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Indo-Pak Controversy in Afghanistan.

Byline: Pervez Iqbal Cheema

Although Indian presence in Afghanistan is not new, it is playing a rather active role there for the last few years. Besides an embassy, there are four Indian consulates two of which are near Pakistani border-in Jalalabad and Qandahar. It is feared that Pakistan's arch-rival, India, can easily monitor its infamous intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing's (RAW) illegal activities in Pakistan from these consulates. Indians are aware that the US would eventually have to pull out its forces from Afghanistan. Keeping this scenario in view, it has adopted the policy of influencing public opinion of Afghanistan in the presence of coalition forces through investing a great deal in public sector, such as building schools, colleges and universities. Around 1000 Indian soldiers are present in Afghanistan under the pretext that their presence is necessary to defend Indian workers from Taliban attacks. It is also trying to strengthen its presence in Afghanistan through trade of one billion dollars.

Moreover, Indian military is training Afghan Army and Police. If Indian trained Afghan Army equipped with the US weapons operates in Afghanistan, it will certainly create a strategic anxiety for Pakistan. For long, India has been projecting the notion that Pakistan seeks strategic depth in Afghanistan. In this context, Indian endeavor towards expanding and consolidating its influence in Afghan areas reflects its policy of denying Pakistan any leverage there and sandwiching it between Eastern and Western neighbors.

To counter these schemes of India, Pakistan needs to take proactive measures for safeguarding its own national interests, particularly consolidating its historical ethnic linkages with Afghan people; maintaining stronger ties with the Central Asian states through Afghanistan to fulfill its energy requirements; reviving the historical Silk Route for trade and economic activities in the region; and thwarting the challenges and threats emanating from external forces in the region to Pak-China relations. Islamabad may offer Kabul its services to train the Afghan forces that would later be deployed on Pak-Afghan border and it should ask guarantee from Afghan government that its forces trained by India would not be deployed in the areas bordering Pakistan.

Investing in public sectors like education, health, reconstruction, rehabilitation etc could help win the hearts and minds of Afghan people. It is not in the interest of Pakistan to have India-friendly and Pakistan-hostile government in its backyard.

Although there are doubts that US would withdraw its forces from Afghanistan by 2014 as it has economic as well as geopolitical interests there, even if it has to withdraw, it would prefer to leave India as its successor. However, contrary to the US aspirations, it is more likely that the pro-Pakistan Taliban or Haqqani group would take over. Probably to avoid this scenario, the US is pressurizing Pakistan to attack North Waziristan and eliminate the Haqqani group which is alleged to be using the bordering region on Pakistan side as bases to launch its attack against coalition forces in Afghanistan. Instead of fighting the pro-Pakistan group, Pakistan needs to play its cards wisely and adopt the strategy of having good relations with all important players in Afghanistan including both of these groups for the sake of having friendly neighborhood after US withdrawal.

Internally, there must be a consensus and long term planning in Pakistan regarding Afghanistan. To achieve its objectives, Islamabad should trim down the lack of unity among the political parties, especially the religious streams, which can play positive and constructive role in boosting relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On the external front, Pakistan needs to emphasize on a regional solution to the problem. There should be regular meetings among all the bordering countries of Afghanistan namely Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Iran and Pakistan which should make a concerted effort in finding a peaceful solution to Afghan problem with special reference to the scenario of US withdrawal. In the second stage, other regional and extra regional players such as India, Russia, US and China should be taken into confidence to give strength to their efforts. In a nutshell, only peaceful and stable Afghanistan is in the interest of all the stakeholders.
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Publication:Policy Perspectives
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jun 30, 2011
Words:680
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