Present Engagement Policy In Afghanistan Politics Essay

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A critical component of this new strategy must include initiating a discussion among the major regional powers i.e India, China, Russia and the others to steer a sustainable political agreement on the future of Afghanistan. In the long term, this is the only substantial way out for the United States. The Bonn Agreement in 2001 increased the international community's commitments towards Afghanistan beyond what had been envisaged at the beginning of the intervention. It envisaged the recreation of the state of Afghanistan and made provisions for a role for the international community to play in it, under the helm of the United Nations. It was envisaged that a regional approach towards Afghanistan would be most effective in long term. The point was reinforced once again in the international community's discussions on Afghanistan reconstruction during the Paris Conference in 2008 which supported the implementation of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy through regional cooperation. US President Obama reiterated the same in his Af-Pak policy review in March 2009, when he stated, "Together with the United Nations, we will forge a new contact group for Afghanistan and Pakistan that brings together all who should have a stake in the security of the region - our NATO allies and other partners, but also the Central Asian states, the Gulf Nations and Iran; Russia, India and China. None of these nations benefit from a base of Al Qaeda terrorists and a region that descends into chaos. All have a stake in the promise of lasting peace and security and development." [1] 

However, this regional approach soon fell by the wayside and there is an urgent need for it to be re-established. Neither the international community nor the Afghans themselves ever formulated a comprehensive plan detailing the reconstruction of the nation's economic and social institutions. In fact, the Coalition's policy of overseeing the relations between Afghanistan and its neighbours has always been one of going from issue to issue and has never been developed into a cogent regional framework. As a result, when the effort actually began, the policies of the international and the regional actors differed. While there is no denying that all of Afghanistan's neighbours would benefit from its stability, they remain unsure of the international community's commitment. Until they are satisfied of it, they will develop their singular polices, focussed towards protecting their own interests. The cooperation of the governments of regional actors is necessary for sustainable reconstruction of any kind as international actors, notwithstanding the degree of their involvement, will ultimately leave. The reconstruction efforts required in Afghanistan would entail not only the repair and addition of infrastructure and economy, but also the reconstruction of the institutions that structure a state. It is this requirement that make the Afghan government cautious about involving any of its neighbours in such an intimate part of fits establishment. For reasons of poverty, geo - political isolation and geographical barriers, Afghanistan has always been in a somewhat unfortunate position, at the mercy of its more powerful neighbours. Regional cooperation in this situation becomes viable only if the countries involved in lending assistance allot the opportunity for openness and collaboration more than the ability and desire to exert control. The implementation of the regional solution in Afghanistan has to go beyond a plain redefinition of the region as 'Af-Pak'. While regional actors are investing in development and reconstruction aid, troops must also be made available. The ANA will require external support until it is fully equipped and regional actors would be better placed in terms of Army trainers, than the Western actors.


India has strong strategic and economic interest in Afghanistan. In fact, it is much more than Pakistan that has been busy destroying the solidity of Afghan society. In fact, the strategic interest goes well beyond Afghanistan. It stretches to the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf in the west, even the eastern coast of Africa as the westernmost border of this strategic space; to the east, it includes the Strait of Malacca and extends up to the South China Sea; to the north, it includes Central Asia; and to the south, it reaches out to Antarctica. Viewed broadly, India's interest in Afghanistan is just one element within India's larger aspiration to be able to guard its interests well beyond South Asia. India understands its strategic interest and is diplomatically working systematically to defend it in the long run [2] .

India as a responsible regional power in the Asian continent nurses a justifiable and genuine interest in ensuring security and stability in its neighborhood. Its non-interference in the internal affairs of Nepal despite the invitation by certain factions in that country and using all its influence to bring about peace in Sri Lanka despite vast odds all stand testimony to this objective. So India's genuine concern in the affairs of Afghanistan is widely recognised by all but Pakistan. India's sole objective is to support a democratic, peaceful, stable and a vibrant Afghanistan, which should never be allowed to become a haven for terrorists working against both Indian and international interest. India's imprints in the war ravaged country have been recognised by all the major powers.

Security Interests

India seeks to thwart the reemergence of any form of a resurgent fundamental Taliban regime in the country. Also, India seeks to limit Pakistan's influence over any emergent regime in Afghanistan and to make sure that no regime emerges that is fundamentally hostile toward India. One major imperative of Indian policy in Afghanistan is to prevent the rise of the brand of Islamist militancy that has been prevailing over the past six decades. Still fresh in the memory of the Indian public is the dubious role played by the Taliban in facilitating the hijackers of IC-184 to escape to Pakistan. It is, therefore, a central concern of India to cultivate good relations with the Pasthun majority in Afghanistan, especially now, when that majority holds at least nominal power in Kabul [3] . This is not simply to influence the Afghan ability to prevent a reemergence of an anti-India militant organisation.

