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India’s Future Role in Afghanistan
|by Dr. Rajinder Puri|
After mid-July America will start troop withdrawals from Afghanistan. NATO troops will follow. By the end of the year America plans to withdraw 10,000 troops. By 2014 it plans total withdrawal except for a token force.
Policies are dictated by goals. First, India should have a clear vision about what kind of Afghanistan it wants in what kind of South Asia.
It is commonly feared that the US withdrawal can plunge Afghanistan into chaos and violence. These fears can be thwarted. Contrary to the views expressed in these columns it was held that there can be no talks with the Taliban. Today the Americans are attempting a dialogue with the Taliban. It is facile to talk of the good Taliban and the bad Taliban. There is in fact the Afghan Taliban and the Punjabi Taliban.
The multiplicity of warlords belonging to different tribes should not obscure that Afghanistan can be neatly divided into ethnic zones. South of the Hindu Kush up to Kandahar the Pashtuns dominate. In the west around Herat are the Persian speaking Shiites. Up North are the Uzbeks and Tajiks. In central Afghanistan are the Shiite Hazaras clustered in Hazarajat. Kabul in the east has a mixture of different tribes. When intra-tribal warfare forces warlords to seek sanctuary, Uzbeks find it in Uzbekistan or Turkey; the Persian speaking Shiites find it in Iran.
That is why Former US Ambassador to India and leading strategist Robert Blackwill advocated the de facto partition of Afghanistan. He recognized the ethnic divide in Afghanistan between the largest community of Pashtuns who ruled all Afghanistan and the remaining tribes of Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, Shiites and the rest.
The rest of Afghanistan in the north and centre would be left to the residual tribes. The demand for an independent Khorasan covering that region has already been voiced by non-Pashtun leaders within Afghanistan. Loss of control over Khorasan would be compensated for the Afghan Pashtuns by consolidation with their tribal brothers inhabiting the Pakhtunwa Khyber province of Pakistan. The Durand Line Treaty had advocated the return of the Pakistani Pashtun region to Afghanistan after completion of a hundred years in 1993. A confederation or union with soft borders would make the dispute between Pakistan and Afghanistan related to the Treaty infructuous.
This is what India must achieve.
But for the above formula to succeed the cooperation of Pakistan would be necessary. How could that be achieved? For that, India would have to play the Kashmir card. By now it is established that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former President Musharraf were a whisker away from a Kashmir settlement when talks were interrupted. The formula revolved around soft borders and autonomy on both sides of Kashmir. The flaw was that no institutional arrangement for cooperation between Islamabad and New Delhi was stated. Unless New Delhi and Islamabad achieve complete trust, which implies defence cooperation, all talk of dual autonomy and soft borders in Kashmir remains meaningless.
There are pro-terrorist elements in the Pakistan army that must be purged.
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07/06/2011 19:10 PM