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Five reasons why India should leave ‘Af’ to ‘Pak’

A summary of Episode 406 of #CutTheClutter where Shekhar Gupta explains why India should cede Afghanistan to Pakistan.

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New Delhi: Days after the US-Afghan peace deal was signed on 29 February in Doha, three major challenges to the agreement have already cropped up.

Firstly, since Afghanistan’s elected government was kept out of peace deal, it had said that it will not be obliged to release Taliban prisoners as the agreement requires it to do. These prisoners include about 5,000 of Taliban’s most important fighters, who were supposed to be released by 12 March.

In response, Taliban said it would not uphold its commitment to ceasefire and launched an attack, a bomb blast in Khos that killed over 15 people.

Subsequently, the US also carried out its first airstrike against the Taliban, hours after President Donald Trump got off the phone with Taliban chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar Tuesday.

The US-Afghan peace deal, hence, lasted for a shorter period of time than our left-liberals’ love affair with Kejriwal.

But what should India now do with Afghanistan? There is a national consensus that Afghanistan is very important to India, and India can’t leave it to Pakistan. Many thinkers/scholars have even suggested that if there is a peacekeeping force set up in Afghanistan, India should send its own troops.

Also read: Five key aspects of the US-Taliban peace deal decoded

5 reasons why many justify India’s involvement in Afghanistan:

1. Afghanistan is of great strategic importance and can’t be left with a power vacuum.

2. From the British, Soviet Union, to America, there has always been a foreign power to stabilise Afghanistan. Additionally, it is believed that after the British empire, the burden now falls on India to manage the region.

3. Afghanistan offers an important transit route, that connects energy in Central Asia and commerce in Europe.

4. Afghanistan is the resource-rich region with lots of minerals that India has great commercial interests in.

5. India cannot cede Afghanistan to Pakistan.

Also read: Taliban dropped India from its thank you list. Delhi should face new Afghanistan realities

Why India should cede Afghanistan to Pakistan

1. Afghanistan is of great strategic importance, but for who? Not for India. Afghanistan and India do not share a border, none of our transit routes go to Afghanistan and no trade goes there.

2. Afghanistan is not really a threat to India. Former national security advisor Shivshankar Menon recently pointed out that in all these years, there has been only one Afghan terrorist who was found in India. Afghanistan has no sanctuaries of terrorists who want to target India. 

3. There might be a power vacuum in Afghanistan, but have Afghans ever benefitted from the presence of a big power? Furthermore, have big powers benefitted from being there? Afghanistan is a country of minorities, ethnic diversity, with no core population. Power is always to be shared with clans, clan chiefs, tribes, thugs, mercenaries etc. Hence, it is very difficult to run Afghanistan as a unitary centralised country, with a centre of authority.

4. Afghanistan is important for transit, but Afghan transit routes are not available to India unless Pakistan allows it. First, we will have to improve relations with Pakistan. At present,
Pakistan doesn’t even allow transit of high-protein biscuits for Afghan children. It is also a very difficult topography and terrain to reach Afghanistan by bypassing Pakistan.

6. Afghanistan is resource-rich, but India will probably lose out to China in this respect. However, India’s own mineral wealth has been very poorly exploited, with only about 60 per cent of our current resources being tapped into. So it might not be worthwhile focusing on Afghanistan’s mineral resources.

7. India should cede Afghanistan to Pakistan, as Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires. The British, Soviet Union and America have all failed in subduing Afghanistan. The US-Afghan agreement was not a peace deal, but a withdrawal deal and sign of America surrendering from the region.

8. Pakistan’s borders with Afghanistan are not settled. The moment there is a proper government in Afghanistan, there will be Afghan nationalism and Pakistan will have a problem.

Additionally, Pakistan already has five to six army divisions in the ‘Af-Pak’ area and could add about 10 more. It is better for these Pakistani forces to be in Afghanistan than be facing India.

If we continue fighting Pakistan in Afghanistan, we give moral justification to Pakistan army and ISI to continue in Afghanistan. Hence, India should take a ‘chanakyaneeti’ approach, and stay out of it.

Also read: Afghanistan is not Vietnam. US should know that walking away won’t be that easy

You can watch the full episode of #CutTheClutter here

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  1. The Taliban are guaranteed to return to power in Afghanistan. Therefore whatever India does is immaterial unless it changes strategy and switches to backing the Taliban. The hyper corrupt warlord puppet regime in Kabul is so dysfunctional and divided that it can’t rule anything, and so hated by Afghans that the Taliban are now regarded as national heroes. If
    certain people want India to send soldiers to Afghanistan, those people should be compulsorily conscripted and sent first, because the only thing Indian troops would achieve is immediately be treated as another occupying foreign colonial enemy, which of course we would be.

    That said, anything written by Shekhar Gupta needs to be read keeping in mind the fact that this same Shekhar Gupta was in 2003-4 demanding in the shrillest tones that India join in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Never forget and never forgive that.

  2. Just have a publicly stated policy that in future if any terrorist activity is traced to Afghanistan like the IC 814 hijacking, then we would retaliate with all military might personally against the Talibani Emir. Other than that I think we should have no truck with them. If one wants to be even more ingenious then take advantage of the inevitable fighting which will break out soon there to selectively take out high-value targets in the Pak-Af region (e.g Haqqani network or Masood Azhar). The war scenario will provide enough deniability. Also keep reminding the Afghans that they are not prospering because of Pakistan’s insistence in keeping trade routes closed. Let the Pakistanis face the wrath of the Afghans. One never knows – it may lead to break up of Pak itself one day. On a tangential note, I think Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah should swap portfolios. Amit Shah can use his famed “Chanakya neeti” more profitably here than in India’s internal affairs. Rajnath Singh’s soothing hand may be more appropriate in North Block at this juncture.

  3. Agree entirely. India enjoys goodwill with the people of Afghanistan. To whatever modest extent may be possible in the new power set up, let India be seen as a friend and partner for reconstruction and development. Even paranoid Pakistan should not believe that our consulates are up to something. No reason why India should not be seen as an ally of the United States for the purpose of not being targeted by forces operating out of the country. Trump Saheb itna bhi nahin karenge India ke liye …

  4. India can be a thorn in Pakistan’side in Afghanistan but, as the article points out, it has little to gain except animosity of the Taliban who already run at least half of Afghanistan.

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