Tag Archives: ISIS

India needs to play a bigger role in Afghanistan

It is said that the less you know about an opportunity, the more attractive it is. Recently, I got a golden opportunity to engage in a three-day dialogue at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in Brussels, along with some selected policy makers of our country, on the invitation of the government of United States, for a deeper understanding and interaction on how NATO’s post-2014 security partnership intersects with India’s security interests in Afghanistan, focusing on the complexities of the transition process and on the importance of international cooperation, especially India’s, in making the transition a success. From India’s point of view, it was very important for us to analyse, measure and understand the magnitude of threats and opportunities for India vis-a-vis situation in Afghanistan, in the post-2014 scenario.

A key focus of our engagement was the security relationship. We shared the genuine security concerns of our country about Afghanistan’s future and keenness of India for a broader opportunity in the country in the post-2014 scenario.

There is no doubt that the UN mandated intervention in Afghanistan by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in 2001 was culmination of varied geopolitical and economic considerations, besides the genuine security factors, but given that situation, there was no comparable or equivalent organisation other than NATO to effectively deal with the huge responsibility. The achievements of NATO could be measured in terms of its objectives, as a security organisation.

Whenever the integrity and sovereignty of any of its member country has been under threat, it has acted and acted decisively but NATO has never attacked any country or invaded into the territory of any country gratuitous. The economic and military mighty of NATO had completely marginalised the Talibani forces in Afghanistan. Their biggest achievement has been to help Afghanistan to build a 350,000-strong security force from scratch.

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But they are still ill-equipped, particularly when it comes to air support and intelligence gathering. Whereas NATO is committed to continuing self-sustaining economic and military support to Afghanistan, given the resources and the level of training they have vis-a-vis the strength of the Taliban’s, it is a legitimate fear that the Afghan Nation Security Force (ANSF) may face difficulties to prevent resurgence of Taliban in the region.

If this happens, it will have serious regional repercussions and will disturb peace and governance in South Asia and Central Asia. Post-withdrawal, security overall is deteriorating and Taliban is already regaining significant position in much of Afghanistan, jeopardising peace and security in the region. A Somalia like situation or emergence of a civil war in Afghanistan will have grave regional implications. Narco-terrorism is another serious concern for the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan, including India.

Our three-day engagement with NATO gave us a feeling that for the persistent economic, political and military engagement of India as a peace keeper in the region and for its role in reconstruction of the post-Taliban Afghanistan, NATO has accepted India as a legitimate stakeholder so far as post-2014 Afghanistan is concerned. NATO shares India’s interests and vision in Afghanistan which is very important in the context of the proactive role of China and Pakistan in the region. After all, it was no one but India which persuaded Afghanistan, successfully, to join SAARC in 2007.

In the present context, uncertainty is there. Beyond Afghanistan, NATO has its own challenges in Ukraine, Syria and Russia. NATO is big enough and powerful enough and stable enough to be able to deal with both threats at the same time. But post-2014 scenario in Afghanistan, India has opportunities to expand its role in the region and take the crucial responsibility of leading the international community in sustaining a stable and functional democratic government in Afghanistan on the one hand and to deal firmly with the challenges of threat perception from the non-state actors hostile to India operating from the Afghan soil on the other hand.

India has been historically discharging its responsibility in the region in a constructive manner. Despite its own many domestic needs, India is Afghanistan’s sixth largest donor, providing the country with some $2 billion in effective aid since 2001. The Strategic Partnership Agreement between the two countries gives a legitimate edge to India in Afghanistan.

India is well-positioned to play a responsible and democracy-supporting role in security issues, not just in the volatile South Asia region but also beyond. The need is to intensify our efforts in the region. It is also because ISIS activities are gaining roots in Afghanistan and the region is gradually emerging as a hotbed for breeding Islamic extremism. If the recent trends are any indicators of the future, the security situation in Afghanistan is serious and headed to take a complicated turn that would further test the tenacity and already dwindling resources of the Afghan government and security forces.

The presence of ISIS in Afghanistan has direct security implications for India. Therefore, as developments in Afghanistan will directly impinge on India’s security, the present and future demands that the government of India should craft a futuristic policy and execute it strategically to cease the opportunity in Afghanistan. It is in the interest of not only India but entire South Asia and also in the interest of Central Asia that the rein of Afghanistan should not be handed over to the radicals once again.

Afghanistan is also a significant trading partner of India. In spite of many transit obstacles, the volume of Indo-Afghan trade stood at $680 million during 2013-2014, a figure that should exponentially rise, following the full implementation of the Afghanistan and Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement (APTTA). The only caution is cut in international aid after NATO withdrawal may take Afghanistan into a recession, which will have adverse economic impact on India, complicating things in the context of global slowdown in demand.

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NATO is the biggest political military alliance in history and India is the largest democracy in the world with an excellent track record of its contribution to world peace from the Rig Vedic times to UN missions across the globe in the present millennium. There is no doubt that the foreign policy of India should be based on pragmatic considerations and changing world order.

