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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 31, July 24, 2010

Afghanistan: Attempts at ‘Pragmatic’ Course-change by New Delhi

Sunday 25 July 2010

by A Special Correspondent

Analysing the current US policy in Afghanistan, the implementation of which will result in India turning out to be the “biggest loser”, Bashir Mohammad wrote in a brief article, “India and the US Policy in Afghanistan” (Mainstream, May 8, 2010) that in the circumstances “South Block should support the enhanced presence in the Central and local governments (in that country) of the national minorities, including those in the Northern Alliance as well as former members of the National Democratic Party of Afghanistan and the Najibullah Government”. (Actually Bashir Mohammad was alluding to the ruling party during Najibullah’s time, that is, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan or PDPA.)

He also highlighted another “concrete proposal”—assigning a “major role for the UN in Afghanistan”. Threafter he added:
…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.

He further explained:

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 Islamabad whose cooperation is most vital and valuable for Washington in the present situation.

Alarmed at the consequence of such an eventuality the US has come out with ideas that are diametrically opposed to the course of action suggested by Bashir Mohammad: a division of Afghanistan—on Pashtun and non-Pashtun lines—intended to “help stabilise the region”, while some strategic experts with distinct pro-US leanings have, in the meantime, advocated a new course for New Delhi in Afghanistan, namely, developing close ties with Pashtuns on both sides of the Durand Line with the purpose of countering and even thwarting Pakistan’s objectives. This is how the latter course-change is being sought to be presented before the Indian strategic community, but it is needless to emphasise that it enjoys the full blessings and wholesale endorsement of Washington. What is significant, however, is that those who propose such a move are silent on which Pashtuns South Block should forge close relations with. It appears they are hinting at the Taliban, that is, the “moderate” elements within it as the Americans these days never tire of stressing. (But they dare not spell that out for fear of antagonising Indian public opinion as a whole.) Actually the proposal has been mooted by the US in consultation with its trusted accomplices in this country to test the waters as they say—the naked truth is that Washington wants New Delhi to supplement its task in Afghanistan since it too is striving to conduct negotiations with the “moderate” Taliban. (Reports from the US media indicate that Pakistan has been “trying to seed a rapprochement” between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Haqqani insurgent network although this has been hindered by the Haqqanis’ ties with the Al-Qaeda. Perhaps the US authorities want South Block to engage in similar activities.) But why should India do so for a few pieces of silver sacrificing its principles, ideals, policies and, above all, its most reliable allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

There is not a shred of doubt that this country’s most loyal friends in Afghanistan are those referred to in the aforementioned article—the Northern Alliance as also the former members of the PDPA and Najibullah Government. As for the Pashtuns, the best allies of India among them are the followers and relatives of the Frontier Gandhi Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan or Badshah Khan [who are mostly in Pakistan (in the Awami National Party or ANP which was set up by Badshah Khan’s son, Khan Abdul Wali Khan, and which has been sharing power with the federal government in Islamabad by being in charge of the administration in Peshawar) although some of them are still in Afghanistan despite all the vicissitudes]. The anti-imperialist credentials of these friends of India are beyond dispute even though they may not flaunt them for obvious reasons. To betray such friends in order to placate Washington so that the latter does not go the whole hog with the Pakistani establishment is the height of opportunism which is being sought to be advertised as ‘pragmatism’ by the whizz-kids among our foreign policy and security experts (who are currently sold out to Washington). They want a complete overhaul of the Nehruvian policy-perspective in South Block and are desperately trying to bring that about.

Unfortunately the Nehruvian ethos continues to survive defying all such onslaughts thus displaying its extraordinary resilence as it is rooted in the values of our freedom struggle which cannot be obliterated by those who have mortgaged their souls in the service of the sole surviving superpower.

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