Implications and ramifications of Indo-Afghan strategic accord in the region
By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
In the aftermath of 9/11 when George W. Bush junior’s administration decided to invade Afghanistan to get hold of Osama bin Laden, the alleged master mind behind the terrorist attacks, and his protectors, Indian leaders saw it an opportunity of the century to destroy their arch rival Pakistan once and for all. With this end in view, Indian lobby in USA in collaboration with American Jewish lobby began a whispering campaign to convince the American policy makers to include Pakistan as a target country as well. In Vajpayee’s view, Afghanistan contained symptoms of terrorism but the roots of cancer were in Pakistan, which if not rooted out wouldn’t cure the disease.
India was disappointed when Bush didn’t buy his suggestion of tackling Pakistan and Afghanistan simultaneously. Not only the proposal was over ruled, the US decided to make Pakistan an ally and a frontline state to fight terrorism. Bush however shared his inner thoughts with Vajpayee saying that wisdom demanded severing Kabul-Islamabad alliance and dealing with the two Muslim states one by one. He suggested that since Pakistan was militarily strong and had nuclear weapons and delivery means, hence it would be prudent to apply indirect strategy of secret war against Pakistan so as to first sufficiently enfeeble it from within and then deliver the hammer at an opportune time.
Assurances were given to dejected Indian leader that Pakistan will be taken on board as a tactical partner for short term gains and after occupation of Afghanistan and consolidation of gains, coordinated proxy war will be unleashed against Pakistan from Afghan soil on the scale similar to the one launched against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. The listener was also assured that India will not only be facilitated to make inroads inside Pakistan under the garb of treaty of peace and friendship, but also helped to enhance its presence in Afghanistan so that it becomes the strongest nation in South and East Asia.
Notwithstanding the US reassurances to India to destabilize, secularize and denuclearize Pakistan before return of US-NATO forces from Afghanistan, and its grant of handsome economic, military and nuclear packages, India got frustrated with the slow pace of progress achieved against Pakistan’s premier institutions. It flabbergasted Indian leaders to find Pakistan continuing to defy India and refusing to accept India’s hegemony. Ten years of massive not so covert war beefed up with propaganda war couldn’t make any dent in Pakistan’s defensive capability and nuclear deterrence. The ISI continues to remain the most potent intelligence organization in the region which has single-handed kept top six intelligence agencies on the hop.
While continuing with its efforts to browbeat Pakistan through its acts of sabotage and subversion in FATA, Swat, Balochistan and Karachi in particular and other regions of Pakistan in general including Gilgit-Baltistan, Indian officials kept poisoning the ears of US officials so as to drive a permanent wedge between Pak-US relations and then provoke USA to strike Pakistan. RAW helped by CIA, Mossad, MI-6, RAAM and Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) played a key role in coloring the perceptions of US leaders. RAW also worked consistently to make the Afghans hate Pakistan and has made considerable success within non-Pashtun Afghans.
Indian psychological operators have also been trying hard to create space for India within Pashtun dominated regions of Afghanistan but have achieved peripheral progress. Their progress is confined to those who have not forgiven Pakistan for its betrayal and are still resentful. Majority of Pashtuns well understand that India has remained closely linked with former Soviet Union and with Moscow installed regimes in Kabul. They have not forgotten that India had supported Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, and later on had extended full support to Ahmad Shah led Northern Alliance during the rule of Taliban. They know that India is now a strategic partner of USA and has a big hand in the ongoing destructive policies of USA against the Pashtuns. They can discern that India is not in favor of ISAF’s pullout program and has been advising Washington to delay the departure for as long as possible.
Fearing that if Taliban recapture power they would undo India’s political, social, cultural and economic gains in Afghanistan, RAW helped CIA and other agencies in their efforts to divide and weaken Taliban. India backed up Tajik origin Burhanuddin Rabbani’s peace efforts, which were also essentially aimed at dividing Taliban. Indian officials mollycoddled Rabbani when he visited India on Manmohan’s invitation in July this year and encouraged him to work for broad based government in Kabul dominated by Northern Alliance elements and to take on board moderate Taliban and liberal Pashtuns only.
Knowing that India is a strict follower of Chankyan tactics, the Taliban do not rule out the possibility that RAW might have engineered the assassination plot of Rabbani so as to further fuel bitterness between Pakistan and Afghanistan, between Pakistan and USA, widen the gulf between the two major ethnic communities and also between ruling regime and Taliban. Rabbani’s efforts to bring hard line Taliban like Haqqani network in the loop and make them share power and his friendly relations with Islamabad were not to the liking of India. Given the high stakes of India in Afghanistan, possibility of RAW having a hand in murder of Rabbani cannot be ruled out since India is the only country that stands to gain by his demise. Another factor which needs deliberations is Rabbani’s very close ties with Iran and his frequent visits to Tehran to seek guidance of Iranian leaders. His hobnobbing with them must have been a cause of consternation for USA.
Besides, Pakistan was getting on the nerves of both USA and Karzai. OBL killing drama didn’t fetch the results as were expected. Rather it backfired and stiffened Pakistan. Karzai was getting edgy since he was not making any headway in his talks with Taliban and suspected Pakistan to be playing a spoiling game. Occurrence of several cross border attacks on Pakistan’s western border villages and security posts was one way of expressing his exasperation. Like USA, he too suspected hand of Pakistan behind series of attacks in and around Kabul in quick succession, which rattled him. His acute nervousness could have driven RAW and CIA to unnerve him further by plotting Rabbani’s murder so as to propel him to sign the Indo-Afghan strategic partnership pact, which till that event he was hesitating to sign.
