New Delhi September 14 (NIA): Wednesday’s talks between visiting Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi centered on combating cross-border terrorism and economic ties between the two countries.
AP reports that Modi and Ahmadzai (also referred to as Ghani) called for an end to all sponsorship, support and sanctuaries to militants, including those who have committed violence in the two countries. Strangely, they refrained from naming Pakistan, though in the past, Pakistan has been named and accused of supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan and rebels in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
India offered fresh $1 billion in aid to Afghanistan for capacity building in areas such as education, health, agriculture, energy and infrastructure, said a joint statement by the two sides. They also signed an extradition treaty.
A report in Daily News and Analysis said on Tuesday that Ghani will be arriving in Delhi for a two visit to hold “close consultations” on key issues with Prime Minister Modi. The paper went on to say that Modi is likely to accede to Kabul’s demand for increased military assistance.
“Such interaction is the hallmark of their strategic partnership and has guided the strengthening of all-round cooperation between the two countries,” the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
Afghanistan has been demanding increased defense supplies, including lethal weapons from India, which for the first time gave four Mi-25 attack helicopters to the war-torn country last year.
According to sources, India may accede to demand and announce such assistance
Last year, Ghani had moved away from India. According to Ambassador P.Stobdan, in 2015, the dominant perception in the Indian strategic affairs community was that Ghani had not only not appreciated but had also ignored India and instead had given priority to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China and Iran
While his reasons for visiting all these countries may have been tactical, the symbolic snub to India could not be discounted , Stobdan in the journal of the Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses in New Delhi on April 28,2015.
Analysts saw Ghani’s shift of positions as being guided by a) the calculation of a Pakistan-sponsored breakthrough with the Taliban, and b) the need to convey the message that Afghanistan no longer wishes to be a battleground for an India-Pakistan proxy war.
Ghani’s shift also came amidst disappointment among many Afghans about India’s failure to grab opportunities offered by him. Ghani rescinded a request for weapon supplies from India, suggesting that he could get arms from anywhere. India’s delay in delivering these weapons was normal, and the fact was that New Delhi had firmed up with Russian companies to supply the weapons required by the Afghan National Army (ANA). Since Washington promised to support 352,000 Afghan personnel until 2017, the Indian help got even less relevant. But, to cover it up, India was expected to hand over three multi-role Cheetah helicopters to Ghani.
Many in India suspected that even India’s economic role in Afghanistan could diminish and that Ghani might review the gamut of Indian projects including the Chabahar Port linking project, iron-ore blocks, and steel plant in Hajigak.
Nor was there any prospects for the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) with India, with Kabul looking to Islamabad for military support. Commenting on this ,a Pakistani analyst wrote: “India trains Afghan forces but does not arm them…does not build houses – so a morally weak army joins the Taliban insurgents.”
Interesting observation, although what drove India to adopt such a course was respect for Pakistan’s sensitivity in the first place.
Wasteful Economic Aid
Secondly, India’s US $2 billion commitment towards economic aid to Afghanistan seemed to have been driven more by woolly ideas of ‘gaining goodwill’ rather than being based on a sound strategic assessment. India’s desire to help might have been genuine, but not everyone viewed it that way, nor had it worked that way, because politics does not necessarily work on the logic of benevolence, magnanimity or a display of riches.
Thirdly, it went alone without joining hands with other partners.In contrast, the Iranian, Russian and Chinese thinking proved smarter. This question requires serious discussion in order to avoid a repeat in the future Stobdan felt.
All likely scenarios were visible, including Pakistan gaining a leeway to thwart Indian plans. Even Russia seemed to be lending support to Pakistani efforts. Clearly, India needed to reassess its Afghan policy.
In the past, India’s Afghan policy worked albeit because of Pakistani follies. For instance, in April 1992, even the pro-Pakistan Afghan Mujahideen refused to become Islamabad’s puppet and turned to New Delhi. By 1996, even long time ISI protégé Gulbuddin Hekmatyar fell out with Pakistan to join the Rabbani group. It was indeed quite an irony when, upon becoming the new Afghan Prime Minister, Hekmatyar received a congratulatory message from his Indian counterpart. Not just that, Hekmatyar even attended India’s Independence Day celebration at the Indian Embassy in Kabul on 15 August 1996.
With the Taliban coming to power on 27 September 1996, India departed from its traditional practice of recognizing any regime that controlled Kabul. It even rebuffed the Taliban’s attempt on at least three occasions to establish contact. To be fair to them, the Taliban did not show any particular antagonism towards India.
India vowed to get the Northern Alliance back to power, but the Gujral Doctrine for better relations with Pakistan poured cold water on that plan. In May 1997, when Mazar-i-Sharif fell to the Taliban, India signalled that it would deal with whoever was in control in Kabul. The BJP, then in the opposition, stood up to criticize the government’s indecisiveness. Afghanistan also featured in the BJP’s 1989 manifesto, with Vajpayee asking for a thorough review of the policy towards that country.
India’s concerns seemed to be more on terrorism and the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba’s networks in Kunar and Nooristan.