Abid Latif Sindhu
Afghanistan is an autoclave to Pakistan, always going through a strong chemical reaction. That is probably the exact opposite of melting pot, all belonging to the cauldron family. Serious developments are under way, which will not only have ramifications for Pakistan; rather the whole world is going to be affected.
Being at the confluence of South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia, Afghanistan is the Gordian knot of the region. Year 2014 is in for surprises, good or bad, only time will tell. The first surprise, not very surprising, is that the ISAF forces will maintain few permanent positions in Afghanistan in a thinned out shape.
This could be a move of strategic posturing. John Kerry has almost reached an agreement with Hamid Karzai who is little perturbed on the arrest of a Taliban leader by the Americans. The Afghan National Army was trained to cover the retrograde of allied troops. A big question mark has arisen on the efficacy of this force in controlling the different regions of Afghanistan.
They are already a failure; this failure is no one\’s success either. Trained to look east for the enemy (Pakistan), the Afghan National Army is ill trained, highly caduceus and somewhat ethnic in nature. Only last month they conducted six insiders attacks on the allied troops; western troops are quite abreast to Enemy Fire, they even can handle accidental Friendly Fire , but by joke this Insider\’s Fire is too much for them.
Who is responsible for the creation of this new Frankenstein at a place where there already are many? Answer is not a surprise; it is India that is trying to play the 21st Century Great Game in Chankiya style. The Afghan army is doubly biased; one against Pakistan and second against the USA, the shutting down power of the region and beyond. They think that Pakistan is their nemesis and USA the anathema.
Coming back to the basic question, can the Afghan Army provide a space for the allied retrograde? No. Does Karzai have the political clout to manage the same? No. Can Indians with their growing footprint in Afghanistan ensure the safe withdrawal of ISAF forces and the stability there after? No. Ironically the forces against whom the allies were fighting can do the both, a retrograde cover-up and the semblance of stability.
This is precisely the reason that now everyone wants to talk to the Taliban. The concern of the world is that given the political role, will the Taliban be able to deliver or Afghanistan will again be made the sanctuary for all the beastly creatures. Only time will tell, even predictions at this stage shall be self defeating either of the way.
Second surprising thing is that why India is given a key role in this arrangement? Is it due to the emerging strategic culture or the ever expanding economy, probably it is the both? The academia in India with elaborate research facilities is the fastest growing phenomena. This year it topped in the publishing of reprinted books covering all subjects under the sun. Nehru University\’s library has become the envy of the world with shelf of books in an array of infinity.
It is here that a new Afghanistan is in the making, the Nehru University of Dehli is the favorite destination of Afghan students who after completing the education are joining the civil service, army, politics and academia back home.
The strategic culture of India through its soft power is taking over the world. India has wisely played its card and synergized the soft power with the economic boom and media magic. The corporate India is another attraction for the world, cheap labour, lax labour laws and thinned out human rights are the ingredients of massive economic activity in this part of the world.
So both drivers– the economic boom and the emerging strategic culture of India are precisely the reasons that it is on the right side of the divide. The emerging Indo-US relations are the biggest fillip in giving the centre stage to India concerning all matters Afghanistan.
Those who have recently visited Kabul can explain the latitude India enjoys there. The new great game actually begun in this region after the collapse of USSR, there was a rush for the new world and its oil and gas resources.
Out right occupation was not possible therefore a new chessboard was drawn. It started with the gas pipeline politics. The first one was TAPI, Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline. The move was to mitigate the sole control of Russia on the Central Asia, to counter this Iran offered the IPI, Iran-Pakistan and India pipeline.
This was not acceptable to the USA which offered the civilian nuclear deal to India. The IPI is not at all aligned to USA\’s strategic goals in the region. Therefore Pakistan is in a quandary and India like always due to better sensory response, backed out.
Afghanistan is the main battleground of the new great game. The recent visit of Mr. James Dobbins to Pakistan is an effort to reach a common ground concerning the new developments in Afghanistan. Elections are round the corner, the man who is one of the favourites to replace karazai, Abdur Rab Rasool Sayyaf is now a bitter enemy of Taliban, it is a mere playing to the western galleries or the acrimony is real, only time will tell .
The catching (by Afghan Army) and later the snatching (by ISAF) of Latif Mahsud, a TTP leader is itself an interesting revelation. Pakistan is to consider the fact that probably good and the bad Taliban have deep relations something from sympathy to whole hog empathy.
Year 2014 is going to be the Year of the Century. It will be full of happenings. Sit fingers crossed or have a posture cross legged, Pakistan has to play its role, despite provocations by the Afghan leadership, the restraint is praiseworthy.
Pakistan\’s sensitivity is India\’s increased involvement in Afghanistan. It has no borders with Kabul, yet it calls Afghanistan its strategic neighbour. It is said that tactics have a half life, while strategy is to stay, in other words when in contact the strategy is tactics, when not in contact the tactics is strategy.
India is enormously investing in the future of Afghanistan. Soon the Afghans will realize that they have to decide their future otherwise the pre-1747 era will dawn. The negotiations process is a complex affair; searching of common grounds will require flexible response from both sides.
Last decade was a decade of chaos, but the all prevailing confusion is more dangerous it can be curtailed by few steps, one the dialogue with Taliban should be comprehensive , should never be based on territorial division, the principal parties should only be the part of the negotiations.
The dialogue should not be of emancipator in nature, the Doha office or Dubai connections not to be taken as a type of guarantor, if required the guarantee should be sovereign.
Pakistan can play a cardinal role in stabilizing Afghanistan. Those who are trying to destabilize Pakistan should know that a stable Pakistan is not only the assurance of a better future of the region, rather it is also the anchor upon which India can vouch for its millennium goals of prosperity and progress.
Afghanistan – from chaos to confusion
Abid Latif Sindhu