India alone on the Afghan chessboard while the United States and Russia choose Pakistan. Here’s what Delhi can do

(Representative image) Union Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar (left) meets with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (right) in Dushanbe, March 29, 2021 | Twitter

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Athe ‘Poetry of War Wounds and the Literature Festival in Kabul last week, as the Taliban knocked on Kandahar’s doors, and hours before the photojournalist Danish Siddiqui was killed in Spin Boldak on the Afghan-Pakistani border, the poet and writer Kawah Jibran thus urged his fellow citizens:

“Your pen is your weapon, you have to defend all human values, it’s not like the Taliban singing the story of a massacre,” Jibran said. Elsewhere, Afghan Information and Culture Minister Qasim Wafaeezada has warned that traffic of ancient cultural sites, especially under the influence of the Taliban in Kandahar, Samangan and Balkh, had started. The stunning blue-tiled Abu Nasr Parsa Mosque in Balkh, built in 1598 in memory of a saint of the Naqshbandi order, he said, has already been partially damaged.

These laments follow a busy week in Afghanistan. On the battlefield it was a swing of demands and setbacks – Afghan security forces took over the districts of Kandahar, Parwan and Ghazni, killing 967 more Talibs. But the Chakhansur district in Nimroz again fell to the Taliban. Meanwhile, following his explosion in Tashkent, where he accused the Pakistani establishment of send “10,000 Taliban” fighters across the border to fight against Afghan forces, the president Ashraf Ghani recalled Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Najibullah Alikhil for the kidnapping and torture of his daughter in Islamabad.

Read also : On Afghanistan, China should join India – for a change

The great powers and their Afghan strategy

Most interesting is the way the great powers and neighbors are trying to prepare the ground in Afghanistan – every nation wants a slice of the Afghan naan so they can continue to assert their influence. The withdrawal of US troops is proceeding as planned and yet the country has partnered with Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan promote economic activity that would link landlocked Central Asia to the Arabian Sea; the United States also promised $ 3.3 billion every year to help the Afghan Defense Force fight the Taliban.

You’d think Americans would know better than to team up with Pakistan, a nation that not only has undermined its Afghan efforts for 20 years, but that must capitalize on its close relationship with China to expand its influence in an Afghanistan. post-American.

You might ask: Isn’t the United States embroiled in a vendetta with China, which is on the way to dislodging America from world number one status? And if India and the United States are partners in the Quad, which is supposed to target China in the Indo-Pacific, how come the United States is teaming up with Pakistan in Afghanistan?

Then there is Russia – heir to the Soviet Union, whose disintegration in 1991 is directly linked to its Afghan escapade of 1979-89 – whose President Vladimir Putin is said to have offered his American counterpart the use of russian bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Joe Biden could even be tempted – remember that Pakistan has so far refused to give access to its bases, Iran will probably offer none, Qatar is too far away and an aircraft carrier in the Gulf is still at hand. eight hour drive.

Meanwhile, Russia signed an agreement to build a 1,100 km long gas pipeline of Karachi to Lahore – with majority stakes held by the Pakistanis so as not to attract American sanctions.

You might be wondering: How is Russia, supposed to be India’s quick friend, investing money in a high-stakes infrastructure project with Pakistan?

Welcome to a brave new world where the answers are neither black nor white.

First, the 1996 India-Iran-Russia effort to contain the Taliban cannot be replicated in 2021; like the United States, Russia has its own interests, as does Iran. (Relations between the United States and Iran are not improving, and India and Iran have little potential to do anything on their own.) Second, the penny must drop to New Delhi this week as Narendra Modi’s government realizes that the great powers have stuck their noses and have chosen Pakistan, not India – due to Pakistan’s geostrategic situation and despite the culture of terrorists by the Pakistani military establishment as an instrument of power.

It hurts that India, which regained its influence in 2001 when the United States invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban, is out in the cold. Delhi could have learned from the United States and Russia, and not ended its conversation with Pakistan – everyone knows that there is no real love lost between Washington DC, Moscow and Islamabad, and that each of these capitals makes itself useful, so each has a foot in the door if and when things go downhill.

Read also : Iran and Russia‘s concern over rise of Taliban will be key to India’s new Afghan policy

India’s options

Granted, all is not lost, but it’s time to smell the coffee. India stands alone on the Afghan chessboard – with one big exception, Afghanistan itself. And it is the best asset a country can hope to have as it prepares to develop its own strategy.

The point is, neither the United States, nor Russia, nor China, nor NATO and the European Union – and certainly not Pakistan – have Afghanistan’s main interests at heart. After 20 years, the great powers want to return home. Allowing a Pakistani veto over the future of Afghanistan is part of the US-led exit strategy. The Afghans had no choice but to nod.

India has two choices before it.

First, he must help Afghanistan in any way Kabul wants – there is the plan of the 2011 defense and strategic partnership at hand. Second, India must help Kabul build a broad coalition of leaders and give it the power it needs to make the best decisions about its future; at the very least, it means that the infighting between Ashraf Ghani, an increasingly unpopular leader, and the leader of the High Peace Council Abdullah Abdullah, must end.

This means that India has its work cut out for it. If Delhi can show that it is capable of maneuvering and negotiating between ambitious nations and their leaders while remaining focused on the goal of a stable, secure and sovereign Afghanistan, then Quad or not, it is on the right track. .

The author is a consultant editor. She tweets @jomalhotra. Opinions are personal.

(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)

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