The Welcome Guest
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