The rise of Islamist militancy at the Durand Line on both sides also correlates strongly with the rise in militancy in Kashmir and across the Line of Control. The Islamist militant groups supported by Pakistan such as the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, are well known to coordinate training, allocating resource and providing logistical support with groups operating out of northwest Pakistan. Thus, as long as central control and legitimacy continue to elude Kabul, the situation in Kashmir is likely to remain more or so unstable. India's security and diplomatic concerns in Afghanistan are, therefore, well defined. India desires to develop a sufficiently strong diplomatic and intelligence network within the country to be able to observe Pakistan's activities within Afghanistan and, if necessary, to work to curtail them. India's growing presence and influence in Afghanistan undercuts the Pakistani military establishment's long term obsession with the quest for "strategic depth" against India [4] . This quest, which has its origins in Pakistan's devastating defeat in the third Indo-Pakistani conflict in 1971, is not one that Pakistan's military establishment will easily discard. Consequently, it will relentlessly work to undermine a friendly Indo-Afghan relationship and intimidate Indian officials and personnel within Afghanistan. It is hardly surprising that the United States identified Pakistani involvement in the suicide bombing of the Indian Embassy in July 2008.India's presence in Afghanistan is about its own strategic self-interest [5] .

Economic Interests

India is looking to develop long-term diplomatic ties and economic arrangements with a stable, popular and pro-India regime in Afghanistan, which then facilitates India to leapfrog Pakistan and build strong strategic and economic ties with the energy rich states of Central Asia. In what Stephen Blank characterizes as a "great game" strategy, India's goals reject the desire to control the overland routes to maritime ports for Central Asian resources by denying both China and Pakistan the ability to threaten Indian resources in the region. Even if its involvement in Afghanistan disconcerts Pakistan, it is highly unlikely that India will curb its activities, in Afghanistan any time soon. This is primarily due to the fact that for the first time in recent history, the interests of India and the United States in Afghanistan merge. Both seek a secure, peaceful and non-Talibanised Afghanistan. It was recently reported that in an attempt to further these goals, the United States has agreed to directly mediate talks between India and Pakistan regarding the regional war on terror and "the establishment of a 'fair bargain' between India and Pakistan over their respective interests in Afghanistan." It is, therefore, important to note that unlike the Cold War years, India has no irrational hostility toward either the American role in Afghanistan or the presence of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the country. Indeed, while it is not for Pakistan's deep-seated anxieties about any Indian activity within Afghanistan, many in India's polity may not be averse to any Indian military presence within the country.

India has critical economic interests in Afghanistan in terms of natural resources, i.e. iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium. Reserves of these natural resources are expected to be worth US $ 1 trillion. Afghanistan also has huge resources of natural gas and oil. As most of the country is uncharted due to war and conflict, prospects for additional natural resources reserves cannot be ruled out. Natural resources are very significant for economic development of Afghanistan that primarily relies on international development assistance. For instance, lithium is crucial for green energy products. It is used in mobile phone and laptop batteries as well as electric car batteries. As the threat of climate change looms large and there is emphasis on developing clean energy technologies, importance of lithium is bound to increase. Several Indian companies have started investing in mining sectors. For India, mining sectors and infrastructure development are suitable areas for private investment as Indian companies have hinted to invest up to US $ 10 billion in steel and mining sectors. Afghanistan has awarded three of four blocks of its largest iron ore deposit, Hajigak, to a consortium of Indian companies led by the state-owned Steel Authority of India Ltd. Indian entrepreneurs have also shown good interests in petroleum and copper mining blocks in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is also vital to the revival of the silk route that can be a gateway for India to Central Asia for trade and energy resources. In return, transit routes will generate substantial revenue for Afghanistan. For example, TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) pipeline project is estimated to add around US $ 5 million annually in transit fee to the Afghan coffer. 735 kilometers of this gas pipeline will pass through Afghanistan and the entire project could be compromised if the security scenario in Afghanistan does not improve.

