Can India’s efforts against Pakistan in Afghanistan obtain the desired results
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, once remarked that India provides ‘emotional strategic depth’ to the Afghan people. After 9/11, India has found its lost ground in Afghanistan and since then, bringing stability to Afghanistan and facilitating its construction have been two of the core foci of Indian foreign policy.
It would be naive to assume that this colossal Indian involvement in Afghanistan simply stems from its aspiration to advance their security and stability of the state.
India regards Afghanistan as vital in its security calculus. First, India aims to foil the emergence of any brand of a radical regime in Afghanistan. Moreover, India looks to limit Pakistan’s influence and aspires to keep its newly acquired strategic mileage in Afghanistan. Chiefly, India’s main concern is that no regime ‘emerges in Afghanistan that is fundamentally hostile towards India’.
Second, India also views the stability of Afghanistan in its interests through the Kashmir-tinted lens: Afghanistan, during the Taliban regime, had served as a launching pad for training and sending Islamic militants into Kashmir. Moreover, the geographical significance of Afghanistan is imperative for India’s vital interests as Afghanistan is a gateway for enhancing energy and economic collaboration between South and Central Asia. India wishes to maintain good relations with Afghanistan in order to advance greater regional stability in India’s favor, hence it aspires to use Afghanistan as a ‘gateway’ in the development of a viable network of supply routes with the Central Asian markets. A number of scholars argue that Central Asia’s importance to India goes beyond the past touching contemporary security complexity and geopolitical and economic parameters. Interconnected factors like the critical setting of the region, the need for energy resources, and the vying for pipeline routes are ample justification for India to take particular note of the region and cautiously craft its policy.
A number of scholars argue that Central Asia’s importance to India goes beyond the past touching contemporary security complexity and geopolitical and economic parameters
To fulfill the above-mentioned goals, India attempts to balance or curtail Pakistani and Chinese influence in Afghanistan and in Central Asia. Any planned oil and gas pipeline from Central Asia to South Asia must go through Afghanistan which ‘further accentuates the geostrategic centrality of Afghanistan for India’ and high stakes involved in Afghanistan’s stability. Shaun Gregory while accentuating Afghanistan’s strategic vitality and highlighting India’s potential vulnerability in this context, argues that ‘Afghanistan’s geostrategic significance and Pakistani control of Afghanistan creates a powerful choke-hold on India, reinforced by the vast Chinese-build port at Gwadar on Pakistan’s Balochistan coast, which has the potential to threaten India’s strategic waterways’. In order to minimize its dependency on Pakistan and China, India aspires to build alternative overland pathways to maritime ports for Central Asian resources by denying both China and Pakistan the ability to pressure Indian assets in the region. The port of Chabahar in Iran provides India with direct land and sea access to Afghanistan, Central Asia, and beyond. Its construction is a manifestation of this policy.
If Indian strategists look upon Pakistan as a problem or a threat to Indian security and interests then Pakistani leaders, particularly the dominant military, view their country as being even more threatened. Pakistan’s leaders have a deep mistrust of New Delhi and India’s reassurances that it recognizes the existence of Pakistan are not taken seriously. The arguments of Indian accommodation of Pakistan hold little sway in Pakistani military circles. Pakistan’s threat perception regarding India includes a strong ideological source which generally serves as a façade in Pakistan’s geopolitical dealings. It had a direct bearing on the shaping of Pakistan’s foreign policy objectives, and equally important, the manner in which these objectives would be pursued.
The dominant view of regional infringement held by Pakistan’s strategic community is that from the inception of Pakistan there has been a determined Indian effort to destroy their state
While partition is widely symbolized in Pakistan as a success of Muslim nationalism, many in Pakistan live with the idea that the division of India’s subcontinent is grieved as a tragedy – a sore reminder of the collapse of Indian secular nationalism that could only be redeemed by bringing Pakistan back into the fold. The dominant view of regional infringement held by Pakistan’s strategic community is that from the inception of Pakistan there has been a determined Indian effort to destroy their state. The trauma of East Pakistan, which further deepened this thinking, has been cited as an example. An additional complication is that the 1971 defeat in East Pakistan was of fundamental importance to the Pakistani military which it has still not recovered from.
While there is an element of perception in Pakistan’s fear projection, Pakistan does have some serious genuine grievances with its bigger neighbor to the east. India has refused to undertake any substantive concessions on the issues of Kashmir and water resources’ and in addition to that, India has continued to chip away at Pakistani territory, as in the case of the Siachen Glacier. Therefore, it follows that Pakistan for its part sees Indian inroads into Afghanistan with fear and vigilance and attempts to avert India’s presence there.
Whether India poses a threat to Pakistan by establishing a foothold in Afghanistan is a question that remains hotly debated. Pakistan’s strategic policy structure, however, considers it a fact and that forms the basis of Islamabad’s security policy.