AFGHAN DEAL AND INDIA CONNECT
India has always wanted to be seen as friend in need and not occupationist force
The US-Taliban Peace Agreement was signed on February 29, 2020, a leap year day, at Doha. The deal is being sold by the white house as ‘The Agreement for bringing peace to Afghanistan’ which actually is a covered admission of total defeat in Afghanistan after 18 years of war. The Frankenstein monster called the Taliban was created by the US and it should explain the logic, albeit a flawed one, of the US quitting Afghanistan in a hurry and handing the country back to the ogre it created. India, for the first time, was made to register its presence at this ceremony. “Anything for peace in the Region”, was the India’s stand for it’s consent.
Unable to hold onto the supreme power tag, USA has started looking inwards. Having burnt its fingers in Vietnam, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, America was very keen to pull out of Afghanistan at the earliest. The increasing body bags from Afghanistan have raised questions within United States, as to why should we fight others’ wars. US allies in Afghanistan are also tired and desperately want to get out. In the election year, President Trump has very little to show as achievement and hence, the Afghan deal- actually a defeat- is being projected as a trophy.
In the last decade, USA unsuccessfully tried to rope in India to join forces in Afghanistan, or to say, put boots on ground. However, India- having burnt its fingers as IPKF in Sri Lanka, very cleverly resisted the efforts to get into quagmire called Afghanistan. India has always wanted to be seen as friend in need and not occupationist force.
History repeats itself, albeit with a different flavour. In 1989-90, withdrawal of USSR troops from Afghanistan, provided Pakistan an opportunity to harvest ready-made militants, who could be easily trained and pushed into Kashmir. This escalated insurgency in J&K manifolds during 1990’s. It is also feared that US troops’ pull out and rule of Taliban will again repeat the same scenario. Therefore, insurgency may get escalated in Kashmir.
India is much better prepared now to deal with a Pakistan sponsored fresh wave of terrorism, then it was in 1990s.
There are more troops on border, aided by border fence and electronic surveillance to check infiltration into Kashmir valley. Counter Insurgency grid is much more powerful, aided by foolproof integrated intelligence network.
After abrogation of Article 370, J&K police is also under the Centre Government. Youth of J&K is disillusioned with anarchy and have a feeling of being used by their Pak sponsored leaders. The terrorist outfits are also questioning Pak Army and ISI for using them as fodder in Kashmir and not upping the ante to full scale war when opportunity was presented, post abrogation of article 370. Therefore, escalating violence and insurgency may be a wishful thinking by Pakistan but an uphill task. Afghanistan deal may at best bring a silver lining for anti India forces.
The most logical fallout of above narrative is what should India do for next 14 months, which will see fructification of this deal. India’s desired response on two levels is listed below.
l Continue strong vigil at the borders, especially J&K and not to lower guard.
l Not let foreign terrorists get foot hold. Isolate and eliminate them before they organize.
l Use post Article 370 abrogation scenario to integrate all resources for development. Improve education and employment to employ youth.
l Win hearts and minds to restore faith and trust.
l Start a new beginning to politically integrate J&K with national mainstream.
l Focus on development projects in Afghanistan, in collaboration with Afghanistan Government.
l Isolate Pakistan at International forums as sponsors of terrorism and expose its new designs on Kashmir.
l Divert focus of World Forums from Kashmir to make it a non-issue and project it as internal matter of India.
l Weaken Pakistan economically so that it cannot fund terrorism in J&K. Dry out funding channels from other countries.
l USA will no longer be dependent on Pakistan to fight in Afghanistan, so India can use that leverage for closer ties with the USA.
Nobody in the region is pleased with this agreement except for Taliban and their backers in Pak military.
As Taliban consolidates its position, Tehrik-e-Taliban or Pakistan Taliban could be emboldened. This could pose new security challenges in J&K Region. However, India is well prepared and can now say “ TRY ME !!!”
Retd Maj Gen C P Singh
The author is an ex-service man, social activist, career consultant and motivational speaker of repute