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Russo-Indian tensions over India allowing USA examine Russian submarine

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Indo-Russian relations are deep rooted with huge transfer of Russian technology for its economic development in earlier stages of development, leading strong economic and diplomatic relations since the onset of Cold War and after that. The economic growth and financial clout India has achieved owes much to Soviet assistance in state sector. Now Indian search for western nations for the purchase of technology and terror equipments has upset Moscow which has long stopped free support and arms to third world of which India benefited the most.

Currently, Russian sells costly Nuclear plants and military equipments including nuclear submarines and more orders have been placed by New Delhi for further purchases.

An unprecedented scandal broke out between Russia and India with Moscow suspecting that New Delhi granted US Navy representatives access to the Russian nuclear submarine of Project 971i, operated by the Indian Navy since 2011. According to reports, the incident threatens to seriously complicate negotiations both on the lease of the second nuclear submarine, and on other projects in the field of military-technical cooperation between the two countries.

In pursuing its own national interest and being under the severe economic sanctions by the Western powers for its retaking of Crimea form Ukriane,  Russia does not take a stand on Indo-China tensions. After the military standoff between Chinese and Indian troops began near the Doklam plateau in June, Russia had been silent on the matter. Granted, Moscow had made few public comments about the border tensions. But so, too, had America and the EU, both of which knew that siding with one party would anger the other. However, Moscow felt that the dispute is rather balanced between China and India’s interests. The standoff eventually dissipated in August when the two nations agreed to withdraw their troops.

The Russian government, under tremendous pressure from New Delhi had tried to bring together the Indian and Chinese defense ministers for a meeting in Moscow. Beijing, however, reportedly did not show any interest in the matter. This was because India had angered China by hosting the Dalai Lama in Arunachal Pradesh, an Indian state that borders China’s “autonomous” region of Tibet. Maybe, it was an indication of Beijing’s distrust of Moscow’s real motives.

Like USA with its Asia pivot, Moscow also wants a more assertive India to counterbalance China’s growing hegemony in Asia.

India is keen to enlist the support of both USA and Russia for its efforts for ascension to having a permanent seat in a “reformed” UN Security Council, but India could not succeed as China officially opposed it. Similarly, India’s bid to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a coalition of 48 nuclear supplier countries that control the export of nuclear equipment and technology, also failed as China raised serious objections as India refuses to sign the  relevant treaty in force, not yet a signatory to the Non-Nuclear-Proliferation Treaty.

Russia sponsored India “mainly to constrain China’s growing influence in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a Eurasian security and economic bloc. Russia is concerned the post-Soviet SCO members like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan “are drifting too far into China’s geostrategic orbit.

There have been serious concerns within Moscow and New Delhi that the other party is gravitating towards their adversaries. Russia knows India wants to form closer ties to the USA and European nations. India took part in talks with Japan, America and Australia over reforming the disbanded Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, an ostensible counter-China pact that seeks to curb Beijing’s expansionism in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean.

In June, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Moscow where Putin decorated him with the Order of St Andrew, Russia’s highest state award. Xi has visited Moscow more often than any other capital since coming to power in 2012,  China’s warships engaged in the first-ever joint war games with the Russian fleet in the Baltic Sea. Russia and China “wanted to send a message to America and to audiences at home: we are united in opposing the West’s domination, and we are not afraid to show off our muscle in NATO’s backyard.”

Though it made some success in coercing USA to criticize Islamabad as the key sponsor of terrorism, New Delhi is indeed concerned about Russia’s relations with Pakistan, India’s long-time foe, which have been improving since the early 2000s. India is keen on strengthening the trilateral annual Russia-India-China (RIC) meetings to influence both the economic and technological powers but others are not much interested.

Russia, under Putin, has tried to defy a supposed unipolar global order led by America and, today, a united Europe overseen by the EU. Now, it appears, Russia is balking against a possible uni-polar Asia and Eurasia dominated by China. Supporting India, then, becomes a way for Russia to achieve this. But Western sanctions on Russia have meant it has had to move closer to China, further complicating its role as an intermediary between India and China.

Several sources in Russian state structures have confirmed that with the newspaper saying that the Indian partners have recently committed several “unfriendly acts towards Russia.” First, according to them, the US Navy delegation visited the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya (property of the Indian Navy) and Russian officials were forced to issue a note of protest. After some time, according to a high-ranking military source, the American delegation was already on board the Chakra.

