Many strategists of the world would tell you about the benefits of well-thought out, steady and gradual implementation of strategies. A strategy, when implemented gradually, leaves the opponent in no position of bargaining according to their whims and fancies. The same has been done by India in the region. Of course, China continues to be the most offensive player in this game, but India is not far behind any longer.
A US Congressional report released by the independent and bipartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) identified Pakistan as the most important neighbour of Afghanistan. While the report recognizes Pakistan as an important neighbour for Afghanistan, its contribution to the latter has been rather negative. A strong Afghanistan is not in the geopolitical interest of Pakistan. Certainly, Pakistan is having nightmares dealing with India on its eastern border. To have a strong nation on its western border as well would result in the tearing apart of the Pakistani state. Ideally, a strong Afghanistan would have a Pashtun dominated leadership, a minority which is not very well treated in Pakistan. As such, Pakistan has lent support to the Taliban and Haqqani network in a bid to destabilize Afghanistan. The report also gives mention to India.
“Pakistan’s security establishment, fearful of a strategic encirclement by India, apparently continues to view the Afghan Taliban as a relatively friendly and reliable anti-India element in Afghanistan,” the CRS added. Furthermore the CRS report also stated, “India’s diplomatic and commercial presence in Afghanistan – and US rhetorical support for it – exacerbates Pakistani fears of encirclement. Indian interest in Afghanistan stems largely from India’s broader regional rivalry with Pakistan, which impedes Indian efforts to establish stronger and more direct commercial and political relations with central Asia.”
For someone who knows the geopolitics of the region, it wouldn’t be much to say that this report has hit the nail on the head. Even though Afghanistan continues to have a fractured government with no total control over the country, India has not shied away from maintaining friendly ties with them. Not only has India undertaken massive infrastructural development in the country, but it has also earned the goodwill of the Afghani citizens.
For starters, India built the Parliament in Afghanistan situated at Kabul. The Salma Dam, also called the Afghan-India Friendship Dam was a momentous contribution by India to Afghanistan’s development. The country also financed the establishment of the Afghan National Agricultural Sciences and Technology University in Kandahar. For an arid country like Afghanistan, this institute serves as a blessing. India has not only helped develop Afghanistan, but it also has a major contribution in ensuring that a strong Afghanistan is created sooner than expected by many. Hundreds of buses were gifted by India for the Kabul Transportation network. Apart from this, New Delhi also provided 285 vehicles for the Afghan National Army, Mi-25 and Mi-35 choppers for their Air Force, among others. India is also training Afghan public servants, policemen, soldiers, youth and women in various fields.
Just to be clear, India has its intentions very clear. Such contributions are aimed at of course uplifting Afghanistan from its present state, but India also has a bigger plan in mind. Just as a weak Afghanistan is favourable for Pakistan, a strong and stable Afghanistan is wanted by India to help in countering and abetting Pakistani propaganda and terrorism in the region. India’s posturing post abrogation of Article 370 is clearly aimed at taking back PoK. With PoK amalgamated rightfully with India, we will directly share a border with Afghanistan, which can open an entire trade route for India to connect with the Middle East.
In 2018, post PM Modi’s visit to Oman, an agreement was sealed which granted India access to the strategic port of Duqm, on the southern coast of Oman. The Indian Navy was granted permission to operate for long term operations from this port, so much so that a dry dock was also provided for the Navy to carry out maintenance works then and there. Many are also aware of the fact that India operates the strategic Chabahar Port on the Iranian coast. This is India’s first port which it operates outside its regional waters. The port connects India, Afghanistan and Iran, and completely bypasses Pakistan. Not only has this enhanced trade between the three countries, but has also acted as a tough response to China’s involvement in Gwadar Port. China is increasingly looking into have dominance over the Indian Ocean, and has time and again lured smaller nations like Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh to be made pawns for the same. India, on the other hand is leaving no stone unturned to deter this malicious plan of China.
However, China is not the subject of discussion here. It is Pakistan. Pakistan realizes that India has and still is, successfully encircling it. Post the Pulwama attack, social media was replete with speculations that India and Afghanistan would launch a joint offensive against Pakistan. Such speculations were enough to make Pakistanis go paranoid.
While the people of Pakistan might not be aware of India’s encirclement of their country, the security apparatus in Pakistan definitely is. At the same time, as per the congressional report, Pakistan is also aware of the fact that the United States favours India’s various projects in Afghanistan. The Taliban meanwhile, as we had reported earlier, has expressed its willingness to have dialogue with Indian government. This was at the backdrop of the unsuccessful talks between the US and the Taliban. However, this must have served as a nightmare to the Pakistani establishment. Their last support system in the region, apart from China, is the Taliban. The Taliban holding talks and posturing affinity towards India will send Pakistan into a tizzy.
All in all, India has been quite successful in this game. Without making much noise, New Delhi has earned the unflinching goodwill of Afghanistan, while it has also immensely strengthened its position in the Indian Ocean. Yet another steady strategy successfully implemented by India!