Afghanistan figures predominantly in Indian foreign policy and New Delhi needs to look beyond the "post-2014 scenario". However, Afghan reconstruction is inexorably interlinked with security and development and assistance cannot take place in an environment which is not completely secure. Although the United States and the EU support India towards a broad engagement in rebuilding Afghanistan, Pakistan has always been worried of India's engagement. Tensed India-Pakistan relationship can add to insecurity and threaten the potential of regional trade. Besides economic possibility, there needs to be some sort of political stability and secure environment for Indian companies so that they can weigh up the pros and cons of their business engagement in Afghanistan. Afghan president Hamid Karzai reiterated the importance of India's assistance for his country during his visit to New Delhi in Nov 12. He urged the country and in particular its private sector to further increases its investment in Afghanistan. The importance of Indian engagement in Afghanistan has been acknowledged by the Americans as well who are pushing India to step up its involvement in Afghanistan post 2014, especially in the economic and security realm. [6] 

Restrictions in Present Engagement

Although India has committed to increase its involvement in Afghanistan, there are some major restrictions to its engagement that need to be highlighted. There is no geographical continuity between the two countries and therefore India depends on others, notably Iran or Pakistan, for access [7] . Both options are controversial. Although there has been some easing of trade restrictions between India and Pakistan, the Pakistani military is still suspicious of Indian influence in Afghanistan and more than keen to prevent it from playing a larger role in what it sees as its traditional backyard. Denying access to Indian goods that are meant for Afghanistan is one strategy for reducing Indian influence and there seems to be no leaning on the part of Pakistan to change this approach. This has prevented the increase in commercial relations between Afghanistan and India. India, consequently, has relied on Iran to facilitate its trade. However, the port facilities at Chabahar in southeastern Iran still need to be developed and expanded, thereby requiring large scale investment, to enable it to support trade on a larger scale. More importantly, the use of such facilities will always be dependent upon good relations with Iran which could be strained if India does not step carefully when it comes to cooperation with the United States in the region, particularly in Afghanistan. Any developments in the region that India is a part of, including the TAPI gas pipeline or the "New Silk Road" initiative of the United States that isolates or excludes Iran is likely to be resented by Tehran. This could then ultimately prompt Iran to deny India access.

Indian Reconstruction Effort

Post Taliban, India has come out in a big way providing aid and participated in the reconstruction efforts and eventually established good diplomatic relations with the newly elected democratic government. India entered into partnership with the Afghan government into a wide range of sectors such as hydro electricity, road construction, agriculture, industry, telecommunications, information & broadcasting, education and health, so much so that it has become a topic of hot speculation for many security analysts. [8] 

A glance at India's reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan can be categorised under six heads as under-

Social Development which includes consignment for immediate humanitarian reliefs, medicines, educational kits, books, reconstruction of schools, donation of desks and benches for the school and construction of toilets.

Infra-structure development which includes the supply of aircrafts, busses and vehicles. It also considers the consideration of transmission lines and solar electrification.

Capacity Building Measures through training of school teachers, ICT professionals, doctors, diplomats, skill development, providing of sewing machines, banking, etc.

Economic development which includes digging up of deep wells, agriculture, and construction of cold storage, etc.

Contribution to reconstruction process includes funding the Afghan Government budget and World Bank managed Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund.

Technology & Scientific Up gradation which includes restoration/revamping of Information systems, TV satellite, telecommunication, setting up of common facilities service centre, TV studio, a TV transmitter, a mobile TV satellite uplink and TV relay centers [9] .

India has been involved in establishing small scale projects of less than $1 million and train civil servants. India and Afghanistan have signed several Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) aimed at small scale development projects in Afghanistan. According to reports, the projects in the fields of health, agriculture and rural development, identified by the Hamid Karzai-led Government were being implemented by NGOs and others with the assistance of Afghan officials. Most of these projects are being implemented in the sensitive areas of Southern and South Eastern provinces of Afghanistan in addition to other areas.

Capacity Building Measures

Capacity building can touch the lives of a school going child to university scholar and far beyond. The government of India offers some scholarships to the deserving Afghani students who can finish school and come to India to follow graduation and post graduation degrees. There are about 1000 such scholarships awarded every year. Others include shorter courses to people who come to India to enhance their own technical and technological capabilities. These one thousand annual scholarships will help in framing the next generation of those that are deeply committed and dedicated to Afghanistan. They would also be available to the Afghanistan government subsequently for addressing its needs. Inclusive in the capacity building are a range of other programmes. There are some Indian civil servants who are attached to different ministries. They are in Afghanistan as trainers in building up the capacities of the different administrative ministries and so on. Capacity building becomes important, especially in the context of taking forward the huge hardware for a particular project after it is completed. The need is the availability of resource persons who are trained enough to run the programme independently and manage the maintenance and running for the future as well. Thus Capacity building takes care of every project which India has implemented and handed over when it is completed to personnel who are fully equipped to maintain it and run it in the foreseeable future. India also runs four to five missions in different parts of Afghanistan where teams of doctors extend primarily to out-patient department services.

