The donors' conference in Afghanistan has once again shifted the focus to the region's biggest security challenge. India and Pakistan were also part of the conference with their contradictory agendas. And as usual, the countries have sparred over the nitty-gritty of the strategy to deal with the evolving situation in the country. While Islamabad promotes adequate accomodation of Taliban to facilitate the end of the lingering war in the country, New Delhi is uncomfortable about Islamabad's role in the Afghan transition. This is why the foreign minister S M Krishna has in his address to the delegates at the conference called for a stabilizing effort for the war-torn country that is “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned”. He has also made a pitch for ending a selective approach towards terror and sought to draw the international attention towards the groups operating in Pakistan. Kabul conference which follows the London conference has however worked out a tentative plan for the exit of foreign troops, including that of US, by 2014 and handing over the country's security to the Afghan forces. There is a rider though. NATO secretary general Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says the transition will be based on conditions in Afghanistan, not calendars.
However, given the worsening security situation in the country, everything that the conference discussed appears ad-hoc with the US and its NATO allies not sure which way the war in the country would go. Doubts have already been raised as to whether the tide can be turned against the Taliban by then. These doubts are not without reason. US surge has so far failed to achieve desired results. A major military operation to secure the southern city of Kandahar, which was described by US commanders as a lynchpin of the war, has not progressed according to plan. So much so that despite successful security for the conference, troops failed to protect Kabul's airport which came under a rocket fire forcing a plane carrying U.N.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to land instead at nearby Bagram Air Base. However, the conference has once again focused only on the security and the political challenges within Afghanistan and overlooked the larger regional dimension to the ongoing war in the country, chiefly the India, Pakistan equation. The two countries have their own definite opinions about the situation in the country which together with the views of Afghanistan's western neighbours like Iran will need to be taken on board for an end to the war. For Afghanistan is not only about a simple war on terror but also a global and of course regional Great Game in which India and Pakistan are primary players. There are also several new factors at play in the renewed engagement. The unfolding situation in Kabul, where the Taliban are now being considered as a part of the political solution, has suddenly reduced New Delhi’s capacity to influence the outcome in the war-torn country.
Accordingly, Pakistan is suddenly in a greater position of leverage, becoming a lynchpin in the US efforts to rein in the long troubled country. US desperately needs Islamabad to play a greater role in order to create conditions for its early exit from the country. But relations between India and Pakistan are a big sore point. The long-standing rivalry and suspicion between the two countries persuades them to act at cross-purposes in Afghanistan. Pakistan wants a pro-Islamabad regime in Kabul to achieve its goal of strategic depth as a cushion against India. India, on the other hand, seeks a pro-New Delhi government to deny Pakistan this advantage. It is therefore necessary that the ongoing effort for the stabilization of Afghanistan factors in the concerns of New Delhi and Islamabad and addresses them.
This also calls for the promotion of talks and reconciliation between the two countries. A sustained engagement between India and Pakistan would considerably reduce the trust deficit between them and most likely promote cooperation on Afghanistan.
Lastupdate on : Wed, 21 Jul 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 21 Jul 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 22 Jul 2010 00:00:00 IST
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