The Kommersant’s source working in the military technical cooperation system, called the fact that the US Navy appeared on a Russian submarine (located on the base near Vishakhapatnam, pending repairs) outrageous. “There were well-trained technical specialists, though unlikely to get any real information,” the source said.

According to the newspaper, this whole string of incidents can have a very adverse impact on defense cooperation between the two countries, which has been successfully developing over the past five years. According to several sources, specialized Russian structures are preparing retaliatory measures against their Indian partners. “Very difficult conversations are on the horizon, we have a lot of questions,” a source said. Some who spoke to Kommersant believe that, in particular, the negotiations on leasing the second nuclear submarine, which the Indian Navy planned to obtain from Russia, will be seriously complicated.

According to Kommersant, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who intends to come to India in December with one of the largest deals on Russian arms, will have to iron out the problems that have accumulated. In addition to the Chakra issue, he must negotiate the creation of a fifth-generation fighter under an agreement which was signed back in 2007, but neither the airplane’s conception nor its financial parameters have been determined yet.

 Perspectives of Indo-Russian relations

During the Cold War, India and the Soviet Union (USSR) enjoyed a strong strategic, military, economic and diplomatic relationship. After the collapse of the USSR, Russia inherited the close relationship with India, even as India improved its relations with the West after the end of the Cold War.

Traditionally, the Indo-Russian strategic partnership has been built on five major components: politics, defence, civil nuclear energy, anti-terrorism co-operation and space. These five major components were highlighted in a speech given by former Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai in Russia. However, in recent years a sixth component, economic, has grown in importance with both countries setting a target for US$30 billion in bilateral trade by 2025. In order to facilitate this target both countries are looking to develop a free trade agreement. Bilateral trade between both countries in 2012 grew by over 24%.

The powerful IRIGC is the main body that conducts affairs at the governmental level between both countries.[7] Both countries are members of many international bodies where they jointly collaborate closely on matters of shared national interest. Important examples include the UN, BRICS, G20 and SCO Russia has stated publicly that it supports India receiving a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.[9] In addition, Russia has expressed interest in joining SAARC with observer status in which India is a founding member.

India is the second largest market for the Russian defence industry. In 2004, more than 70% of the Indian Military’s hardware came from Russia, making Russia the chief supplier of defence equipment.[12] India has an embassy in Moscow and two consulates-general (in Saint Petersburg and Vladivostok). Russia has an embassy in New Delhi and four consulates-general (in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai).

According to a 2014 BBC World Service Poll, 45% of Russians view India positively, with only 9% expressing a negative view

A cordial relationship with India that began in the 1950s represented the most successful of the Soviet attempts to foster closer relations with Third World countries. The relationship began with a visit by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to the Soviet Union in June 1955 and Khrushchev’s return trip to India in the fall of 1955. While in India, Khrushchev announced that the Soviet Union supported Indian sovereignty over the disputed territory of the Kashmir region and over Portuguese coastal enclaves such as Goa

The Soviet Union gave India substantial economic and military assistance during the Khrushchev period, and by 1960 India had received more Soviet assistance than China had.[14] This disparity became another point of contention in Sino-Soviet relations. In 1962 the Soviet Union agreed to transfer technology to co-produce the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 jet fighter in India, which the Soviet Union had earlier denied to China

In 1965 the Soviet Union served successfully as peace broker between India and Pakistan after an Indian-Pakistani border war. In 1971 the former East Pakistan region initiated an effort to secede from its political union with West Pakistan. India supported the secession and, as a guarantee against possible Chinese entrance into the conflict on the side of West Pakistan, it signed with the Soviet Union the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in August 1971. In December, India entered the conflict and ensured the victory of the secessionists and the establishment of the new state of Bangladesh.

Relations between the Soviet Union and India did not suffer much during the rightist Janata Party’s coalition government in the late 1970s, although India did move to establish better economic and military relations with Western countries. To counter these efforts by India to diversify its relations, the Soviet Union proffered additional weaponry and economic assistance.

The first major political initiative, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, between India and Russia began with the Strategic Partnership signed between the two countries in 2000.

Both countries closely collaborate on matters of shared national interest these include at the UN, BRICS, G20 and SCO where India has observer status and has been asked by Russia to become a full member. Russia also strongly supports India receiving a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. In addition, Russia has vocally backed India joining the NSG and APEC. