Indian designs against Pakistan and Afghanistan

Brig Asif Haroon Raja

Northern Alliance During the Taliban Rule

India has always vied to maintain friendly ties with Afghanistan and to keep Pak-Afghan relations frosty. When Soviet forces occupied Afghanistan in December 1979, India supported the illegal invasion as well as Soviet installed regimes in Kabul throughout the Afghan war. Pakistan supported the just cause of Mujahideen and provided moral, political, diplomatic and covert military support to them and also accepted the burden of nearly five million Afghan refugees. Defeat and withdrawal of Soviet forces after Geneva Accord on 14 April 1989 led to war of attrition between warring groups since the US abandoned Afghanistan in haste and paid no heed to Pakistan’s suggestion of forming a broad based interim regime.

Despite Pakistan being left in a lurch, it remained in touch with all the six competing groups vying for power and tried hard to bring about reconciliation but could not succeed. With the takeover of power by the Taliban in 1996, Northern Alliance (NA), primarily non-Pakhtuns under Ahmad Shah Masud got confined to Panjsher valley only, while ousted Mujahideen leaders took refuge in Iran. It brought a dramatic change resulting in waning of Indian influence in Afghanistan and warming up of Pak-Afghan relations. India hastened to get close to Iran to be able to impart military training to NA military personnel. Iran, Russia and western world including USA supplemented Indian efforts.

Since mid nineties, India pursued anti-Taliban and pro-NA policy. Once US led coalition forces decided to invade Afghanistan in October 2001, Indian military provided intimate guidance and military support to NA forces to fight the Taliban. After ousting the Taliban from power, India guided NA leaders to deal ruthlessly with Afghan and Pakistani captives so as to create a permanent wedge between Afghan/Pakistan Pashtuns and Afghan non-Pashtuns. (A large number from Malakand Division under Maulana Sufi had gone to Afghanistan to assist the Taliban in their fight against foreign forces). RAW carried away 1300 Taliban and Pakistani prisoners from Baghram air base jail to be able to brainwash them and subsequently use them as Pakistani Taliban against Pakistan security forces. India played a role in convincing Bush Administration to marginalize the Pashtuns from all departments and to bring up non-Pashtuns on the centre stage in Afghanistan since it was only through such an arrangement that India could gain wholesome influence in that country.

Leaders of NA are beholden to India for the invaluable support it lent to their cause when they were out in the blue. They had been bestowed personal favours by way of making them stay in India at Indian government’s expense and meeting all their needs. Once they came into power it was their turn to return favours. Taking advantage of the changed circumstances, India began to recover the lost ground speedily and invested heavy amounts on various developmental projects to establish itself on permanent basis. With the active assistance of USA, it did not take long for India to make deep inroads in every department of Afghanistan and gain say in all its policy formulations. Besides imparting training to the police and other administrative organizations, RAW also rejuvenated Afghan intelligence set up under the new name RAAM and in collaboration with CIA, Mossad and MI-6 chalked out a covert plan how to destabilize, secularize, denuclearize and balkanize Pakistan and then make Islamabad accept India as the policemen of the region.

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India took full advantage of new rules framed on terrorism in the wake of 9/11 and started to project Kashmir freedom struggle as terrorism and Pakistan an abettor of cross border terrorism. Efforts were intensified to create doubts and to bring Pakistan in bad books of Washington. Afghanistan under Hamid Karzai was also taken on board to play up the theme of cross border terrorism against Pakistan.

For the achievement of common objectives against Pakistan, CIA and FBI under the garb of nabbing terrorists established their contacts and set up outposts in selected areas. India opened up Pakistan consulates in Kandahar, Jalalabad, Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat and filled these up with RAW agents. India also opened up Balochistan specific three consulates in Zahidan, Bandar Abbas and Ashkabad in Iran. Training centres were opened in Kabul, Jalalabad, Khwaja Ghar (Takher Province), Khost, Paktia, Urgun, Khandar, Spin Boldak, Dranj (Badakhshan Province). Refugee camps for Balochistan dissidents were established in Kandahar, Spin Boldak, Helmand and Nimroz. Besides, 70 training camps were established all along Pakistan’s western border where Afghans, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Chechens, Arabs and dissidents from Pakistan were trained, equipped and launched into FATA and Balochistan by Indian trainers and RAW officials. Both RAW and Mossad opened up madrassahs where Hindus were imparted Islamic teachings and language courses by Indian Muslim clerics and scholars to enable the chosen agents to get mixed with locals in selected regions. This hideous practice had been successfully tried by Israel against Palestinians.

