Dr. Manan Dwivedi’s analysis of India’s geopolitical strategy in context of Afghanistan in light of a significant positive shift in policy approach under the regime of Narendra Modi led government at the Centre.
India and Afghanistan share a historical contiguity which dates back to historic antiquities. The tale of the influence of Buzhkashi travelling back to India as a sport along with the travel and times of Kabuliwala selling his merchandise to a small kid akin to his own daughter in Kabul, are snippets of a shared past before the Colonial rule’s Great Game intervened to metamorphose the Afghani nation state into a contested territory between Russia and Great Britain, the colonial conquistadors. India has never been bereft of an opportunity in the geo strategic sense but till the Mughal times, the Indian interventions in Afghani twilight zone were sparse and only military in nature. Still, both the nations now ought to reverberate with a beacon like role play for New Delhi which has to do more than mere signaling and altercasting if one utilizes the rational tools of International Relations theory.
It was surprisingly the White House which reminded India of its required intervention in the dirty war in Afghanistan in the light of the declaration by General Mackenzi of the US Central command that by April 2021, the American forces will be marching out of the Kabul’s drawbridge very effectively to culminate the longest American presence in the heady and turmoiled portals of any nation State in the larger international system. The Indian visage of being a Vshwa Guru was thwarted by the Congress Regime by not letting the Indian Diplomatic flights of much needed negotiations to take the lead in attaining a true blue ceasefire between the various Taliban factions led by Abdul Ghani Biradar and the Kabul’s political dispensation which is one of the avowed objectives of the Qatar based Doha round of negotiations in the recent past.
The Indian External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar, too, eloquently addressed the Doha round of negotiations and contended that the Peace talks between India and Afghanistan need to be Afghan led, Afghan owned and Afghan controlled. Still, what we need to strategically assimilate within our strategic and analytical selves, is the notion that India’s sequestration from the Afghan’s war zone had to bear New Delhi’s a strategic and diplomatic footprint. If India intends to extend its global overarch against the failing Pakistani State and the talloned Chinese Dragon then, the South Asian regional Nehruvian avatar has to be eschewed and the Indic imprints in Central Asia and the resource wars has to become the interest and concern for a striving New Delhi in line with its Global aspirational ambitions as a responsible Internal Regulator State par excellence. The American insistence has been responded to and the ally-hood apart from in the Quad led world polity and geo economics can find an utterance in the killing fields of Afghanistan too which has reported around eighty incidents of terrorism per week going by the contention of the SIGAR, that is, the Special Inspector General of Afghan’s Reconstruction. What needs to be reiterated is the notion and elective that India needs to move ahead in Kabul. Despite the Indian succor to the Afghan led reconstruction and development project, India needs to punch ahead commensurate with its Global perch and recently networked capacitiousness since May 2014 after decades of inertia and somnolence about the “potentialed perch” of an aspiring India.
The Modi denomination has worked in the same ameliorative direction by trespassing on the Global ramification of a few Great powers and initiating the overdrive in the Indian diplomatic cockpit with slithered in a staid and clandestinely obsessed Nehruvian age couched in communist and socialist tenors. To utilize a hyperbole, New Delhi has been powered to Global hot spots and conflict zones where as in the past as no other nation other than Pakistan could be roped in to keep peace as Blue Berets in Africa, so other Asiatic nations and New Delhi too donned the UN peacekeeping missions. But, Afghanistan’s twilight zone couched in the contrasting of incriminating self determination, never felt the Indian hand which was expected of India being the benign hegemon of the South Asian region. This happens to be a realistic perspective of India donning the hat of a Global leader which had to move beyond the centre piece of the Islamic republic of Pakistan. This “Moving ahead” by New Delhi has been assiduously achieved as far as the Indian stand point and calibered initiative in the dirty war is concerned with the chapenoring of the present day sage and wise leadership of PM Modi who is leading in listless and torrid Corona infested times. What has been initiated in Afghanistan is not a safe “Playing for keeps and mediocre approach” bordering on to staid and reactive Diplomacy but a proactive , non red taped negotioanle aspirations and interventions in the Kabul’s quagmire which will also permamnently cut down Islamabad’s and Rawalpindi’s frontline status once and for and all. The Altercasting might be too optimistic but it’s the regional and global stature where-in New Delhi has arrived as a true blue peacenik player in the new Great game. Why do they clamor that it’s a dubious back tracking on the doctrine of “ Strategic autonomy “ which has been one of the belittling perspectives in a run-of-the-Mill foreign policy process in India and south Asia hampering the attainment of a responsible and meaning laden Indian Stand point.
( The author is Faculty, IR and IO at Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi. The views expressed are personal.)