India has been involved in improving some of the hospitals in Afghanistan. The most important among these is the Indira Gandhi child hospital in Kabul. There are a number of programmes for people coming to India from Afghanistan for treatment which can range from two or three months up to a year. The biggest challenge for India is to reach Afghanistan itself. The issue of transit through Pakistan dominates the entire programme in Afghanistan because an absence of transit means that every project or every programme is that much more expensive and difficult to be implemented. For example a construction line from Kabul to Pul-e-khumri was being developed by an Indian company which is also responsible for building the line from Pul-e-khumri to Uzbekistan as part of the ADB project. This therefore needs a sub-station which can connect the transmission line all the way from the Uzbek border to Kabul. This would enable power to be brought from Uzbekistan to Kabul so that the power shortage in Kabul can be handled to a large extent. In building the substation the major problem was in sending the equipment required. Due to various reasons the road options in sending the equipment from here to Iran by sea and thereafter from Bander Abbas and through the truck to the Afghan border and from there to Kabul was not viable. The road option became too difficult and too costly on account of the rise of Taliban and constant attacks on the convoy. In the absence of transit the only option left with was to airlift the equipment. Each part of this equipment runs into 100 to 120 tonnes and this was probably the largest airlift of its kind. Transit therefore becomes a major challenge in the entire reconstruction effort. Afghanistan is a member of SAARC and it could be a right platform to take up the issue of connectivity between the SAARC countries for the furtherance of reconstruction in Afghanistan beyond such hurdles.

A total of 400 buses and 200 minibuses gifted by India ply in major towns and cities. Afghanistan International Airlines has reinstated its operations with three Indian Airbuses. A couple of Indian Advanced Light Helicopters have also been gifted to the Afghan government. Five Indian medical teams provide medical cover to Afghans across the country day in and day out. India has constructed the road from Zaranj to Delaram in Afghanistan linking the Garland Highway to the Iran border through the Milak Bridge. India has also assisted Iran in building Chabahar port in its Sistan-Baluchistan province. A 200-km road connecting Chabahar with Afghanistan is also being constructed with Indian help. It will provide Afghanistan a valuable alternative and shorter route, saving 1,000 km or so, to the seaport. It is likely to facilitate its imports and exports to and from Central Asia in addition to other countries. Indian engineers have also constructed a 220 KV transmission line to Kabul across rugged mountainous terrain, despite periodic terrorist attacks and harsh weather conditions. Indian telecommunication engineers have digitized and restored the telecommunication networks across eleven provinces in Afghanistan. Over 2,000 Afghan nationals have undergone training in India in diverse fields. The Indian assistance programme is internationally recognized as cost effective and people oriented.

Involving the Community [10] 

India has been involved in a number of social projects touching the lives of the poor and the vulnerable through capacity building measures and vocational and skill training promoting livelihood options. Many of the Indian NGOs are the implementing partners for government of India irrespective of the risks involved. They impart training and skill development activities enabling the local Afghans to participate and take on the rebuilding and reconstruction process to its logical end. Some of the main projects supported by the government of India are as mentioned in subsequent paras.

Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Project

This is a government of India funded project, implementing vocational training, where CII provides training in commercial tailoring / garment making to 216 women. Out of them 188 were qualified for being awarded certificates by City and Guilds of the U.K. (Training was also provided to 973 men in construction-related skills such as carpentry, masonry, plumbing & welding).

Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA)

It implemented the Baagay Khazana' project. The project located at â€-Bagh-e-Zanana', Kabul has trained 1000 women in livelihood options such as Garments, Food processing and Eco regeneration. The Afghan women received training for skill development and capacity building along with other income generating activities.

'Hand in Hand' (HH) (Das te Badast):

HH has been working in the Balkh and Badakshan provinces of northern Afghanistan. This is a project aimed at creating livelihood options through microfinance and enterprise development. It works towards community participation by creating Savings Credit Group. The government of India supported this project by giving soft loans without interest to the community complying with the Islamic law.

Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR)

It provides scholarships for university education: During the past four years (2006-2010) 146 Afghan girls were awarded ICCR scholarships for higher studies in Indian universities. In the current year (2010), 74 girls have been recommended for scholarships.

Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC), Ministry of External Affairs

From 2008 to 2010, 78 women officials working in various government ministries were deputed to India under the ITEC scheme for short term technical training programmes.

Training Courses Imparted in India with Funding from Other Donors and Facilitated by the Indian Embassy

From 2008 to 2010, around 100 women officials have attended various courses in India funded by donors such as USAID, GTZ, the Dutch government, UNDP, etc. Some of the programme include:

Training 22 senior women leaders from different provinces in a USAID-funded programme at the Institute of Government Accounts and Finance (INGAF), New Delhi from 5-13 April 2010. The programme included lectures, case studies and experience sharing with eminent Indian women parliamentarians, academicians, policy makers/analysts, women film makers, media experts and social activists.

