Insights into Editorial: All the roads that lead to Kabul

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Insights into Editorial: All the roads that lead to Kabul


Context:

U.S. Secretary of State reproved Pakistan for not doing enough against terrorists operating from its soil.  At the same time, Afghan President in New Delhi was underlining that the time had come for Islamabad to make a choice between abandoning state sponsorship of terrorism and facing the consequences.

Afghan President’s visit came at a time when the US (Trump) administration’s South Asia policy has underscored India’s centrality in the ‘Af-Pak’ theatre.

As Washington plans to increase its military footprint in Afghanistan, it is tightening the screws on Pakistan for supporting terrorism as an instrument of state policy. Both Washington and Kabul now view New Delhi as a player with considerable leverage over the evolving regional dynamic.

Highlights of recent Afghan President’s visit to India:

  • Regional counter-terror efforts and enhancing India’s defence assistance to Kabul were discussed.
  • New South Asia policy of the U.S was appreciated by both the countries. It is viewed as an opportunity for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan & South Asia.

New US South Asia policy:

A central feature of the Trump administration’s new Afghanistan policy is an outreach to India. US appreciated India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan and wants India to help them more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.

  • Deployment of additional US troops soldiers to train and buttress Afghan forces with gradual pull out plans at apt period as a hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for terrorists.
  • Strong focus on Pakistan to make sure it abides by its commitments. Pakistan being watched closely by his administration to keep check on the country becoming safe havens for terrorist organizations.
  • US administration’s South Asia policy is to further develop the US’s strategic partnership with India. India was viewed as part of the problem and now Trump is arguing that India should be viewed as part of a solution to the Afghan imbroglio.

Reaction from Kabul after US president unveiled his policy

Kabul has wholeheartedly embraced this strategy, with Afghan President terming it a “game-changer” for the region as it “recommends multi-dimensional condition-based approach for the region.”

  • In Delhi, Afghan President was categorical in attacking Pakistan by suggesting that sanctuaries are provided, logistics are provided, training is provided, and ideological bases are provided.
  • In a remarkable move, he went on to suggest that Afghanistan would restrict Pakistan’s access to Central Asia if it is not given access to India through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
  • The Indo-Afghan air corridor could be an effective response to Pakistan’s attempt to deny India and Afghanistan any direct access.
  • It strongly rejected Islamabad’s claims that India was using Afghanistan as a base to destabilise Pakistan.
  • President made it clear that there were “no secret agreements” between Kabul and New Delhi.
  • Also rejected “Pakistan-managed” efforts to broker peace in the country,

India’s commitment to Peace in Afghanistan

  • In line with Kabul’s response India too has emphasised that it believes peace efforts in Afghanistan should be “Afghan-led” and “Afghan-controlled”.
  • India continues to maintain that renunciation of violence and terror, and closure of state-sponsored safe havens and sanctuaries remain essential for any meaningful progress and lasting peace.
  • Afghanistan had participated in the sixth Quadrilateral Coordination Group meeting along with the U.S., China and Pakistan in Muscat, Oman, on October 16 in an attempt to revive stalled peace talks with the Taliban.
  • National Security Advisor of India had gone to Kabul to assess these developments on the same day.

India – Afghanistan recent developments:

In recent years, India has not shied away from taking a high-profile role in Afghanistan.

It remains one of the biggest donors of aid to Afghanistan, having committed $3.1 billion since 2001.

  • Training of Afghan personnel at Indian military academies.
  • India’s agenda is to build the capacity of the Afghan state as well as of Afghan security forces, enabling them to fight their own battles more effectively. This is in line with the requirements of the Afghan government as well as the international community.
  • India-Afghanistan Trade and Investment Show in New Delhi generated business worth over US $ 200 million.
  • Opening of the air freight corridor between Kandahar and Kabul and Delhi.
  • Afghan cities of Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat have been connected directly by air to Delhi.
  • Recently, it announced that it will be working on 116 new development projects in more than 30 areas

The need of the hour

Expanding India’s development role further and enhancing its security profile with greater military assistance to Afghanistan should be a priority as new strategic opportunities open up in Afghanistan.

  • While the U.S. has its own priorities in the ‘Af-Pak’ theatre, India’s should be able to leverage the present opening to further its interests and regional security.
  • The recent bout of diplomatic activity in the region is a clear signal that India can no longer be treated as a marginal player in Afghanistan.
  • Even Russia wants to keep India in the loop, as was underscored by Moscow’s special envoy on Afghanistan (Zamir Kabulov’s) visit to New Delhi for consultations in September.

India must expand its development role further and enhance its security profile in Afghanistan.

Conclusion

Trump’s South Asia policy is a remarkable turnaround for Washington which had wanted to keep India out of its ‘Af-Pak’ policy for long for fear of offending Rawalpindi.

India was viewed as part of the problem and now the Trump administration is arguing that India should be viewed as part of a solution to the Afghan imbroglio. This is a welcome change and holds significant implications for India, Afghanistan and the wider region.