Afghanistan’s Indian Dilemma

By: Saddam Hussein

Recent border skirmishes and loss of life on both sides underscores the extremely fragile and complicated nature of Pak-Afghan relations.

Strange that this stand-off came only days after the Pakistani MPs led by the Speaker Ayaz Sadiq visited Kabul, preceded and followed by two Pakistani generals, including the ISI chief. It is a sorry state of affairs as, instead of something positive, we saw the exchange of fire and loss of precious lives on both sides.

Why did it happen? How can Afghan forces question the presence of Pakistani enumerators in places where residents hold Pakistani national ID cards?

Is it something genuine, or something motivated by the strong external vested interest that currently shapes opinions and policies in Kabul and its security establishment?

Or, is it the Indian influence it geopolitics, or is it a section of the Afghan security establishment that would like to scuttle anything positive as far as Pakistan is concerned?

No doubt, India has effectively nurtured closer relations with Kabul to Pakistan’s disadvantage. It has also lobbied with Pakistan’s traditional allies – Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and others, making fresh inroads apparently at the expense of Pakistan’s interests.

Prime Minister Modi, in his meetings with foreign leaders, has been frequently denigrating Pakistan. This current rhetoric of India reflects its policy to squeeze whatever diplomatic space Pakistan has in general and particularly in the region and Afghanistan.

Moreover, the situation further aggravates by US attempts to make its interests relevant in Afghanistan and the region and also to thwart diplomatic advances of Russia and China.

Balancing between India and the United States, Afghan leadership, regardless of its periodic attempts to reach out to Pakistan, is dwindling into the sphere that would make it difficult for peaceful friendly co-existence with Pakistan.

Furthermore, the country’s so-called unity government is proving anything but unity. Following intensely fought and indecisive presidential elections in 2014, Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah are sharing power under a deal brokered by United States Secretary of State John Kerry.

The two camps that had emerged in power corridors since then, often appear to be in contradiction over critical national issues. This not unified aspect of Afghan government supposedly makes it difficult for both Afghanistan and Pakistan to engage with credible commitments.

Such contradictions are also supposedly fueled by regional actors like India, whose prime interest lies in isolation of, and chaos in, Pakistan.

However, recently both countries started engaging positively in terms of bilateral talks, establishment of hotlines and MPs visits, but all ended in vain.

The problem here seems to be largely of ‘mutual mistrust’ that has accrued over time. Therefore, such engagements should continue whatsoever, with patience on both sides, to rub-off distrust; hence paving way to devise a mechanism for cooperation in order to harness peace.

One is not sure what impact the induction of 3,500 Hezb-e-Islami fighters based on the deal with Gulbudin Hekmetyar will have on the already chequered political landscape.

That is why many analysts have come up with a different approach; why not insulate borders, mend and fix internal challenges, and leave Afghanistan to pursue whatever it wishes as an independent, sovereign country.

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