Participation of 16 Afghan women in the Institute of Government Accounts and Finance (INGAF), New Delhi in a workshop on Leadership and Change Managementâ€- funded by German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), Gender Mainstreaming Office, Kabul from 3-9 May 2010.

Indian Embassy in collaboration with USAID has facilitating a special programme for 17 Afghan women officials in leadership and management in ending May/June 2010 at the Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad.

Capacity for the Afghan Public Service (CAP) Project

In partnership with UNDP, India provided services of 30 Indian civil servants from 2007 to 2009to work as advisors/coaches in various Afghan line ministries (currently there are only four-including one woman officer). One of the Indian women officials under CAP took the initiative to prepare a 'Gender Mainstreaming Strategy for Afghanistan', which was presented at a "Gender Sensitization Workshop" held by UNDP/CAP on 23 November, 2008. It was attended by a large number of international and national coaches from central ministries and sub-national government offices. The Indo-Afghan foundation organizes regular seminars and conferences. A seminar on 'Women between modernity and tradition in India and Afghanistan' was organized from 30th June to 1st July, 2009 in Kabul by the India-Afghanistan Foundation in partnership with the Ministry of Women's Affairs, Government of Afghanistan. However execution of projects becomes extremely tough with sudden outbursts of terrorist attacks and suicide bombers especially targeting the Indians. Such attacks are mostly induced by external factors but nonetheless leaving a deep impact on the Indian personnel working in the area. However the Indian reconstruction measures in Afghanistan has created considerable commotion and speculation. The think tanks in India and strategic experts have generated an intense debate about the vulnerable security system and whether it is worth all the risk that the Indian projects and personnel face in that country.

Indian Involvement in Security

The involvement of India in the security sector of Afghanistan is to be understood from the stakes Pakistan has in Afghanistan. A strong ANA though is in favour of India as it provides much needed stability to the country post withdrawl of ISAF; however the same does not support Pakistan's policy towards Afghanistan. Pakistan perceives a strong ANA a threat to itself in future given the contradiction between both the nations on the issue of Durand Line. In the recent past, India had quietly sought to enhance Afghanistan's security capabilities. According to one analysis, India has provided $8 million worth of high-altitude warfare equipment to Afghanistan, shared high-ranking military advisers and helicopter technicians from its clandestine foreign intelligence and counter-espionage organization, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) [11] .

All these efforts have been made possible because of the US and ISAF military presence which has provided a security cover for India. Accordingly, the Indian involvement within the country has mostly been benign. That said, given the long history of Indo-Pakistani discord and deep-seated mistrust, India's expanded presence in the country has generated noteworthy apprehensions in Pakistan. In effect, India's policies in Afghanistan are nonthreatening. However, they are not so perceived in Islamabad.

Pakistan's Concerns

Despite its largely rebuilding role in Afghanistan, India's presence in the war torn country remains a source of much suspicion within Pakistan and especially its arrogant military establishment. To understand the Pakistani perspective on the subject it is necessary to provide some political background. Since its terrible military defeat in the 1971 war with India its military structure has been obsessed with the search for "strategic depth" in Afghanistan. Simply stated this has involved the search for a flexible Afghan regime that Pakistan could rely upon to provide the Pakistani military sanctuary in the event of a deep Indian incursion into Pakistani territory during a future conflict [12] . This argument had some authenticity until the late 1980s. However, once Pakistan had acquired nuclear deterrent, the argument about "strategic depth" lacked much substance. With its nascent nuclear weapons capabilities, Pakistan could highly ensure that Indian could no longer mount a serious conventional offensive against it. If Indian forces attacked with vigor and made significant incursions across the international border, Pakistan could always raise the prospect of the first use of nuclear weapons. Indeed the evidence from the public domain suggests that Pakistan has both declaratory as well as operational doctrines that call for a first use of nuclear weapons in the event of a war with India where it faces a significant loss of territory [13] .

Consequently, the issue of "strategic depth" is mostly a perceived justification for the quest of another goal: namely, to limit Indian presence and influence in a post-US and post-ISAF Afghanistan. From the outlook of Pakistan's military, denying India a foothold in Afghanistan would serve multiple purposes. It would avert India from gaining land access to the resource rich states of Central Asia, it would prevent it from gathering intelligence on Pakistan's western reaches and especially the restive province of Baluchistan and would also limit India's ability to exert any possible military pressure in conjunction with a future Afghan regime whose interests might be aligned with those of India. It would also at the same time facilitate Pakistan to continue its strategy of using Afghan territory to organize and train various proxy terrorist forces to use against India in general and in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir in particular. Given these facts it is hardly surprising that Pakistan has to block India from establishing a secure position within the country. Until late 2011, US policymakers had largely concurred with the Pakistan's viewpoint in attempts to moderate its concerns. Indeed, on more than one occasions, key American policymakers had publicly accepted that while India's developmental role in Afghanistan was significant, it at the same time was provoking Pakistani fears and anxieties.