But, at the same time, historical considerations are equally important in defining parameters of foreign policy. It is in this context, the dialogue between India and NATO can be understood. It is not an issue whether the largest democracy and the biggest political-military alliance should cooperate and consult each other but the real questions are how and to what extent .


Faultlines: Jammu and Kashmir

When the Prime Minister was in Jammu, delivering speeches on political grammar, the valley was up in flare with Pakistan flags and presence of ISIS, depicting a clear picture that either both the Centre and the State Government have lost control over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir or some sort of political engineering is taking shape in the State, in connivance with the ruling alliance, which is detrimental to our national interest and the people of the State. The incidents in Kathua and Anantnag are still fresh in our memory. The terrorist attacks in Jammu & Kashmir continue unabated.

Nothing has been learnt from the past mistakes. The Kathua attack came less than a week after India sent its foreign secretary to Islamabad to resume talks with Pakistan. Whereas the political leadership of the State feels that the attacks are handiwork of non-State actors, the paramilitary and civilians continue to suffer.

Einstein had said, ‘any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent’. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction. The situation in Jammu & Kashmir was allowed to be become complicated and violent in the winter of March when the dreaded Masarat Alam was released. His release could have been avoided. Then, the Union government had the opportunity to detain him, but they did not and, unfortunately, no satisfactory answer was given for this by the Home Minister in his statement in Parliament on 12 March.

Consequence, the period of calm is over, a shudder runs again through the valley. With temperature rising in the valley, snow is melting, so also the peace. If we are shocked by the anti-India and pro-Pakistan activities of Alam on our soil, we should not be because you cannot expect serenity and tranquillity from an agent provocateur. But, the role of the BJP-PDP government in the state and the BJP government at the Centre and the manner in which the entire episode was mishandled needs scrutiny not only to dissect what went wrong but to plan how to correct in future.

When opportunism prevails over conscience, such consequences are bound to happen. In fact, the silent areas of the common minimum programme are the fault lines of governance in Jammu and Kashmir. Unfortunately, the state, which has been an example of secularism for the rest of the country, has been somewhat polarized. The tone and tenor of Masarat Alam and Geelani’s speech is a clear indication that the Indian flag is under cloud in the valley. Even as tension continues to loom over the State and normal life has come to a halt in the valley, there no single senior Minister present in state capital to coordinate with civil and police administration to bring back normalcy in the State. The arrest of Masarat Alam and Geelani on 17 March was not a preventive action but a late reaction taken in pressure to continue the power sharing formula in Srinagar.

The declaration by the Central government that it will construct a composite township for rehabilitation of Kashmir Pandits did not help to improve the prospects of peace in the valley either. Kashmir Pandits are an integral part of economy, culture and political set up of Jammu and Kashmir. There is no doubt that they should return to the valley but will it serve any purpose if they physically move and remain culturally cut off from their roots? In fact, what the governments, both in Centre and at the state, plan to do is to establish separate colonies for Kashmir Pandits knowing very well that colonies by nature are homogeneous and the idea of composite character does not fit it at all.

Kasmiriyat does not allow creation of separate habitations for Muslims and Pandits. Even this is not acceptable to the Pandits and neither the Centre and nor the State Government has discussed any such proposal with the community. They want safety, security, livelihood guarantee and confidence building measures and not separate colonies to return. Rather this flawed political declaration, understood to be made after taking the Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed into confidence, is a step towards isolating the Pandits further and has made their return difficult.

For BJP, it is a moment of introspection. A party that grabs power even at the cost of compromising its fundamental ideology is beset with intransigence highly detrimental to national interests. The need of the hour is protection of lives and livelihood of people in Jammu and Kashmir. Arrest of Masarat Alam and Geelani should not be end in itself but system must be geared up to ensure speedy trial and toughest of punishment for the sedition that will set a deterrence for author hate mongers in the valley.

Let a strong message go across the border also that India will not allow any anti-national activity on its soil, either supported and instigated by external forces or perpetrated by their agents here. Also important is that the political leadership in the Centre and the state should not play into the trap of the separatists who are hell bent to create political and civil unrest in the state.

Our foreign policy should be based on pragmatic considerations to protect interests of India as sovereign nation-state rather than guided by internal political considerations. The admission of Hafiz Saeed that government of Pakistan, its army, in collusion with militants like Saeed, are actively operating to destabilize Jammu and Kashmir, even though is not a new innovation, should be seriously taken by the political establishment and security forces in Delhi and Srinagar, for the danger it poses to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Release of Lakhvi in Pakistan, anti-India propaganda by elements like Hafiz Saeed, Masarat Alam and Geelani and increasing violence in J&K should not be viewed as events in isolation. This is the opportune time to address problem in a comprehensive manner with utmost urgency. Any government that fails to protect lives of its subjects has no moral right to govern.

For the central forces operating from the state, situation is very dicey and challenging. A single mistake by them has the potential to turn the already volatile valley into a cauldron. New Delhi and Srinagar must be alert to deal with deal with such pressure situations and the more and more preventive measures are taken, the better for the people of paradise on earth.