India’s World – Afghan-Pak Intelligence Cooperation Deal
In May 2015, Afghanistan and Pakistan signed an agreement for bilateral intelligence cooperation. The agreement enables the partnership between the spy agencies of the two countries- Pakistan’s inter services intelligence (ISI) and the Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS). Although the agreement has been described as historic in Pakistan, experts are not very optimistic about its outcome citing the lack of trust between the two countries. In the past, the Afghanistan government had openly accused Pakistan government of harboring, nurturing and aiding the Taliban to launch a war against Afghanistan. Afghanistan parliament and several Afghan experts have already expressed their opposition to the deal.
The first-of-its-kind deal between the ISI and NDS followed a visit by Prime Minister Sharif, Pakistan Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif and ISI chief Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar to Kabul in May 2015. The ISI has for long been accused by US, Afghan and Indian officials of meddling in Afghanistan and of having close ties with the Haqqani Network, a Pakistan-based terror group blamed for some of the most brazen attacks in Afghanistan in recent years.
India suspects British involvement in putting together this controversial agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan. India is against some clauses in the Agreement. One of them is that each spy service would refrain from criticizing the other in public, among other things. They have also agreed to refrain from cooperating with “hostile foreign agencies”. For years, that was Afghan description for ISI itself. Post the agreement the “foreign agencies” indicate India. If implemented, India fears it would mean that the Afghan’s security would have to engage in domestic political activity in the same way the ISI does inside Pakistan.
India had a steady relationship with Afghanistan and had been indulging in intelligence sharing. However, now India suspects that some meddling done by the United Kingdom was a result of this agreement being reached.
The agreement includes international sharing, complementary and coordinated intelligence operations on respective sides. Pakistan has a civilian government but the military and ISI still wield great influence, particularly over policy towards neighbouring Afghanistan. Proponents hail the deal as a welcome shift from the traditional mistrust between leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan, who have traded accusations of supporting terrorism in each other’s territories for years.
Some experts also point out that signing a deal and actually making it work are two different things. And considering the fact that the two nations’ geopolitical interests are still at odds, and that Pakistan continues to support at least some Taliban factions, the ISI-NDS alliance is likely to fail.