The US-Pak relationship deteriorated significantly on Osama Bin Ladens killing in Abbottabad in May 2011 and when Admiral Michael Mullen, the outgoing US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated in open Senate testimony that the Haqqani network was a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI). His very frank and public assertions were probably stemmed from intelligence that linked the attack on the US Embassy and NATO Headquarters in Kabul in mid September of 2011. In the aftermath of his blunt statement the White House and the State Department went on to repair the inevitable fraying of ties with Pakistan. Despite these efforts it was evident that a rift had emerged in the US-Pakistan relationship.Encouraged by the US and its NATO allies as they prepare to retreat in 2014, India and Afghanistan are deepening their ties, to the frustration of their neighbour sandwiched in-between. According to the then Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna "We need to offer a narrative of opportunity to counter the anxiety of withdrawal, uncertainty, instability and foreign interference". The two states signed a strategic partnership in 2011, which among other things promises more Indian help in building up Afghan security forces. In effect, the next round of the age-old battle for influence in Afghanistan has begun.

Security Forces in Afghanistan

To see the present and the future involvement of Indian security forces in Afghanistan , it is important to understand the set up of the Afghan National Army (ANA).The ANA is the primary component of the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF), which includes the Afghan National Police, the Afghan Border Police, the Afghan National Civil Order Police and others small militias around the country. The Afghan National Army Air Corps formerly the Afghan Air Force is part of the ANA. Being a landlocked country, Afghanistan has no Navy. The ANA is part of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and is divided into five regional corps ,aligned with the International Security Assistance Force (IASF) regional commands and an air corps. Each corps is divided into brigades comprising three infantry kandaks (battalions) one combat support kandak and one combat service support kandak. The commando kandaks are under the tactical control of the regional corps. As of 10 April 2011, the ANA had 112,779 personnel in its ranks [14] .

At the conference, sometimes referred to as Bonn II, the ANA was assigned the following roles:

Provide security for the central government and protect the political process as defined by the constitution.

Replace every other militia and organized military force in the country.

Fight insurgents and terrorists.

Work closely with the Coalition and other international forces [15] .

The Debate

A key component of the transition and growth of the ANA is its strength which is envisaged to grow from over 1,00,000 to 2,50,000. Nevertheless, there are problems linked with its short legacy, training and other factors which considerably reduce its effectiveness. Indian Army has ample experience of peace-keeping, peace-building and reconstruction assistance all over the world under the United Nations flag. Indian Army also has abundant experience in training missions for armies all over the world. With long experience in this field and professional expertise, the Indian Army should not be found wanting in this field. It is in the realm of Indian political control that the end-objectives need to be clearly understood, steadfastly pursued even in the face of vital provocations and control delegated.

Culturally, language-wise and Indian Army ethos, it should be easier for the Indian Army to undertake these security commitments as compared to the United States and the West. Indian Army would also have the advantage of utilizing the services of many Afghan Army officers already trained at Indian Military Academies.There are however problems in thinking of military cooperation between both the countries at least in the near term and India is unlikely to play a major role in the military field in Afghanistan. Apart from region strategic considerations, India would have to carefully factor in a number of military fundamentals while undertaking an operational role in Afghanistan, if it desires to do so.

The Pakistan Army stands stung critically by the intimidating breakdown in United States-Pakistan Army relations and the United States perceived nod for the Afghanistan-India Strategic Partnership. In these two developments the Pakistan Army sees the end of its 'Grand Strategy' on Afghanistan [16] . But the Pakistan Army long used to having its way by blackmailing the United States and an India supine and powerless to retaliate against Pakistan Army terrorist attacks, is hardly expected to submit tamely to these two developments. The Pakistan Army and its ISI can be expected to step up Taliban and Haqqani group attacks in Kabul against US and Indian diplomatic presence and against Indian security presence in Afghanistan on training missions with the Afghan National Army. Till 2014 the United States Forces can be expected to shoulder the bigger load to combat Pakistani engineered attacks. It is beyond 2014 that India would have to work out contingency plans to deal independently and effectively with Taliban attacks. India would also need to work out contingency plans that in the course of this Strategic Partnership its role could be transformed from one of security assistance to peace enforcement or even combat roles as the nucleus of a larger international force under United Nations control should the Afghanistan security is worsened by Pakistan Army engineered proxy war.

