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Afghanistan: Geo-politics

Keeping a fine balance

 

Why is Pakistan afraid of India helping Afghanistan?
SAYAN GHOSH | Issue Dated: March 29, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : Af-Pak | Afghanistan | Pakistan | Militancy | Terrorism | Taliban |
 

Pakistan has always hyperactive in pre-empting any effort on the part of India to become cosy with Afghanistan. Perhaps, it feels that it is its prerogative to wield influence among other Muslim countries in the South Asian neighbourhood.

Though Pakistan and Afghanistan share umblical and historical bonds that go back many hundreds of years, the former still gets deeply uncomfortable at seeing ties between India and Afghanistan grow. What is it about India-Afghanistan relations that sticks in Pakistan’s craw? is it afraid that growing Indian influence in Afghanistan will undermine and erode the fraternal ties that bind Pakistan and Afghanistan?

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, has already embraced India in his circle friends. At the same time he has been careful about not infuriating Pakistan. Much of it was in evidence when Karzai signed on  the Strategic Partnership Agreement with India in 2011. “Pakistan is our twin brother, India is a great friend. The agreement we signed with our friend will not affect our brother,” he had said after signing the document. Karzai, in fact, has maintained a delicate and fine balance in the region by keeping Pakistan in good humour and not letting India's growing co-operation with his country to affect its deep-rooted ties with Pakistan.

Karzai needs both India’s resources and Pakistan’s strategic support to keep a tight leash on the Taliban and other terror groups operating in his country. In this context, it is in his best interest to play the two against each other even as both the countries vie to secure a larger share in Afghanistan’s future. And like an astute politician, he has been playing his moves with the dexterity of a fine chess player,  making sure that Afghanistan continues to reap the benfits of good bilateral relationship with both India and Pakistan.

However, Pakistan knows that it cannot compete with India eventually because of the latter’s far superior economic strength. How can a nation whose own existence is based upon the oxygen of foreign aid expect to keep a tight rein on the policies of another country merely by blackmailing tactics over the long run? India is already the fourth-largest financial donor for Afghanistan with a contribution of over $2 billion by the end of 2011, which is only behind that of the US, Germany and Japan. However, in the short term, Pakistan can play with its strategic card of firewalling India’s efforts of integrating Afghanistan with South Asia, which has strategic interest for Delhi. It can do so by influencing the US to keep Delhi on the sidelines in return for backing the American bet to curb terrorism in the region.

It must be noted that India’s interest in Afghanistan is more holistic in that the latter has a better chance to fight off terrorism by working on and capitalising on its economic prospects. In contrast, Pakistan’s policy is completely India-specific and based on nurturing terror groups to advance its own interests. In the long run, Pakistan is likely to run out of steam following on this path, and end up destroying Afghanistan’s prospects to build itself up into an economically viable state. 

 

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017