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Afghanistan holds the key to regional stability

Between 1996 and 2001 Afghanistan was subjugated by Pakistan through the rule of the Taliban, whereby Pakistan established a strategic backyard to counter perceived aggression from India.

ht view Updated: Aug 28, 2014 23:39 IST

Afghanistan is endeavouring for a successful outcome of the recently held election. It has been marred by accusations of electoral forgery by Abdullah Abdullah, a presidential candidate, against his opponent Ashraf Ghani. The fruitful conclusion of the election is paramount for constituting a legitimate and stable government; a determinant for relative stability in an otherwise largely volatile society. Post-2001 the country has been struggling to familiarise itself with the trappings of a progressive society: Democracy, education, industrialisation, and an awareness of a singular national identity over exclusive ethnic and tribal loyalties.

Between 1996 and 2001 Afghanistan was subjugated by Pakistan through the rule of the Taliban, whereby Pakistan established a strategic backyard to counter perceived aggression from India.

Afghanistan had displayed significant antipathy towards Pakistan after 1947 over its border dispute along the ‘Durand Line’, opposed Pakistan’s membership in the UN, and laid claims to Peshawar. India, however, refrained from exploiting the situation and pursued bona fide diplomacy with Afghanistan.

India and Pakistan’s policies towards Afghanistan have been the antitheses of one another. Pakistan has consistently worked to ensure the domination of Afghanistan as an end in itself, while India has emphasised social progress, infrastructure building, and the grant of financial assistance for the country’s growth and stability.

Pakistan views Indian activities in Afghanistan as a tit for tat for Pakistan’s support to terrorists in Kashmir. It accuses New Delhi of supporting Baloch insurgents, denying Pakistan economic, trade and energy linkages to Central Asia, and thwarting the rise of a pro-Islamabad regime in Kabul that would permit the rise of anti-Indian jihadist groups. To counter these assumptions Pakistan has actively supported terrorist groups to counter the growth of Indian influence in Afghanistan. That has incurred the wrath of the Afghan people and its leaders, steadily eroded Pakistan’s credibility in inter-state diplomacy, and in turn germinated a slew of terrorist groups within Pakistan which have resorted to violence and challenged the legitimacy of the Pakistani State.

India has eagerly provided Afghanistan with generous assistance. In 2011, then PM Manmohan Singh signed an agreement with Afghanistan promising closer cooperation on a myriad issues including national security.

However, Afghan governance has major flaws: A mixture of rampant corruption, incompetence, misunderstandings with US-led international troops, and insensitivity, vitiates Hamid Karzai’s government. It has given an opportunity for the Taliban to strike back. In 2013, civilian casualties increased by about 14%. Some believe that the Taliban presence will increase after the departure of the international troops. But, the successful elections indicate a sprouting of a democratic culture. It will deter the permeation of subversive activities.

Suggestions by some officials and ministers to form an interim government run by a committee, in the event of an unduly long election impasse, are a pointer to a resoluteness of the Afghans to thwart the resurfacing of ethnic tensions. Whatever the outcome of the election and whoever is provided the mantle to govern Afghanistan would do well to keep in mind the imperatives of national reconciliation, effective and accountable governance, wise use of the country’s treasure chest, and meaningful diplomacy and cooperation with its neighbours and the wider world. It would deal an effective blow to the scourge of terrorism in the region and usher in greater regional stability.

Ranajoy Sen is a freelance analyst on international affairs
The views expressed by the author are personal

First Published: Aug 28, 2014 23:17 IST