Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Can India, Pakistan possibly back off in Afghanistan?

April 29, 2010


Now that India and Pakistan have agreed to hold further talks following a meeting between the prime ministers of the two countries, are they going to step back from a bruising confrontation in Afghanistan?

It’s a war fought in the shadows with spies and proxies, and lots of money. Once in a while it gets really nasty as in deadly attacks on Indian interests for which New Delhi has pointed the finger at Pakistan.

It’s not clear what subjects Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yusuf Raza Gilani touched on during their meeting on the sidelines of a regional summit in Bhutan, but Afghanistan clearly is an important subtext, arguably the most pressing one at this time.

Both countries are positioning themselves for an eventual U.S. withdrawal from the country, with Pakistan clearly holding the better cards at the moment, both as a result of its geography and long-standing links with a resurgent Taliban.

Like much else in their tormented relationship each fears the other’s involvement in Afghanistan. Pakistan worries that Kabul will end up with close links to New Delhi, allowing India to essentially “surround” Pakistan; India fears that if the Taliban return to power, it will face more attacks at home.

Can Singh and Gilani bridge the trust deficit that Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi spoke of? Influential Indian foreign policy analyst C. Raja Mohan suggested a couple of months back that New Delhi should take the initiative and call for a trilateral summit involving India, Pakistan and Afghanistan to look for ways for lasting peace in the region.

Such a meeting looks unlikely, even though Afghan President Hamid Karzai is also in Bhutan attending the summit as the South Asia grouping’s newest member. The ground has been shifting in the past few months with Pakistan believing more than ever before that it holds the balance of power in the region as the United States eyes a retreat.

So why would it accept any trilateral dialogue with a sidelined India much less countenance any involvement in a country that it considers its natural ally because of a shared border, overwhelmingly Muslim populations and deep ethnic links.

Stratfor, a U.S.-based-intelligence consulting site, says that for the first time in years the United States and Pakistan are reading off the same page in Afghanistan.

“U.S. and Pakistani interests not only appear aligned again, the two countries appear to be laying groundwork for the incorporation of elements of the Taliban into the Afghan state,” it said in a report.

The Americans want to leave — and if the price of departure is leaving behind an emboldened Pakistan supporting a militant structure that can target India, the Americans seem fine with making India pay that price,” Stratfor said.

The question then is will India sit back and watch the ground slip further from under its feet.


I don’t think that India will sit back and watch Pakistan empower Talibans to hurt indian interests in Afganistan as it did in 1990′s. This time India is economically in a much stronger position and also has global ambition. It is true that India does not share border with Afganistan and has no afgani cultural links as Pakistan has with afganistan. India’s investment in Afganistan to develope infrastructure is like insurance policy premiums to promote its long term interests. If Pakistan becomes stable in the near future then it will do business with central asian countries thru Pakistan/Afganistan. If Pakistan unravels and disintegrated then India will do business with Balochstan/Afganistan and tap Balochstan petroleum resources. Either way it is a worthwhile investment and India is smart enough to protect its investment.

Posted by Mohan Kapur | Report as abusive

Will IIndia sit back and watch itself being diminished?

In the short run, yes. What else can it do? It has already tried out the only strategy it has,appealed to the US, as it does always in matters concerning reining in Pakistan, and has been greeted by lip service. The problem with Indian diplomacy is that there is no one who believes in a long term plan. Our foreign policy, even with regards to a smaller Bhutan, is reactionary never pro-active.

I am trying to remember one instance where India has taken the initiative, other than to try and use international goodwill to pressurise Pakistan. What has it ever done on its own which has stood it in good stead vis a vis Afghanistan or even in dealing with Pakistan?

Not being able to look ahead India itself has dealt itself a weak hand.

Posted by Dara | Report as abusive

Let India host millions of Afghan refugees for 30 years, and all the associated problems that come with them, before expecting to have influence in Afghanistan. It is India’s delusions of greatness that are the problem, not Pakistani influence in Afghanistan.

Posted by Sharafat | Report as abusive

maybe India has delusions of greatness, maybe even the foreign investors who are pumping billions into the country are deluded. But there are no delusions of Pak being a failed state.

Posted by rajesh jogani | Report as abusive

Mr Rajesh,
do have all dreams or sapnas, as you often do in your movie songs of your ‘great’ country, having over a billion population, no matter living by and large a miserable existence, having a ‘democracy’ which arranges regular elections, calls itself secular, but causes you to live with out-dated way of life based on myths.
You can’t think independently, courtesy your propaganda machine, no less effective than that of the Nazis.
Your delusion of grandeur has for good reason has been propped up by aliens, who love to exploit your market and align you against China.
Enjoy all delusions against Pakistan. Stew in your own juice.
In the meantime Pakistan will continue to go on till doomsday. ‘There is a tide in the affairs of men’, says the bard. So with nations.

Posted by john Donne | Report as abusive

India is a great country and could become a great nation if it were to stop the use of military on its own people. Indian army is still a colonial styled force, let it become a national army and let the kashmiris go their wayif they desire independance.

Posted by rex minor | Report as abusive

Hi Rex,
The Indian Army is one of the most honourable force in the entire world. It has respected Indian Democarcy and the rule of law thruout its existence. As for the Kashmiris they are better off in India and not in Pakistan. If you are so concerned about oppressed people force Israel out of West Bank and China out of Tibet and Sinkiang, where they terrorise their people, and leave India alone

Posted by foch | Report as abusive

Honourable force for whom? Your premise that force can be honourable is an illusion. The force which massacred sikh nastionals and withdrew against the chinese army can never be classified as honourable feats. O’h, yes they are doing some good work as mercenaries for the UN peace keeping mission and recently they were put on circus show to celebrate with the French army. India remains largely a backward and very poor country. In my view the country has the potential to become a great nation but with the current fakir mentality political leadership I doubt if there is chance in this century at least. Pakistan is no better, keeping kashmiris by force and so called tibetans monks as refugees is not a Nationhood. You guys have to learn a lot from the chinese, namely do not interfere in the domestic domain of others. Yes, I am concerned about the oppressed people and more so about their oppressors.

Posted by rex minor | Report as abusive

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