The onus lies with India
INAM UL REHMAN COMMENTS ON INDIAN ENGAGEMENT IN AFGHANISTAN AND THE CHALLENGES IT FACES IN KASHMIR
“The road to stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” wrote Pankaj Mishra on January 14, in NY book review, ( Afghanistan: The India & Kashmir Connection) “runs through the Valley of Kashmir, and Obama’s failure to even mention a likely solution to the subcontinent’s primary conflict will doom his new strategy”.The war in Afghanistan, as USA bitterly realises is going nowhere. Afghanistan has always proved a graveyard of empires and British ruefully admitted it after several failed attempts to conquer it. The defeat of two world powers within a span of 20 years is certain to have impact on secessionist movements in the world and would definitely infuse a new vigour into the resistance movement of Kashmir.
India’s worries are not unfounded. The South Asia region would become a fundamentalist Muslim belt which will push for a final solution to the Kashmir issue. It were these fears in 2008, when Kashmir was on streets, that prompted the then presidential candidate Obama to link peace in South Asia with the resolution of Kashmir conflict. A different story that business interest supersedes politics.
There is nothing secretive about the fact that India and Pakistan are fighting bitterly in Afghanistan. With USA setting the deadline of 2011 to withdraw from Afghanistan both Pakistan and India are trying hard to maximise their sphere of influence. Pakistan ostensibly has the upper hand because of past ties and being in close proximity. However, India being a mammoth country is not going to be an easy deal. So far India on many insistences has shocked Pakistan with their sphere of influence in the Afghan region. But the bitter reality is that the pullout of US led NATO forces will have its effect not just in Pakistan but will reverberate in India also.
Because conflict is a complex phenomenon and more so when it’s internationally recognised. The involvement of more players makes it murkier and with the globalisation that threats to endanger the sovereignty of nation states, players of conflict have become shrewder. They are consistently trying to outwit, out plan and out process the other players. One may not rule out that Maoists, Dalits and separatists in Kashmir may come on joint platform due to globalisation of the conflict as well. After all enemies enemy is friend particularly when both sides have seen only one side of India—oppression and annihilation.
So there can be questions raised. Were protests instigated in Valley to suck up Pakistan into dialogue over Kashmir resolution because its relatively in a weak position this time on its conundrum over Afghan crisis and the fatal internecine war? Was the use of army on the streets of Kashmir a tactical move to show Pakistan that situation is turning in his favour? Is India trying to give some concession before US withdrawal from Afghanistan so that the post Afghan period, minus US, it won’t be forced to concede more? This may be a conjecture but international politics is not run on simplistic notions. Leave aside media rumbling and media experts State actors hide more than they give. And diplomatic engagements at times prove deceptive.
Post NATO withdrawal
The proposed USA withdrawal from Afghanistan from July 2011 has worried the regional players of Asia and India. India has invested not only money but blood also. However, with the withdrawal of US troops and as talks between Hamid Karzai led government and Taliban go on, India feels the heat, which is certainly going to affect it, as it is surrounded by Muslim belt on two sides and China on the other.
The historical animosity that India feels towards Pakistan has not led the former to progress and assert itself in the international affairs. Rather than competing China, India compares itself with a desolate Pakistan. While voting against Iran on US led sanctions India lost another long time friend and one which was necessary for it in terms of geo political strategy in a region dominated by Sunni Muslim countries. However, its undue reliance on America has made India virtually friendless in the Muslim countries while US itself is trying hard to improve its image among Muslim nations. Meanwhile Russia has invited Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan for a summit in Sochi in August.
Indo-Pak Talk Shop
So India desperately needs Pakistan to talk on contentious issue of Kashmir before the Afghan crisis spill over. Moreover for India any disturbance during Commonwealth games, slated for October, in Kashmir would bring huge embarrassment. Pakistan on the other hand is buying time to delay on negotiations on Kashmir issue. Still it will keep the ‘talk shop’ open until a new government comes up in Afghanistan in connivance with Pakistan. Already signals emanating from Afghanistan suggest that both Taliban and Tajik would be incorporated in the next arrangement with interests of Iran, China, Russia and US being safeguarded as Pakistan takes the position of peace broker in the war torn country. Karzai is already carrying on an exploratory dialogue with Pakistan’s Army Chief, Ashfaq Kayani for a peace settlement with the Taliban much to the annoyance of India, but with the backing of US. The extension given to Kayani is realisation of that. It was on expected lines. Last year President Barrack Obama urged China to work in proximity with US to promote peace in South Asia leaving India fuming as it rightly considered that Washington was inviting China to meddle in Indo-Pak affair.
Just after the Commonwealth games a conference of NATO heads of government is scheduled for Lisbon in November. According to Newsweek, if things remain as bad in Afghanistan with more NATO troops getting killed, US is likely to say goodbye to many of their foreign partners. This will be a huge blow to Indian efforts as its vulnerability in Afghanistan will increase.
India has already constructed an alternate route which will reduce Afghan dependence of Pakistan provided Iran opens up its borders. India has opened many consulates in Afghanistan and has given its government more then $1.2 billion in aid. This is a huge sum for a country where 42 crore people live in impoverished conditions and which has no common border with Afghanistan where 99 percent population is Muslim. The outspoken former Indian envoy to Pakistan, G. Parthasarathy, told India Today news magazine that India “should not shy away from political destabilisation and inflicting economic damage on Pakistan. The time has come for us to say that Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan is disputed.” But not all plans are executed successfully. Pakistan always wanted to create strategic depth in Afghanistan. However, it was the latter which used the former for its own strategic depth taking heavy toll on Pakistan. India is trying every ounce to strangulate that strategic depth to Pakistan. It needs no rocket science to figure out that the Taliban militia, post US withdrawal, will be targeted towards which country.
India is weary of Pakistan’s tactics. It believes that Pakistani military is biding time until the Americans are really desperate, and then the army will demand its price from the US. It is these thoughts which are perturbing Indian decision makers and so they want to engage with Pakistan. But as was obvious during foreign ministers press conference recently Pakistan was unwilling to talk on Kashmir other than the usual rhetoric. Pakistan wants to buy time, India doesn’t have the luxury of time while US is contemplating a different course which will assuage the Muslim anger for a time being. For sure US would not want Kashmir to become another Afghanistan or Palestine for that matter that can unite all the fundamentalist forces in Muslim countries of South Asia. If Taliban trickle over to Kashmir, as Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the former Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan, chillingly reminds in his book, My life with Taliban it would present a dangerous situation not only to India but to other powers in Asia where many insurgencies are going around. “The U.S. diplomacy,” wrote the former Indian diplomat MK Bandrakumar, “is astutely tapping into the visceral fears of the Central Asian countries over a militant Islamist upsurge in the region in the aftermath of the Taliban reconciliation, which will be interpreted by jihadis all over — North Caucasus, Ferghana, Xinjiang or Kashmir — as the defeat of a superpower in the Hindu Kush.” And the history of political insurgencies is also against India. Only 29 percent of insurgences have been crushed or contained. The onus lies with India. To grant autonomy, self rule or repeal AFPSA it doesn’t need Pakistan’s consent.
Lastupdate on : Wed, 4 Aug 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 4 Aug 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 5 Aug 2010 00:00:00 IST
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