Domestic weaknesses make India a passive observer in Kabul | comment | Hindustan Times
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Domestic weaknesses make India a passive observer in Kabul

The future of Afghanistan has long been entwined with the security of India. Though there are many reasons why New Delhi should be friendly with Kabul, the hard kernel lies in the common interest of the two countries in tempering Pakistan’s sponsorship of Islamic militancy.

comment Updated: Apr 29, 2015 21:19 IST

The future of Afghanistan has long been entwined with the security of India. Though there are many reasons why New Delhi should be friendly with Kabul, the hard kernel lies in the common interest of the two countries in tempering Pakistan’s sponsorship of Islamic militancy. In both countries, Pakistan has sponsored militant groups to further its broader foreign policy goals.

In Afghanistan, it has used the Taliban as well as more homegrown terror groups to try and ensure there is a pro-Islamabad regime in Kabul. Islamabad succeeded in blunting the US’ war efforts in Afghanistan using such groups. Now it seeks to finish the job by using Taliban attacks on the Afghan National Army to force Kabul into submission. In India, it has used militants to try and force New Delhi to make territorial concessions over Kashmir.

But India has struggled to ensure that an independent government rules in Afghanistan. The US military overthrow of the Taliban regime was a boon for India. But with the US now withdrawing and the Taliban, with Pakistani support, laying siege to the Kabul government, New Delhi must weigh its options. The Pakistani military’s absorption with the latest chapter of Afghan violence is a major reason why India has experienced relative peace along its western front since 2002. Shoring up the Afghan government with money, arms and diplomacy has become an imperative for India but it has been doing a poor job of it. India does not manufacture combat rifles, let alone the helicopters that Kabul has requested. It can ill afford the $4-5 billion that Afghanistan would need to fend off the Taliban. It has been reduced to urging the US and other countries to provide the arms and funds that Afghanistan needs.

New Delhi has its concerns about the present Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, and his policy of Pakistani appeasement. But Mr Ghani feels he must seek an accommodation with the Pakistani military if he has to prevent a civil war. This, in turn, will mean accommodation with the Taliban. India is unhappy with both ideas but New Delhi needs to understand that its own domestic failures are at the heart of Mr Ghani’s stance. Things could go against Pakistan: The Taliban are much more independent than Islamabad would like, the Afghan National Army has shown greater fighting prowess than was expected, and the US has begun to reconsider its withdrawal. But India is unfortunately a passive observer to events in Afghanistan, especially while Mr Ghani is in power, because of its own weaknesses.