The Kabul Question: India’s Concerns

Besides the turbulent political scenario in the middle-east, the world is closely watching Afghanistan. Western democracies and NATO members will pull out their military personnel from the land by the end of 2014. What kind of a turn will Afghanistan take in terms of administrative, diplomatic and political structures? This question has been haunting not only the NATO nations but also Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors like Pakistan, Iran, India and China.

India has already invested millions of crores in the development of Afghan roads, education, health infrastructure, electricity, public distribution and a number of other sectors. A large number of Indian professionals are working in Afghanistan. On top of that, New Delhi has recently initiated a programme to train the Afghan police and military forces. So India is not happy when the news of a Taliban comeback is gradually gaining momentum. India is evidently dissatisfied with the American effort of collaborating with Taliban representatives in the administrative and political structures of new Afghanistan. This dissatisfaction was conveyed to the US Vice President Joseph Biden when he had come to India a few days back.

Pakistan has an altogether novel stance on the issue. With the new Nawaz Sharif government at the helm of affairs, it has toned down its hardliner approach to the issues involving Afghanistan. Pakistan is now open to strike up collaboration with India. The Islamic neighbor of India was, once upon a time, an intermediary in Afghanistan’s communication with the west. NATO, through Pakistan, used to supply weaponry and stocks to the Afghan Mujahidins and then to the Talibans. But now, owing to the changed domestic political equations and sudden rise of Pakistan Taliban and Hakwani group, Pakistan is more sensible as a democratically elected regime. Salman Bashir, the Pak high-commissioner to India has recently observed that all of the neighboring states including India have right to take part in the Afghan transition.

Hamid Karzai, the present Afghan president is hard on the Talibans. On the other hand, the Talibans are committed to oust the Karzai regime at any cost. Their effort will be strengthened with the exit of the NATO forces. The Talibans have their internal conflicts along the lines of religious ideology, language and origin. It will not be possible for them to build up a harmonized and smooth regime. So the Taliban question is critical for India at this moment as it is a stakeholder in the organization of a democratic Afghanistan.

The North Block needed an assurance of collaboration from the rest of the stakeholders like the USA and Pakistan. It seems that India’s wish has been fulfilled for now. The recent India tour of Joseph Biden appears to be positive. Pakistan’s new government is cooperative on many fronts. Let’s wait for 2014 and keep our fingers crossed.

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