The United States after dithering with Pakistan’s duplicitiousness over Afghanistan and Pakistan’s covert undermining the US war effort in Afghanistan has finally broken out of that obsession after a decade and now seems to have given a nod to the signing this month of the Afghanistan India Strategic Partnership Agreement in New Delhi. One thing is certain and that is that this Strategic Partnership Agreement would not have materialized without the United States concurrence. Indian strategic analysts like this Columnist had been constantly highlighting throughout the last decade that Pakistan was double-timing the United States but the United States policy establishment seemed to be oblivious to these pointers. Better late than never and this Strategic Partnership Agreement indicates that finally a strategic convergence of interests has taken place on Afghanistan’s future stability and security and that Pakistan has no place in this scheme of things.
The strategic equations between the United States, India and Afghanistan are clear and this Partnership should have blossomed much earlier. The United States has in the last decade made massive strategic investments in Afghanistan in terms of military and economic assistance besides sacrificing hundreds of US lives to save Afghanistan from a return of the Taliban regime which was the strategic aim of Pakistan Army all along while at the same time masquerading as United States ally in the Global War on Terrorism. Afghanistan would be unable to achieve stability and security without the United States security umbrella. The United States and India today enjoy a workable strategic partnership despite many irritants. India has had long civilizational ties with Afghanistan and has legitimate strategic interests in Afghanistan’s stability and security. India unlike Pakistan has been a responsible stakeholder in Afghanistan’s development, stability and security. It was natural therefore that Afghanistan’s natural choice for a Strategic Partnership was India.
Pakistan stands badly enraged and in no uncertain terms made its displeasure known to Afghanistan that Pakistan cannot be sidelined and India given a primacy in the future stability and security of Afghanistan. That this development has taken place alongside the United States trenchant criticism at the apex levels and that Pakistan Army and its ISI stands castigated openly for linkages with the Haqqani groups, all involved in bombing of US and Indian assets in Afghanistan has been extremely galling for Pakistan.
What has really happened in 2011 is the unraveling of the much vaunted strategic ally linkages between Pakistan and the United States. At all levels in the United States, Congressional, the Pentagon, and the apex levels of the political and policy establishment, there has not only been disappointment but a deep sense of outrage and betrayal by Pakistan. However much both the United States and Pakistan attempt to mend fences and indulge in damage control, this relationship cannot be restored to its original luster.
India under the terms of the newly signed. Strategic Partnership Agreement has now to expand its role in Afghanistan from one of development and reconstruction to rendering security assistance extending from military training to supply of military equipment and assisting in the capacity building of the Afghanistan National Army. This will require a great level of strategic vision on the part of India’s political leaders and also political firmness and resilience to honor all commitments made to Afghanistan in the fields of security assistance.
India will also have to develop intelligence alertness and vigilance to pre-empt any likely disruption of the Indian security assistance programmes to Pakistan. It should be clear to the Indian policy establishment that no scope exists to have faith in Pakistan’s rhetorical protestations on peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan at every step of the way will contrive and engineer disruptive activities to nullify the Indian security programs in Afghanistan
India seems to have finally broken out of its cocoon of strategic timidity in safeguarding its legitimate national security interests and one fervently hopes that India stays firmly on its committed course in Afghanistan and along the way also deals firmly with any Pakistan Army’s provocative and disruptive steps to force India to resile from its expanded commitments to Afghanistan.