Afghanistan is alandlocked country having no borders with India. US-led NATO forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and devastated the country, since then, the country is going through war in the name of “War on Terror”. A question that arises here is, what still attracts India to Afghanistan?
US-led NATO forces will leave Afghanistan by the end of the year 2014. To get safe exit, US has engaged regional countries to play their role in attaining stability and security in Afghanistan that is beneficial for all. US wants India to take charge of the region. US have signed strategic partnership with India, knowing the danger of China becoming a power player in the region.
India has bolstered its relations with regional countries like Iran and Afghanistan. In the wake of tensions between Kabul and Islamabad, India took advantage and inked strategic partnership with Afghanistan in 2011 to secure its interest in the region and to take their cooperation to an all new level in governance, economics, commerce, education, public administration, security and law enforcement. India,being financially strong, is providing financial assistance to Afghanistan whereas Pakistan, going through its turbulent times, is unable to do so. Recently India and Russia signed an agreement under which Russia will supply arms and ammunition to Afghanistan and India will pay for it. Under India-Afghanistan strategic partnership, India already provides training to Afghan security forces including Afghan National Army and Police to control the security situation in the country and to stop Taliban from gaining control again. India believes that Taliban speciallyHaqqani network still have strong ties with Pakistan Army and intelligence and that Pakistan has played double game with US on the Taliban issue. India wants to see pro-Indian political forces ruling Afghanistan that are Anti-Taliban and Anti-Pakistan to secure its interests and to restrict Pakistan from gaining its strategic depth in the region. Pakistan on the other hand has made it very clear that Pakistan does not support any group in particular and Pakistan fully supports Afghan-owned, Afghan-driven, Afghan-led reconciliation process and will use all its influence positively to attain peace and stability in Afghanistan.
India is keen in strengthening its position in Afghanistan. It has carried out many investment conferences in Delhi as well as in Kabul over the years. India has invested more than $ 10 Billion in Afghanistan up till now and is much more likely to come ahead after US-led NATO forces withdrawal. Sectors involving India’s investments are communications, road links, construction, power generation and mining. Indian Army’s construction company “Border Road Organization” has built a road to create an alternative route for duty free transportation of goods from Chabahar port in Iran to Afghan province of Nimroz, connecting Delaram to Zaranji that bypass Pakistan and reduce Afghanistan’s dependence on Pakistan. India’s trade and influence in the region will significantly increase through its presence in Afghanistan. India wants Pakistan to open its trade route as well as to allow transport of Indian goods to Afghanistan and cash on its geographical significance, but Pakistan has reservations on it as it will adversely affect Pakistan’s trade relations with Afghanistan and Central Asian countries and it will strengthen Indian feet in Afghanistan which is not at all in Pakistan’s interest. Indian firms are bidding billions of dollars for the mining project of iron ore in Hajigak mines in Bamiyan Province of Afghanistan.
In the name of rehabilitation and reconstruction India has greater game plan in Afghanistan. US along with India fear China of becoming global power in near future and they know the importance of Pakistan China strategic relations for it. They believe that Pakistan and China has great depth in their relations and Pakistan can give its bases to China when needed if not permanent bases on its soil. They think that if Pakistan can be broken from within and Baluchistan being separated from Pakistan which has the all-important Gawadar port and large mineral and gas reserves, it will hurt Pakistan badly and can weaken Pakistan-China relations as China plans to make Gawadar port fully operational and wants to connect it to its Kashgar city by building road and rail links through Pakistan that would create the shortest route for China to trade with Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other regional countries in the future.
It is through Afghanistan that India is interfering in the internal affairs of Pakistan’s province of Baluchistan. Its intelligence agency RAW is using its consulates there for conducting covert operations in Baluchistan that concerns Pakistan. Pakistan Ex-PM YousufRazaGillani has raised this issue for the first time with his Indian counterpart PM Manmohan Singh when they met in Sharm-el-Sheikh in 2009. RAW has been supporting the insurgent militant groups in Baluchistan from Afghanistan, funding them, providing arms and ammunition to carry out terrorist activities in the province andelsewhere in Pakistan. Pakistan’s security forces have seized huge cache of Indian-made arms and ammunition during various raids against insurgents. Intelligence report presented to Government of Pakistan has clear evidence of India’s role in facilitating banned insurgent groups to carry out terrorist activities in the province. Baluch insurgents have been given training in Afghan province neighboring Pakistan by RAW in collaboration with Afghan intelligence agency NDS. They are than sent to Baluchistan to carry out terrorist activities. Most of the Baluch insurgent leaders sitting in exile went out on Afghan passport with the help of RAW and NDS. They have admitted the Indian support they got. In different forums now they raise their voice against Pakistan and its armed forces. Much of the turbulence in the province and cross border terrorism on the Durand line is through an Indian plan to engage Pakistan security forces on its western border to divert their attention from the eastern border and from Kashmir in particular.
India can also ignite tensions on Pakistan-Iran border using these Baluch militants and illegal Afghan immigrants that can damage Pakistan-Iran bilateral relations. Pakistan has to be vigilant about it and should engage with Iranian authorities for better security measures along the border.
ISPR has stated that Pakistan has informed coalition forces about its concerns regarding India’s growing interest in Afghanistan. Pakistan is closely watching the developments unfolding in Afghanistan with the withdrawal of foreign troops.
As of now, the biggest concern of stakeholders in Afghanistan is the civil war that may erupt if reconciliation process fails to draw conclusion after US-led NATO forces withdrawal. India has already invested a lot in Afghanistan all will be ruined if civil war starts again.
Another great fear of India is that if dust in Afghanistan settled down after the withdrawal of US-led NATO forces, Afghan Mujahedeen may turn to Kashmir with the help of Pakistan to fightalongside the freedom fighters against the illegal Indian occupation; that is a potential threat to India so they want US to stay in the region and play its role even after the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan. India wants Afghanistan to sign the pact with US to retain American limited presence in Afghanistan.