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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 20, May 8, 2010

India and the US Policy in Afghanistan

Monday 10 May 2010, by Bashir Mohammad

By now it is as clear as daylight what the Americans are up to in Afghanistan.

In case Talibanisation grips Afghanistan (which is inevitable if the US plan to negotiate with the “moderate” Taliban by using the good offices of its client state, Pakistan, and the Pak intelligence network, the ISI, in particular, bears fruit) and as a corollary Islamic extremism sweeps Pakistan, India should expect more terror attacks from Pakistan-based groups once the Taliban finds sufficient space to operate in Kabul. There is no doubt that in that eventuality
India will be perhaps the biggest loser in that area.

One should also understand that the Taliban are the ones to profit most from opium production that has assumed phenomenal proportions in Afghanistan today. And the US doesn’t want to destroy the opium fields in the country since it is keen to placate, befriend and thus “influence” the Taliban.

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What then should New Delhi do in the circumstances? One suggestion is that South Block should support the enhanced presence in the Central and local governments of the national minorities, including those in the Northern Alliance as well as former members of the National Democratic Party of Afghanistan and Najibullah Government.

Any close observer of the regional scene is convinced that the present US Administration is trying to minimise India’s presence in Afghanistan in favour of Pakistan. If one does not want to be uncharitable to Washington, one would interpret this tilt towards Islamabad as a consequence of US compulsions at the current complex juncture of Afghan politics. But whatever the reason, the new US strategy is definitely hurting India’s national interests.

Therefore another concrete proposal is to fix and confirm a major role for the UN in Afghanistan. Side by side it is imperative for India to forge closer bonds of cooperation with Russia and the Moscow-led defence bloc of erstwhile Soviet states (that is, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation or CSTO). The CSTO recently signed a cooperation pact with the UN to ensure its greater involvement in the country.

The fact is that the CSTO and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) will offer a counterbalance to the NATO and US in both Central Asia and Afghanistan, and India should have no hesitation in building stronger ties with these organisations precisely when both the US and NATO are least interested in developing such a relationship with New Delhi for fear of antagonising Islamabd whose cooperation is most vital and valuable for Washington in the present situation.

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