Bal­lot Ver­sus Bul­let In Afghanistan

To­day, Afghan Tal­iban en­joys back­ing from the Vladimir Putin ad­min­is­tra­tion since 2015. US and Euro­pean na­tions ac­cuses Moscow of sup­ply­ing weapons to the Afghan Tal­iban

The Day After - - CONTENT - By Shankar ku­mar

Though re­main­ing un­der shadow of threat from the Tal­iban and fac­ing rit­u­als of killings al­most on a daily ba­sis, Afghans have shown that their faith in democ­racy and love for bal­lot over bul­let is rock solid. It was in dis­play dur­ing the just con­cluded par­lia­men­tary polls in the war-torn na­tion, held af­ter a gap of eight years. De­spite threats of vi­o­lence from the Tal­iban, a large num­ber of peo­ple queued up be­fore the polling booths to cast their votes for 250 par­lia­men­tary seats in Afghanistan. With this, myths so read­ily put forth by West­ern com­men­ta­tors that Afghans don’t want democ­racy have been once again de­bunked. This has also shown their readi­ness for the next pres­i­den­tial elec­tion to be held in April 2019.

It will be third pres­i­den­tial polls in the coun­try which is yet to fight off chal­lenges posed by the Tal­iban, who ac­cord­ing to a BBC re­port, fully con­trols four per cent of Afghanistan, but is ac­tively present in 70 per cent of the land locked na­tion. This speaks vol­ume of the para­dox­i­cal sit­u­a­tion that Afghanistan is in to­day. Amer­ica which vowed to smoke the Tal­iban out of the land locked na­tion is back­ing the ter­ror­ist group for peace talks with the Afghan govern­ment so is China and Pakistan. In­dia is against any talk with the group un­less it re­nounces arms, ac­cepts Afghanistan’s cur­rent con­sti­tu­tion and shows faith in democ­racy.

What sur­prises In­dia is that even Rus­sia has come out in sup­port of the talks with the Tal­iban. Moscow has cited grow­ing pres­ence of ISIS in Afghanistan as the key rea­son for its root­ing for the talks with the Tal­iban. In fact, each coun­try is visu­al­iz­ing Afghanistan and its cur­rent se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion ac­cord­ing to its own geo-po­lit­i­cal in­ter­est, thereby, mak­ing the land-locked na­tion a vir­tual play­ground for all re­gional and in­ter­na­tional play­ers. For In­dia, prime con­cern is that once the Tal­iban is al­lowed to have a slice of power in Kabul, Pakistan will be in driver’s seat in the re­gion. With ISIS al­ready present in the re­gion, the Tal­iban’s ar­rival in Afghanistan’s power struc­ture will prove to be a red her­ring for In­dia’s se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment which fears Kash­mir, al­ready on the boil due to ter­ror­ism, will be­come a den for ISIS and other ter­ror­ist groups’ ac­tiv­i­ties.

It should be re­mem­bered that even as In­dian armed forces may not have set their boot on Afghanistan soil, In­dia is al­ready hav­ing a strong se­cu­rity ar­range­ment with Kabul so much so that New Delhi pro­vides train­ing to 300 per­son­nel of the Afghan Na­tional Forces an­nu­ally. Around 5000 per­son­nel of ANF have been trained by In­dia. In or­der to strengthen its de­fense forces, Kabul has asked for the sup­ply of more he­li­copters, as­sault ri­fles, army trucks and ar­mored ve­hi­cles. Af­ter gift­ing four MI-25 at­tack he­li­copters to Afghanistan, In­dia has also agreed to pro­vide their spare parts to the in­sur­gency-hit na­tion. One of the key de­vel­op­men­tal part­ners of Afghanistan, New Delhi has also showed its will­ing­ness to con­trib­ute to build strate­gic as­sets in the land locked coun­try. In view of se­cu­rity rea­sons, New Delhi has also de­cided to work out a plan for a stronger se­cu­rity part­ner­ship with Afghanistan which in­cludes build­ing modern train­ing in­fra­struc­ture for the ANA in the coun­try.

