The strategic location of Afghanistan has pushed many South-Asian countries to increase their influence in Afghanistan, it serves as a gateway to central Asia from South-Asia. The strategic and geopolitical dynamics have attracted many regional as well as extra regional powers to invest in Afghanistan. Just like many other countries, India has also been investing in Afghanistan for the last few decades. Throughout the course of history, India’s approach in Afghanistan has remained dependent on left wing political forces, leaving many policy loopholes.
During the era of cold war India invested in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) backed Kabul regime. The policy at that time was considerably better but lacked long-term vision for the region. This lack of engagement with other parties in the war was due to Pakistan’s influence on right wing politics, who India considered as proxies of Pakistan, moreover, it was aligned with USSR’s geopolitical alignment. The whole policy on Afghanistan collapsed just after Kabul fell into the hands of Mujahideen in the late nineties.
After the United States (US) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) intervention in Afghanistan, India again expanded its influence in Afghanistan; but the move was facilitated by NATO and the US as they considered India a major regional partner. India emerged as one of the largest donor for the central government in Kabul, investing in health, education, Infrastructure and defense sectors. This investment helped a lot in a powerful projection of India as a close ally of Afghanistan but the whole policy was centred on the central government of Kabul.
On many occasions, the policy in place did not take into account the US’ role in Afghanistan. Moreover, it also totally neglects engagement with other stakeholders in Afghanistan. Since 2014, the US and NATO have been trying to empower the central coalition government but due to incapability and bad governance it failed to fulfil the expectations of the Afghan nation. The role of different conservative right wing political parties can never be ruled out of the equation, because of the major support they enjoy throughout the country. Hizbi Islami has been officially recognised by US as a major political force and is now part of the coalition government, in addition to this the US’ call for direct talks with the Taliban puts serious questions on the capability and future of the dysfunctional Afghan government.
The US sanctions on Iran will indirectly push India to minimise its engagement with Iran as well. In retaliation Iran along with Russia and China can use their influence in Afghanistan to shuffle things around
On the other hand, the situation in Afghanistan is changing on a daily basis due to political instability, fragmented economy and poor security situation in the country. With no set objective, the stakeholders want to minimise the role of extra regional powers in Afghanistan. These powers are already engaging with different political parties, warlords and stakeholders including the Taliban. Interestingly enough, a number of attempts have been made for a peace-negotiation, everyone excluding India.
The US has already accused Russia, Iran and Pakistan of backing different insurgent groups in the war-torn country. Russian, Iranian and Chinese influence and engagement is interconnected with the overall global geopolitical dynamics. These countries have already had joint ventures in Syria, largely opposing the US influence in the Middle-East. The years long civil war in Syria is coming to an end. Now these powers are focusing on Afghanistan, putting them on the same level with the US in the region. The US sanctions on Iran will indirectly push India to minimise its engagement with Iran as well. In retaliation Iran along with Russia and China can use their influence in Afghanistan to shuffle things around. However, we look at this, India’s future in Afghanistan is on stake, especially under this policy.
The writer’s a Trainee Journalist, and is a student at the International Islamic University Islamabad. He can be reached at email@example.com and on twitter @talhahamed967
Published in Daily Times, October 2nd, 2018.