‘Trump’s new Afghan strategy an opportunity for India’

Leading experts from the United States and Britain opined that India’s help was sought in the economic and development realm.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi hugs US President Donald Trump during a visit to in Washington in June.(REUTERS FILE PHOTO)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi hugs US President Donald Trump during a visit to in Washington in June.(REUTERS FILE PHOTO)
Updated on Oct 19, 2017 06:57 PM IST
Copy Link
Hindustan Times, London | By, London

US President Donald Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan and south Asia provides India an opportunity to build its ‘ruthlessly pragmatic’ neighbourhood policy, experts opined at a seminar in London on Wednesday.

Leading experts from the United States and Britain at the seminar on ‘The new US strategy on Afghanistan and South Asia: Challenges and Prospects’ at the influential International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) dwelt at length on the new contours of the strategy and sought to allay some misconceptions about it in Pakistan.

Participants included former US officials now at the Washington-based National Defence University’s Near East Asia Center for Strategic Studies: Roger Kansas, John Wood and Jack Gill, as well as IISS experts Rahul Roy-Chaudhury and Antoine Levesques.

Wood said the new strategy, announced on August 21, had been ‘over-interpreted’ in certain quarters, and highlighted that Trump did not call upon India to provide military assistance in Afghanistan but sought help in the economic and development realm.

On the criticism in Pakistan, he said the strategy outlined had several elements that Islamabad has been seeking for several years, such as long-term US presence in Afghanistan, need for political settlement and increased pressure on the Taliban in Afghanistan.

According to Roy-Chaudhury, the strategy was an opportunity for India, and there has already been a flurry of Indian diplomatic activity following the new US strategy, as indicated by recent meetings between Indian, US and Afghan functionaries, and India’s national security advisor Ajit Doval flying to Kabul for meetings with his counterpart and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“No previous US president has talked as tough on Pakistan as Trump has,” Roy-Chaudhury said, adding, “And, for the first time, a US president has publicly invited India to play a larger role in Afghanistan’s economic development, thereby ‘legitimising’ India’s influence in the country.”

“But, at the same time, New Delhi also remains wary, for two reasons: First, Trump has expressed concern that tense relations between India and Pakistan — two nuclear-armed regional powers — could spiral into conflict.

“India has long opposed the view, which Indian officials regard as implicit in Trump’s position, that India’s conventional military superiority makes Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine of ‘first use’ against Indian forces legitimate and serves to internationalise their bilateral dispute over Kashmir.

“Second, New Delhi is also bewildered and troubled by Trump’s perceived threat of trade repercussions, should India not deliver sufficient economic aid for Afghanistan. The apparent additional pressure on India to meet US expectations seems gratuitous,” Roy-Chaudhury said.

According to Wood, the contours of the US’s new Afghanistan strategy is developing, but US officials recently described it as ‘R4+S’, which meant: “regionalise, re-align, reinforce, reconcile plus sustain”.

Gill, who has a background of working in the area of India-Pakistan relations, said the tough language towards Pakistan in Trump’s announcement reflected Washington’s frustrations, but it was not new. At the same time, it did not blame Pakistan for Afghanistan’s woes.

“It (Trump’s announcement) is not anti-Pakistan. There is a consistent desire for Pakistan to succeed, to not to be a threat to itself and neighbours. Pakistan will be the principal beneficiary of a stable Afghanistan,” Gill noted.

Speakers noted that Trump’s announcement aimed to provide a much-needed wider regional approach to Afghanistan. The strategy explicitly identifies Pakistan and India as key players in relation to Afghanistan, but is seen to ignore or minimise other influential non-South Asian regional players, most notably China.


    Prasun Sonwalkar was Editor (UK & Europe), Hindustan Times. During more than three decades, he held senior positions on the Desk, besides reporting from India’s north-east and other states, including a decade covering politics from New Delhi. He has been reporting from UK and Europe since 1999.

Close Story

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows an overview of Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.

    Ukraine war: Russia agrees to evacuate wounded soldiers from Azovstal plant

    Russia on Monday said there was an agreement to evacuate wounded Ukrainian soldiers holed up in the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. "An agreement has been reached on the removal of the wounded," news agency Reuters quoted the Russian defence ministry as saying in a statement. Russia attacked the port city of Mariupol – which it now claims to controls – for nearly two months.

  • Most deaths in the United States happened in urban areas, but rural places — where opposition to masks and vaccinations tends to run high — paid a heavy price at times.

    US deaths from Covid hit 1 million, less than 2 ½ years into the pandemic

    The confirmed number of dead is equivalent to a 9/11 attack every day for 336 days. It is roughly equal to how many Americans died in the Civil War and World War II combined. It’s as if Boston and Pittsburgh were wiped out.

  • Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, right, and the Moderate Party's leader Ulf Kristersson give a news conference in Stockholm, Sweden, Monday, May 16, 2022. 

    Sweden to apply for NATO membership

    Sweden's Social Democrat minority government on Monday took the formal decision to apply for NATO membership, following in the footsteps of its neighbour Finland in a move that will redraw the geopolitical map of northern Europe. "There is a broad majority in Sweden's parliament for joining NATO," Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said following a debate on security policy in parliament. "The best thing for Sweden and the Swedish population is to join NATO."

  • People wait in a queue to buy petrol at a closed fuel station, amid the country's economic crisis in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Monday. 

    Sri Lanka out of petrol, economy in a precarious condition: PM Wickremesinghe

    Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday said the island nation's economy was in a precarious condition and that the cash-strapped nation was currently out of petrol. He also proposed privatising the Sri Lanka airlines. “At present, the Sri Lankan economy is extremely precarious. Although the former government's budget projected revenue of SLR 2.3 trillion, SLR 1.6 trillion is the realistic projection of this year's revenue,” the PM said in Colombo.

  • Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov. (Photo by MAXIM SHEMETOV/POOL/AFP)

    ‘Won’t simply put up with…': Russia’s warning amid NATO’s Nordic expansion

    According to an AFP report, Swedish public support for NATO membership has risen to nearly 50 per cent in the aftermath of the Ukraine war. The situation is the same in Finland, with the AFP report revealing that the number of Finns who want to join NATO has climbed to more than three-quarters - almost triple the level before the Ukraine war.

Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Monday, May 16, 2022