Indian Involvement in Education and Culture

In the fields of education, information and social communication, India has been providing extensive support in the printing of text-books and has also provided computers and video literature in ample quantities. India has also been providing liberal facilities for students to attend courses in India. The ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) is providing 500 scholarships for undergraduate and graduate courses each year. Four Afghan women have been enrolled, on scholarship, for MBBS at the premier Lady Hardinge Medical College in Delhi. They are part of the 500 Afghan students who come to India every year on scholarships for undergraduate and graduate studies. India has also been involved in providing vocational training for Afghans in trade such as tailoring, masonry and carpentry. During Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Afghanistan in August 2005, 500 short-term Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme scholarships for Afghan nationals were announced. Both countries agreed that the initiative had great potential of contributing significantly towards skill development of the Afghan youth, which was expected to become the precursor in tackling the challenges of institution-building in Afghanistan.

Highly appreciative of the hundreds of scholars being provided to students of Afghanistan by India, Afghan Education Minister Farooq Wardak said the Karzai Administration is looking at additional resources to send more Afghan students to India as this is the need of the hour for his country [17] .He said that it would be too expensive to have Afghan students in the US for scholarship. "Also the fear is that these people would not return to Afghanistan, some of them would wish to settle here in the US. So in order to prevent that worry it is always better to train them in India, it is cost effective, it is good quality, it is easier for us because the language and culture is friendly to the people of Afghanistan and they are not stranger in India," he argued. India's role is extremely important in the development of education sector in Afghanistan, he said. . "We are very thankful to the great Indian nation," Wardak said, referring to the over USD 2 billion Indian aid to Afghanistan in the development of Afghanistan.

"This is the support that the Afghan nation considers as a very high support. There are about 2,000 students from Afghanistan who are studying in Indian universities and colleges. Another 500 Afghan students would be going very soon to India," he said. Observing that India is a country with which Afghans have a lot of similarities and cultural ties, Wardak said expectations are too high from India, the world's largest democracy."They support institution building in Afghanistan. Not only there are a number of Indians, very big number of Indians, they are recruited as advisors, as specialists, as assistants in numerous government institutions, there would be hardly any government institution where there are no Indian experts working in Afghanistan," he said. He said the President of Afghanistan from his special account allocates USD 5 million every year towards imparting education to Afghan students in India. This is in addition to the scholarships being provided by the Indian Government. [18] This highlights the scope of Indian involvement in this sector and far more needs to be done by the country.

Indian Involvement in Health

After 23 years of conflict and political instability, a collapsed economy, and three years of severe drought, Afghanistan's health system is among the very poorest in the world. Obtaining the most basic of necessities i.e food, shelter and clothing - is a constant struggle. Such exposure intensifies an already poor health situation, with acute respiratory illnesses, diarrhoeal diseases, and malnutrition killing and weakening the children of Afghanistan. There is a critical shortage of health care workers at every level. Healthcare facilities are in urgent need of restoration. There are inadequate supplies of medicines, vaccines, equipment and fuel. An estimated 6 million people have no or insufficient access to health care. Saving lives in Afghanistan depends on having health workers in the field and sufficient medical supplies, as well as food, shelter and security. But the gap in material and human resources is great. Existing health services only cover limited geographical regions and even in the districts where health services are available, needs are only partially met. The impact of the conflict and remaining deadly land mines and unexploded ordnance daily adds victims both through physical injury and mental stress, affecting every family in Afghanistan over time. Some of the facts about state of health in Afghanistan are as under-

Life expectancy rates are among the lowest in the world and 25% of children die before their fifth birthday. Lack of basic health care and malnutrition contribute to the high death rates.

Afghanistan has the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Less than 15% of deliveries are attended by trained health workers, mostly traditional birth attendants.

About half of children under five years of age are stunted due to chronic malnutrition and up to 10% have acute malnutrition.

Mental health is a major health concern. Experts estimate that approximately 30%-50% of a population undergoing violent conflict develop some level of mental distress. Residual mental health problems that appear normally in any population have been unattended in Afghanistan for decade.

Diseases that have largely been controlled in most countries in the world continue to cause death and disability in Afghanistan. More than 60% of all childhood deaths and disabilities in Afghanistan are due to respiratory infections, diarrhea, and vaccine preventable deaths, especially measles [19] .

As far as Indian involvement in the sector of Health is concerned, five Indian medical teams provide medical cover to Afghans across the country. The Indira Gandhi Hospital in Kabul, which was destroyed by the Taliban, has been reconstructed. India is also providing fortified high-protein biscuits to two million Afghan children 26 days every month, which has considerably enhanced school attendance as surveyed by the World Food Programme. India has also extended a primary health programme in Afghanistan, which has reduced female mortality at the time of childbirth. Apart from various such projects, a large number of Afghans come to India for medical treatment as per MoU signed between both the countries. However given the state of health in Afghanistan and Indian involvement in the sector presently, there is still far more what India can assist and invest in this sector.