India’s fan Hamid Karzai and chosen puppet of Washington had agreed to sacrifice the interests of his own community of Afghan Pathans and to sup with non-Pashtun warlords and drug barons in return for power. He also gave a commitment to his patrons in Washington to enhance Indian presence and to diminish Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan. He also consented to allow Afghan soil to be used as launching pad for five intelligence agencies to conduct covert war against Pakistan and others. By allowing opening up of large numbers of Indian consulates specific to Pakistan, he facilitated India’s cross border terrorism and subversion. In order to camouflage RAW-RAAM clandestine operations, he accused Pakistan of indulging in cross border terrorism. He has played a typical role of a collaborator to promote Indo-US strategic designs in the region.
Fabricated stories have been constantly fed to US policy makers in Kabul and Washington that Pak Army and ISI are linked with Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda and are playing a double game to earn dollars from USA as well as to earn goodwill of Taliban so as to create space for Pakistan in future Afghanistan. Haqqani network is the ongoing popular theme being played. Indo-Afghan vicious media campaign based on lies ultimately had an impact on Pentagon and White House. The US military command in Kabul already under intense pressure of Obama’s administration and home public, was desperately in need of a scapegoat to hide its failures in Afghanistan. When the US propaganda brigade led by Admiral Mike Mullen assaulted Pakistan’s ISI frontally and accused it of having a hand in 13 September attack in Kabul and in murder of Rabbani, Indian leaders sniggered and taunted Washington that it had not paid any heed to their repeated counsels to include Pakistan as a target and not to make it its ally and now they have been proved right.
The NDS blamed for security lapse jumped to the conclusion that suicide bomber who killed Burhanuddin Rabbani on 20 September in Kabul was a Pakistani whose name was Ismatullah hailing from Chaman, and the planning was done in Quetta. What it implied was that the plot was hatched by Quetta Shura headed by Mullah Omar. It towed the US line by alleging that the ISI was behind the conspiracy. Verdict given by NDS is based entirely on the confessional statement of an Afghan national Hameedullah. Wikileaks had commented in detail about poor security standards and non-professional approach of the NDS which is heavily influenced by RAW. Pakistan rejected the allegations terming them as false and baseless and in protest refused to cooperate with NDS, which asked for investigations and handing over the accused.
The would-be suicide bomber pretending to be an emissary of Mullah Omar had stayed in a guesthouse in Kabul as an honored guest for four days, waiting for Rabbani to return from Iran. It was on Karzai’s urgent calls that Rabbani rushed back to Kabul. Instead of taking the NDS to task for its incompetence as to how the suicide bomber carrying a bomb tucked under his turban was allowed to meet Burhanuddin without body search, myopic Karzai promptly accepted NDS report as gospel truth. He almost fainted on recollecting that he had consented to meet the bomber but as an after thought referred him to Rabbani. His referral gave reason to non-Pashtuns to cast suspicious eyes on him.
Suffering from bout of despondency, he resignedly stated that there was no point continuing with the process of negotiations with Taliban. In order to deflect the attention of those suspecting him, not only he accused Pakistan of assassinating Rabbani but also called off tripartite conference. To lessen his sense of grief and insecurity and also thumb nose at Pakistan, Karzai air dashed to New Delhi and hastened to ink Indo-US Strategic Partnership Treaty on 4 October about which talks had been going on since the visit of Manmohan Singh to Kabul in last May. The US also played its part to egg on its string-puppet, since it has made up its mind to carve out primary role for India in Afghanistan and its overseer in South Asia, and to shrink Pakistan’s role. Manmohan assured Karzai that India would stand by Afghanistan when the foreign troops would depart from his country. The pact promises increase in trade and cultural relations and training of Afghan security forces. Two energy agreements were also signed which added a new dimension to their relationship.
What would be of particular concern to Pakistan, will be the deepening of Indo-Afghan security and intelligence cooperation, which will certainly be at the peril of Pakistan’s security? Pakistan well knows as to why miserly India which believes in the policy of extracting a lot from others and giving little in return is investing so much and taking so much pain to enhance its presence in Afghanistan. It has been an earnest desire of India to encircle Pakistan and make it submit to its hegemony voluntarily, failing which attack Pakistan from two directions. India’s water strategy and ongoing covert war are also aimed at forcing Pakistan to bend on its knees.
India has already made deep inroads in various fields of Afghanistan and has also succeeded in making the entire non-Pashtun community antagonistic to Pakistan. It is aspiring to become the key player in Afghanistan after the departure of ISAF and is keen to take on training of ANA and Afghan Police as well as share security problems of the country. Pakistan had offered its services for this purpose but Karzai who hypocritically calls Pakistan as twin-brother of Afghanistan preferred India where he got his education.
Indo-US strategic partnership has given an official stamp to Indo-US-Afghan nexus directed against Pakistan. 170,000 strong ANA trained, equipped and brainwashed by Indian military in unfriendly Afghanistan will have grave implications for Pakistan’s security since it will pose two-front threat to Pakistan in any future Indo-Pakistan war. This should also be seen in the backdrop of Indian airbase in Tajikistan where it has deployed long-range Sukoi jets. The US, which of late is behaving more like a foe than an ally, wants to leave behind Pakistan burdened with multiple domestic problems and sandwiched between hostile India and Afghanistan.
In the wake of fast gathering clouds pregnant with dangers, isn’t it time for Pakistan to sign strategic accords with China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, further cement its ties with friendly factions within Afghanistan and also give peace a chance and detach itself from self-destructive war on terror. Our assets that have now become assets of USA and India should be won back and asked to take on their traditional responsibility of defending the western border. These steps if taken will go a long way in giving Pakistan breathing space and checkmating ominous designs of our adversaries.