Tension in Kabul, tremors in Delhi
The worst terrorist strike on an Indian diplomatic mission in the country’s history calls for a review of India’s Afghanistan policy, one that accepts that India must strike a more aggressive posture to preserve its security interests.
New Delhi rightly says it is a major supporter of the Karzai government and India has accumulated a large reservoir of goodwill among Afghans. But Monday’s attack raises the question whether New Delhi is being timid. Let there be no doubt: there is no country in the world where India has a greater strategic interest.
Under the Taliban, Afghanistan became a training ground, a heroin-based financing centre and recruitment office for the jehadis who terrorised Kashmir through the 1980s and 1990s. If Kashmir is relatively quiet today, it is because of the fall of the Taliban.
The regime of Hamid Karzai is on its last legs. The embassy attack is a stark reminder that Kabul is no longer secure. If the present Afghan regime crumbles, the vacuum will only be filled by the Taliban and other sworn enemies of India. New Delhi’s policy is to provide everything short of military support for the Afghan government. But India’s own security is linked with the survival of the present dispensation.
The message of the attack is stark: Kabul is part of the outer perimeter of India’s own security. And New Delhi needs to take a more active role in shoring up this defence. In hindsight, Defence Minister AK Antony’s earlier statement that India would not consider sending troops to Afghanistan was a product of deficient strategic thinking. At the very least, New Delhi should not have publicly ruled out the possibility of direct military backing to a regime whose survival is so closely interlinked with the security of India.
Building hospitals and roads is all very well. But ultimately such projects will be useless if the battle being fought with bullets and blood is lost. The strategy of an NGO cannot be the basis of defending Indian interests in the subcontinent.