One wonders as to where Afghanistan is headed to. The Western dialogue today is more about the way out of the 'war of necessity' as described by president Obama. After a decade long direct intrusion, the Western approach and strategy today is one of growing ennui towards the future of Afghanistan. The persistent politico-military stalemate, efficiently directed by the Pakistan-backed Taliban and their allies, has made the war increasingly unviable and flawed for the West. Whether the US would withdraw its forces from the Afghanistan Pakistan region by 2014 is not a matter of supposition anymore. The US would like to maintain some form of military presence in Afghanistan for years, beyond 2014. However, it is uncertain whether it can stabilise the country.

Meanwhile, the three critical components of the current US strategy in Afghanistan of the reconciliation process aimed at the top rebellious leadership operating from Pakistan; rebuilding of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and security transition to the ANSF by 2014 are least likely to give in the expected results. Presently, Afghanistan appears to be on the verge of entering into a prolonged phase of anarchy and violence. The whole idea of negotiating 'peace' with the Taliban leadership has emerged out of the increasing restrictions of both Kabul and the ISAF against the Taliban. The peace and reconciliation process led by Kabul and backed by the international community seems to be separating the country.

The emerging political - military dynamics, in fact, are breach up yet another chance for the Pakistani establishment to re-engineer the politics of Afghanistan. Whether the US would be able to rage the geopolitical aspirations of the Pakistani establishment remains to be seen. However, it is certain that Kabul does not have the institutional strength to withstand the shock, foreseen and/or unforeseen, of any power sharing arrangement with the hard-core Taliban leadership. Of particular unease is the plan to hand over security responsibilities to the Afghan army and police, both of which are far from being in a position to take on the Taliban assault (Haqqani group included) on their own.

For now, the year 2014 could be regarded as another turning point in the making. By then President Karzai's second (and final, as per the Afghan Constitution) presidential term would have come to an end and NATO is likely to have withdrawn bulk of its troops. If the West decides to remain engage and somehow manages to retain a limited force level in Afghanistan beyond 2014, it is not clear as to how it would help in recuperating the situation on the ground. The Taliban and their Pakistani allies feel they have ascendancy and that they can wait out the West. Even if in years to come the US/ISAF registers big functioning successes, maintains bases in parts of the country and sections of Taliban defect from the core group, the Af-Pak situation will continue to facade ideological and physical challenges to both regional and international security.

India's Position and Challenges

India has always regarded political upheavals in Afghanistan as its internal affair and has worked with the consecutive internationally recognised governments in Kabul. Even during the Taliban regime, India continued to support and work with the UN-recognised government of Burhanuddin Rabbani. After the defeat of the Taliban regime, India supported the Bonn Process and has since fully supported the Hamid Karzai led administration in Kabul. The policy challenge now is what is going to happen after 2014, when Karzai's second term as president and ISAF's extended deadline to vacate come to an end. It is not clear as to what kind of leadership or political arrangement will emerge in Afghanistan after Karzai. With the renaissance of the Taliban factor, growing differences between the West and President Karzai, draw-down in Western troop levels and Pakistan's continuing struggle to hold its influence within Afghanistan and clout in the Obama Administration's strategy towards Af-Pak, India is apparently in a fix as to how to deal with the Afghan challenge.

India has so far not been a key player or a transforming factor in the Afghan conflict. However, given its long-term security concerns, it is important for India to constantly appraise its responses and policy towards the rapidly changing scenario in Afghanistan. At the same time, India also needs to understand as to where it figures in the varied Afghan perception. India has its valid concerns about the return of the Taliban to power. India wants Afghanistan to be a strong, independent and a relatively moderate Islamic state, capable of discomforting Pakistani designs and a protection against the expanding Wahabi-Deobandi form of extremist Islam. But what if the Taliban as part of a coalition comes to power? How should India engage the new leadership? Is it possible to identify forces and constituencies within Pakistan and Afghanistan to develop an effective counter-discourse and a counter-force to the extremist ideologies as part of a patient well-engineered long-term approach to the Af-Pak challenge?

Presently, there is a huge gap in what India wants and the means (leverages) available to attain its objectives in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Despite India committing reconstruction aid worth US $2 billion, it stands increasingly marginalised in the Western strategy as well India's neighbourhood as in regional mechanisms. At the regional level, it is also important to weigh the perception of regional countries (apart from Pakistan) about India's current and prospective role and vice-versa in the Af-Pak region. How are other regional countries likely to respond to the Af-Pak challenge in years beyond 2014? As of now, responses of regional countries to the