The new ISI chief believes Pakistan could resort to “aggressive measures” to undermine India’s role in war-torn Afghanistan to prevent Kabul from becoming a “proxy” for New Delhi.
Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar, named the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence as part of a major shake-up of the Pakistan Army top brass, also wrote in a paper five years ago that “moderate” Taliban factions should be accommodated in the government in Kabul before US troops withdraw from the country.
In the paper titled “Afghanistan – alternative futures and their implications” that he wrote while studying at the US Army War College, Mukhtar emphasised that Pakistan has to take steps to counter India’s influence in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan’s past, present and future is closely linked with Afghanistan. A peaceful, united and stable Afghanistan is critical for Pakistan’s security and is a top policy objective,” he wrote.
“At the same time, Pakistan needs to prevent the opening of another hostile front should Afghanistan emerge as a proxy for India. Consequently, Pakistan will closely follow India’s efforts to influence Afghanistan and may take aggressive measures to undermine India’s efforts in this regard,” he added in the section of the paper listing the key players in the region.
Mukhtar’s views on the Taliban and India are largely in line with the thinking within the higher echelons of the Pakistan Army. For a long time, the top generals in Rawalpindi have favoured an accommodation with the Afghan Taliban, whose leaders have sheltered in the Pakistani province of Balochistan for years.
Pakistani generals also believe a government in Kabul incorporating Taliban elements is their best bet to prevent India increasing its influence in Afghanistan.
India and the US have often accused Pakistan of backing the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network. The ISI has also been linked to several attacks on Indian interests in Afghanistan.
Mukhtar wrote in the paper that New Delhi is concerned about the “perceived dangers posed by a return of a Taliban-controlled Afghan government that sponsors terrorism threatening India”.
“India strongly opposes any accommodation with the Taliban in the governance of Afghanistan in that it perceives a nexus between the Taliban, al Qaeda terrorists, and jihadist groups operating in Pakistan that are all hostile to India,” he wrote.
“This strong desire to avert a return of the Taliban in the governance of Afghanistan, at any level, may work at cross purposes with the US and Western exit strategy that may require the integration of less radical elements of the Taliban at local, provincial and national levels.”
Mukhtar concluded that “India could still move to be a major destabilising force if it perceives that a return of a radicalized Taliban government is likely”.