Dissident tribesmen in FATA were motivated to fight Pakistan Army and work for establishing Sharia. Children aged between 12 and 18 were brain washed to become suicide bombers. Foreign agencies cultivated tribal leaders of Bugti, Marri and Mengal tribes in Balochistan and Wazir and Mehsud tribal leaders in FATA. Hate literature in Balochi language was supplied to all schools and colleges run in Baloch inhabited areas like Khuzdar, Turbat, Gwadar, Dera Bugti, Sui, Kahan to inculcate hatred against Punjab and Army. Young Baloch students were cultivated through BSO hardliners, taken to Kabul for indoctrination, given Afghan passport and trained in art of guerrilla warfare. All sorts of financial and material support were offered to them. Spin Boldak became hub of anti-Pakistan activities and launching pad for Balochistan where Razik Achakzai acted as the front man to supply funds, arms and explosives to Brahamdagh led rebels. Blackwater private agency was subsequently outsourced by CIA, RAW and Mossad to supplement covert operations. Pro-government Maliks, notables and Sardars were systematically gunned down through Blackwater.

In order to hide its real face, India deceptively signed a peace deal with Pakistan in January 2004 and agreed to silence guns deployed along Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir and in Siachen. Composite dialogue envisaged resolution of all disputes including core issue of Kashmir, but in order to buy time to scuttle real issues, India shrewdly deflected it by insisting on first building trust and confidence through people to people contacts, cultural exchanges and economic ventures benefiting India. While the rulers and secular class in Pakistan were euphoric and thought that solution of Kashmir dispute was round the corner, India under the garb of friendship launched cultural invasion from the east and covert operations from Afghan and Iran soils to encircle and subvert Pakistan. Construction of road linking Chahbahar Port in Iran with Afghanistan was part of the encirclement plan and also meant to secretly ship in explosives, arms and ammunition from India under the pretext of construction material.

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Side by side a malicious Indo-Israeli-Western propaganda campaign was orchestrated to undermine Pakistan’s institutions and its nuclear program. All sorts of stories of break up of Pakistan into quasi states and its nuclear program falling into wrong hands were fed to the world. American attitude which was apparently friendly to start with became aggressive from 2006 onwards because of Indian intrigues. Pakistan was subjected to unrelenting vilification campaign and pushed to do more despite the fact that it was rendering more sacrifices than any other country fighting war on terror. Pak Army and ISI were accused of playing a double game by having links with Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

Pakistan was weakened from within by inflaming the two extreme flanks, making whole of Frontier province restive, political situation messy, economic conditions fragile and embroiling 1,50000 security forces in futile war on terror. The US framed Af-Pak policy in March 2009 not only declared Pak-Afghan border as the most dangerous region in the world and a single war zone, it announced troop surge and figured India as a key country in Afghan affairs. Talk of induction of 150,000 Indian troops and training of Afghan National Army gained currency. Attitude of the US military became intimidating and it indicated its desire to carryout aerial and ground raids in FATA to hunt Osama and other Al-Qaeda leaders. India continued to maintain a hostile posture after the Mumbai carnage in November and refused to resume composite dialogue until and unless Pakistan agreed to punish Indian nominated culprits and to dismantle anti-Indian terror networks. What India in actuality meant was to either forget about Kashmir or accept Line of Control as permanent border!

