy towards Pakistan.


New Delhi: The ‘American anguish and ego-hurt’ in Afghanistan can become an enormous advantage for the Modi regime in India. It is true, the Taliban's stunning return to power in Afghanistan and desperate scenes of thousands trying to flee Kabul have cast a grim shadow over the United States' status as a superpower. Thus, when assessing things post-Taliban takeover, all eyes are on China, Russia and India. 


One need not talk about Pakistan in specific terms; it would come automatically, given their ‘deep’ relations. The Chinese ought to be careful about the possible interference and influence of the Taliban on the Uyghurs. The Russians have their concerns about the Chechens, and India has Kashmir and Pakistan.


Over the years, Islamabad invested time, men and money and sponsored groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba to bleed India. Pakistan and its ecosystem may presume it has an edge, but India's ‘advantage would be its proximity to the United States, who would see the reason why New Delhi has been crying about ‘state-sponsored terrorism’ at least since the 1990s.


There is also a considerable presence of Indian investment and interest in infrastructure building in Afghanistan. The new rulers may not ignore it so easily. Dr Jaishankar told a western journalist at the UN premises last week - "Look, first of all, you (the journalist) used the word investment, for us it reflected what was the historical relationship with the Afghan people. I think that relationship with the Afghan people obviously continues and that will guide our approach in Afghanistan in the coming days."


Pakistan has other issues. What happens to the possibility of an expeditious return of the three million refugees living in Pakistan, perhaps since the Soviet invasion of 1979. Taliban has said they will not let their territory be used in other countries affairs.


The Modi government has to take these words with a sizable spoon of salt. A pinch may be too little! For now, in terms of its diplomatic parlance with the Americans, India needs to focus on driving home a point that to handle Afghanistan and the Taliban effectively, you ought to know how to handle Pakistan.


The western formula of handling Pakistan so far has been erroneous and instead has boomeranged. No less than a former US President Barack Obama has written in his book, 'A Promised Land': "That the US government had long tolerated such behavior from a purported ally—supporting it with billions of dollars in military and economic aid despite its complicity with violent extremists.. said something about the pretzel-like logic of US foreign policy."


Indian foreign policy engine room can always underline that it is now the right time to 'correct' that major lapse in Washington's foreign policy towards Pakistan. There is already a realisation. In recent years, the US has stopped addressing India and Pakistan with a hyphen. They need to do more.


External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has urged the UNSC to take up an eight-point road map. These include a few steps such as Summoning the political will: Do not justify terrorism, don’t glorify terrorists, No double standards, terrorists are terrorists and recognise the linkage to organised crime and support and strengthen the FATF. It is the right time for the US and other countries to back India–if they are sincere about fighting the terror menace.


For Americans, it is more than a prestige issue in circa 2021. This is the first time in 46 years since Vietnam that a guerrilla force has defeated the Americans on the battlefield.  India should use this ‘American anguish and ego-hurt’ as an ‘advantage’ tool. After having chased out within weeks of bombardment, the Taliban has struck back after 20 years. While as ‘insurgents’, they were rural-based and rustic. On the other hand, the US had the manpower, NATO and other global support sources and sophisticated communication systems to monitor the Taliban's every move. Yet, they failed. Yet, they could not.


No amount of bravado by President Joe Biden that such chaos was expected can salvage the lost prestige. A somewhat generous outflow, the US money only encouraged corruption for the Ghani dispensation, especially at all levels. The corruption menace prevailed under Karzai as well.


Career diplomat Shyam Saran has described the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan as “a Taliban invasion sponsored and abetted by Pakistan”. This is a crucial point in all recent arguments.  So Americans suffered the humiliation from a country they provided with money and all other assistance. There is also merit in the argument that while Taliban native men fought vigorously, the same Afghan forces–as Biden says–did not have the will to fight. A simple question of logic says, how could both the things go together. 


India should try to lead the United States to switch plans to counter terrorism from counter-insurgency, and this could go a long way and yield rich dividends. If there was betrayal, all such acts ought to be punished. That's elementary justice. 


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on Aug 26 2021 04:04:41

Going after Pakistan too hard weakens Biden's Islamist voter base. He will just try to salvage the hopeless and useless JCPOA with Iran to patch his hurt ego and reputation.

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