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Afghanistan-India Ties

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Returning from India trip, President Karzai said he had put a ‘wish list’ of Afghanistan’s demands to the Indian government to provide Afghanistan with military equipments. He did not give more details about the demands his delegation has raised in the Indian capital. In the meantime, Karzai has said that peace in Afghanistan cannot be achieved without Pakistan. The president expressed hope that the new government in Islamabad would deliver its role in the peace initiative in Afghanistan.

The Afghan government is seeking military aid from Indian while Pakistan is extremely sensitive to the Indian presence in Afghanistan, leave military assistance aside. President Karzai’s trip to India and the talks for India’s military assistance for Afghanistan is signifying a change in Kabul’s attitude towards the future role of India in Afghanistan and may also have a message to Islamabad.

This trip is particularly important as recently relations of Afghanistan and Pakistan has strained due to border incursions by Pakistan and the skirmishes occurred between Afghan and Pakistani security forces after Pakistan built a security check point on the Afghan side of the Durand Line. During the skirmishes, one Afghan soldier was killed and a wave of anti-Pakistan protests emerged in some major cities of Afghanistan. Before the border clashes, Afghan officials give up efforts to persuade Pakistan for helping the Afghan peace initiative which initially is focused on bringing the Taliban to the negotiation table. Afghan officials said that Kabul would seek peace with the Taliban without the help of Pakistan.

This was a major stalemate in the relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan that was pursuing a peace deal with the Taliban. The government of Afghanistan, which had desperately sought Pakistan’s help in the peace process and finally exhausted with Islamabad’s sabotage to the Afghan peace, did a U-turn in its approach toward’s Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan. That even meant a shift in Kabul’s revised strategy toward’s Pakistan and its role in the peace process. It seems that the Afghan government is determined to pursue a different approach toward’s Pakistan’s role in the peace process, and, that is to not give more concessions to Islamabad.

In line with that, Afghanistan is now making moves to even strengthen the future of role of India in Afghanistan with New Delhi’s aid in developing security and civil institutions of Afghanistan. But Afghan officials know very well that the strategy would be a difficult one for Afghanistan as Pakistan is able to continue pressurizing Afghanistan with its financial dominance and presence of Taliban and their leaders in Pakistan’s soil. Therefore, it seems that Afghanistan is trying a temporary policy of shifting towards India to convince Islamabad that it is best for the country to help Afghanistan in the peace negotiations with the militant leaders.

The trip is not sending a good signal to Islamabad’s new political elite led by Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League Party. Nawaz Sharif is considered more sympathetic to the Taliban, however, he has made it clear that the new government in Islamabad wants a better relation with India and Afghanistan. Though it is early to gauge Pakistan’s detailed policy towards Afghanistan and the US-led war against the insurgency but Pakistan clearly has no option to cooperate with the US and Afghanistan to negotiate with the Taliban as the Pakistani Taliban are raging a deadly war in Pakistan itself.

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