Indian high flying ambitions got upset because of sudden turn of events in Afghanistan. Already reeling under the shock of Obama’s sudden decision to commence withdrawal of US forces from July 2011 onwards, it got another shock on learning that the US had made up its mind to negotiate a settlement with Taliban. Indian lobbyists in league with Jewish lobby sprung into action and managed to achieve partial success. They have convinced US leadership not to commit the mistake of holding talks with whole lot of Taliban leadership. They prevailed upon policy makers to follow old British policy of ‘divide and rule’ and to divide Taliban into two categories of moderates and extremists,   and to isolate the latter. They fed false intelligence that 80% of Taliban were reconcilable and were mentally prepared to ditch their irreconcilable leadership for cash and endowment. London Conference endorsed this plan and pledged a heavy financial package to buy the loyalties of the moderates but cold shouldered India. In the meanwhile, India as well as Karzai stepped up efforts to win over as many Taliban leaders and made some progress but their secret machinations aimed at keeping Pakistan out got blocked when Pakistan agencies succeeded in nabbing almost 50% of Taliban Shura members including Mullah Baradar.

Some inferences

Under the rapidly changing environment, India would strive to keep its expanding influence intact, keep US-NATO troops in Afghanistan for another five to ten years, keep NA heavy regime in power, decimate the power of Taliban, keep Pakistan encircled and under two-front threat by turning Afghanistan into an anti-Pakistan client state. NA too would welcome this arrangement.

Karzai would prefer to remain American-Indian stooge to remain in power at the cost of Pashtuns for he knows that he will have no place in Afghanistan if Taliban return to power.

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The Taliban would vie to recapture lost power, clear Afghanistan of the presence of foreign forces, and get rid of Indian influence and un-Islamic vices that have crept in Afghan society after 2001, re-establish Sharia and establish friendly ties with Muslim countries and try not to repeat past mistakes.

Preferring NA over Taliban, Iran would endeavor to further expand its influence in Afghanistan and to convert Chahbahar Port into main trading point. It will be in interest of Iran if USA remains bogged down in Afghan quagmire for as long as possible.

Russia would be thinking on similar lines as well but would remain on high alert of CIA’s covert operations in Central Asian States. As such it is quite likely that both Iran and Russia are quietly adding fuel to fire.

China feeling uncomfortable with US and Indian presence in Afghanistan because of their meddlesome role in Tibet and Xingjian and sinister plans to encircle China would celebrate early exit of both.

The US would like to quit Afghanistan by 2012 with honor leaving behind friendly Afghanistan ruled by a mix of moderate Taliban and NA under handpicked ruler and would prefer India filling its vacuum rather than Pakistan.

Pakistan on the other hand would like foreign troops to exit at the earliest, India to close down Pakistan specific consulates, training centres and training camps and move out its military and intelligence outfits. It wants to see Afghanistan peaceful and stable but would never like stable Afghanistan unfriendly to Pakistan and friendly to India.

India has lost its primacy in Afghan affairs but it would make desperate efforts to salvage what it can from the crumbling edifice it had built and to keep Pakistan out.

Afghanistan is suffering the vagaries of war for the last 30 years without any respite. US led Afghan war has brought death and destruction to the war torn country and added to the miseries of Afghans. It is rather too late to put up a soft face through development programs, welfare packages and avoidance of collateral damage and to hope to affect a change in the thinking of the Afghans towards Americans.

It is high time that the occupiers of this wretched country governed by mercantile interests put an end to their games of intrigues and power play and sincerely work for early exit. Gen McChrystal may buy time but not victory. Longer the stay, larger will be the fatalities on both sides. Since time and fatalities are prime concerns of the US and are of no consequence to the Taliban, the US will be the ultimate loser.

Dialogue without Mullah Omar, Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbadin Hikmatyar would be an exercise in futility. Neither force nor Indian machinations would work anymore. Pakistan is the only country that can help and can play a key role in solving Afghan tangle provided the US stops relying on wily  India and good for nothing Karzai and place complete trust on Pakistan.

Brig Asif Haroon Raja is Member Board of Advisors, Opinion Maker. He is war course qualified, MSc war studies, war

Brig Asif Haroon Raja

veteran, former Directing Staff in Staff College Quetta, former Defence Attache Egypt and Sudan and Dean of military attaches in Cairo, former Director Education and Training KRL. He writes regularly in He also writes for foreign and national newspapers and a freelance defence analyst.