The India-Afghanistan-Pakistan Dynamic: The SPA treatment | Tejas Rao

Tejas Rao

In post-Taliban Afghanistan, India has been a pioneer in the strategic growth within the nation, by providing upto $2 billion in economic aid and with another $1 billion worth contributions in the pipeline. Additionally, the nations co-operative relationship is very evident by the fact that both countries are close to signing a Strategic Partnership Agreement – India’s first signs of providing military support to Afghanistan. The SPA would see India agreeing to help to train and help equip the  Afghan National Security Forces.

The fact that India limits its engagement with Afghanistan merely to economic ties, points out to the nation’s understanding of Pakistan’s involvement. However, the policy has failed – Pakistan, through Islamabad’s denial, seems to continue to extend support to factions in the nation. General Parvez Musharraf’s policies are the best indication of this – he stressed that Pakistan would stop any Indian attempt to create an Afghanistan that is anti-Pakistan in ideology and outlook. To this end, in the recent past, Pakistan’s response appears to be one of ‘militant proxy’-ing – creating proxy wars to counter India’s influence in the region.

Using Afghanistan as another ground for failed diplomacy, the dynamic between Pakistan and Afghanistan also appears to be changing. Following the attacks in Pakistan, the military blames Afghani leadership for allowing India to use Afghanistan to plan out attacks. The natural response also includes piling heavy artillery and military support to the borders – shutting off and cordoning the transit routes.

Pakistan, effectively, admonishes and makes Afghanistan pay a price for allying – or attempting to develop a relationship with India.

India’s policies, therefore, appear to have failed. In attempting to contain Pakistan, and contain the threat in the Afghanistan region, India has furthered itself from Pakistan’s command. India’s top-brass has been targeted in Afghanistan, reportedly, in addition to other attacks on Indian soil – the low-profile, economic support-only strategy India has taken thus far has furthered Pakistan’s “aggressive” policy objectives in Afghanistan.

There appears to be no sign of Pakistan easing up, and Pakistan, polarizingly, labels any Indian engagement in Afghanistan as a threat. A tangible harm and conclusion, as a result, is the fact that India’s contributions have hurt Afghanistan, and the region as a whole.

India’s activism: in constructing the Afghan Parliament, building a Friendship Dam, or even Universities, has done nothing significant to help the security and stability within the region, and have promoted Pakistani reactions. Therefore, a viable solution, appears to be one that India seems to be anxious to take – the SPA.

Strengthening the Afghanistan security troops will bring benefits to India. It will help prevent terrorists and terrorist outfits from establishing a base-camp in the country, but will also further India’s policy of growing as a leader in the region, and perhaps enable Pakistan to understand that preventing an India-Afghanistan relationship is not a viable strategy to adopt.

No other nation can help secure the region. America, for better, is no longer as active as it once was – and Afghani troops, under-equipped are often left alone in combating terrorist outfits. Russia and China do not offer military support to the region – with their troops occupied on other battlefields.

Indian military support is unlikely to create a civil war that detractors so fear. The war already exists. Afghanistan is currently combating global terrorism and is caught up with fighting the local wings of the Taliban. The worst-case scenario for India is that terrorism still continues to grow in the region. And India is the loser there, with that outcome seeming the most likely at the moment.

The SPA is a first step to doing that. Providing actual equipment to Afghanistan is bound to provoke reaction. But training, and aiding with strategy? That’s something India can afford, nay, must do, to prevent a political endgame in Afghanistan.

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