India and Pakistan, implacable South Asian rivals, are locked in a new struggle for influence in Afghanistan, which analysts say is fuelling attacks on Indian interests there.
A suicide bomb assault in Kabul last week killed nine Indians, including government employees, which followed two bomb attacks at the Indian embassy in July 2008 and October 2009.
“The attacks are aimed at forcing India to withdraw from Afghanistan,” Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, a South Asia specialist at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, told AFP by phone. After more than two decades without sway in Kabul, India swiftly established diplomatic ties with the new government there after the 2001 US-led invasion deposed the extremist Taliban.
New Delhi has poured money into the country since, becoming the largest regional donor with $1.3 billion dollars in aid.
About 4,000 Indians are busy building roads, sanitation projects and power lines in the volatile country. Even the new Afghan parliament is being built by Indians.
It is this steadily accumulating “soft power” in a country Pakistan sees as its backyard that has stoked insecurities in Islamabad, analysts say.
In Islamabad, the government is clear that it sees India’s involvement in Afghanistan as a danger and an “unnecessary complication”.
“We have strong evidence (that India is) using Afghanistan against Pakistan’s interests and to destabilise Pakistan,” Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said, without elaborating.
“Obviously we do have concerns vis-a-vis India,” he added.
“Increasingly Pakistan and India have become engaged in some kind of proxy war in Afghanistan,” said Pakistani analyst Rahimullah Yusufzai.