In all such deals, Moscow has been kept in loop as ma­jor­ity of weapon-sys­tem sup­plied or un­der the con­sid­er­a­tion for sup­ply is Rus­sian-built. Moscow is con­cerned about the pres­ence of ISIS in Afghanistan. But strangely, Rus­sia’s worry

about ISIS’s transna­tional out­look and per­ceived threat from it, is com­pletely at vari­ance with the Eurasian na­tion’s stand for the Afghan Tal­iban. Once con­sid­ered as in­vet­er­ate en­emy of Rus­sia, the Afghan Tal­iban en­joys back­ing from the Vladimir Putin ad­min­is­tra­tion since 2015. It is ac­cused by the US and Euro­pean coun­tries of sup­ply­ing weapons to the Afghan Tal­iban.

Though Rus­sia has de­nied the al­le­ga­tion, but its sup­port to the Afghan Tal­iban has star­tled In­dia and Afghanistan also. In fact, New Delhi and Kabul are on the same page on the is­sue of talks with the Tal­iban. Their stand is any ne­go­ti­a­tion with the in­sur­gent group should not be held with­out the lat­ter re­nounc­ing vi­o­lence, ac­cept­ing Afghan Con­sti­tu­tion and the in­ter­na­tion­ally known “red lines” like right of the peo­ple, es­pe­cially women’s right, right to ed­u­ca­tion and be­lieve in democ­racy and its norms.

On the other hand, China fears that if in­sur­gency con­tin­ues in Afghanistan then it will im­pact on its Belt and Road ini­tia­tive of which the land locked na­tion is a part and also fu­ture hub for China-driven trade and com­merce in the Cen­tral Asian re­gion. Yet it has not been able to lever­age its po­lit­i­cal or eco­nomic weight on Pakistan, the South Asian na­tion which aids and abet ter­ror­ism in Afghanistan. It is be­cause of this, China, de­spite in­vest­ing in Afghanistan’s coal mines and iron ores, has not been able to ex­tract min­er­als from there.

How­ever, in the Afghan’s quag­mire, In­dia wants to play a safe game. While it has re­fused to send its forces to the land locked na­tion, it has not stopped it­self from com­mit­ting to new strate­gic dy­nam­ics of the re­gion. De­spite sev­eral chal­lenges, In­dia is com­mit­ted to de­vel­op­ment of the Iran-based Chaba­har port. Both berths of Iran-based deep sea port are ex­pected to be fully op­er­a­tional in 2019. Once they are op­er­a­tional­ized, In­dia will get an al­ter­na­tive route to Afghanistan and phys­i­cal con­nec­tiv­ity with Cen­tral Asia and Rus­sia will be­come a re­al­ity. Chaba­har will be con­nected to In­ter­na­tional NorthSouth Trans­port Cor­ri­dor (INSTC) , a ship, road and rail con­nec­tiv­ity project which is backed by In­dia, Iran and Rus­sia, on the other hand, it will be linked with Afghanistan through Chaba­har-Za­hedanHa­ji­gak rail­way line that will be built by In­dia’s Ir­con In­ter­na­tional.

Ha­ji­gak is the min­eral–rich re­gion of Afghanistan where seven In­dian com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing the coun­try’s pub­lic sec­tor steel gi­ant SAIL have ac­quired mine. China has also ac­quired cooper mine in Mes Ay­nak and iron ore mine in the Ha­ji­gak re­gion. Nei­ther In­dia nor China is able to ex­tract mines from Afghanistan be­cause of the pre­vail­ing se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion. But China which shares close bor­der with Afghanistan wants to in­crease its in­flu­ence in the land locked na­tion for eco­nomic and strate­gic rea­son. It wants peace to pre­vail there. China has in­cluded most of Afghanistan’s neigh­bours and nearby coun­tries in the Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion in or­der to co­or­di­nate poli­cies to­wards Afghanistan. Fol­low­ing Wuhan in­for­mal sum­mit be­tween Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, the two coun­tries have be­gun a new chap­ter in Afghanistan. Launch of joint In­dia-China pro­gramme to im­part train­ing to 10 Afghan di­plo­mats should be seen in this con­text. They have planned to join to­gether for other ca­pac­ity build­ing projects in Afghanistan. But ques­tion is: Will China ask its all-weather-friend Pakistan to stop ex­port­ing ter­ror­ism to the war-torn na­tion for peace sake? Will it pre­vail on Pakistan Army and ISI to stop fi­nanc­ing the Tal­iban? Is­sue is very com­plex. There­fore, no one knows whether one an­other pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, sched­ule for April 2019 will be of any con­se­quence for Afghanistan on the peace front.

Two sui­cide bombers at­tack in Afghanistan

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