The Wel­come Guest

Southasia - - Comment -

Nato is sched­uled to with­draw from Afghanistan in 2014 but it is feared that once the Western forces leave, the Tal­iban would make a resur­gence and the al-Qaeda would again find a safe haven in the coun­try. In the af­ter­math, the cur­rent Afghan lead­er­ship and their suc­ces­sors would also lose their rel­e­vance. Hamid Karazi, as is clear, will not con­tinue as Pres­i­dent of Afghanistan fol­low­ing gen­eral elec­tions in the coun­try in 2014. But he would like to leave be­hind a legacy of ties with In­dia, a coun­try he seems to have deep emo­tional links with. Karzai is ap­pre­hen­sive that the post-Nato Afghanistan may again turn into a hot-bed of war­ring tribes and any mod­icum of gov­er­nance that has been es­tab­lished ever since he took over as Pres­i­dent of Afghanistan in 2001, would be un­done. Karzai shared his ap­pre­hen­sions with his hosts dur­ing his re­cent visit to In­dia and handed them a ‘wish’ list of mil­i­tary hard­ware. It may be re­called that the In­di­ans have al­ready trained Afghan mil­i­tary per­son­nel and pro­vided mil­i­tary equip­ment un­der a strate­gic part­ner­ship deal that New Delhi and Kabul signed in 2011. Pres­i­dent Karzai re­it­er­ated his grat­i­tude to the In­di­ans for help­ing in var­i­ous de­vel­op­ment projects and thanked them for ed­u­cat­ing Afghan youth at In­dian uni­ver­si­ties.

Pre­vi­ously, In­dia too showed its abid­ing en­thu­si­asm to fur­ther its re­la­tions with Afghanistan which it al­ways con­sid­ered a friendly neigh­bour. Of late, though, In­dian love for Afghanistan seems to be cool­ing down. It now ap­pears to be hes­i­tant in tak­ing this re­la­tion­ship to a cli­max be­cause of the re­newed over­tures from the third part­ner in this three-way af­fair. Says Afghan for­eign min­is­ter Zal­mai Rassoul, “A decade ago the BJP govern­ment wanted to help us mil­i­tar­ily but we re­fused, due to Pak­istan’s sen­si­tiv­i­ties. This time, we are keen, but In­dia is hes­i­tant.” The new Pak­istan Prime Min­is­ter, Nawaz Sharif, has ex­pressed his keen de­sire to re­build ties with In­dia and this is an op­por­tu­nity that In­dia wouldn’t want to miss. In­dian pol­i­cy­mak­ers will now have to bal­ance the In­dian de­sire to re­in­force in­flu­ence in Kabul on the one hand and im­prove re­la­tions with Is­lam­abad, on the other. That the elec­tion of Nawaz Sharif for a third time as Pak­istan’s prime min­is­ter has been broadly wel­comed in Delhi is a fac­tor that is play­ing hard on the In­dian mind.

Afghanistan and Pak­istan have had rocky re­la­tions for the most part since Pak­istan ap­peared on the world map. Pres­i­dent Karzai terms the two na­tions as “in­sep­a­ra­ble broth­ers” due to the his­tor­i­cal, re­li­gious, eth­nic and lin­guis­tic con­nec­tions be­tween the two neigh­bours as well as the tran­sit trade fa­cil­i­ties that Pak­istan of­fers to land-locked Afghanistan. How­ever, the two coun­tries have never been good friends, what with such stick­ing thorns as the Du­rand Line dis­pute, the in­flux of Afghan refugees into Pak­istan, the Tal­iban in­sur­gency and con­tin­u­ing bor­der skir­mishes. The grow­ing in­flu­ence of In­dia in Afghanistan has fur­ther added to the sour­ing of ties with Pak­istan. It has al­ways been New Delhi’s de­sire, though, to gain more in­flu­ence in Afghanistan. Now that the Western ro­mance with the re­gion is over, Hamid Karzai is a wel­come guest in In­dia.

Syed Jawaid Iqbal

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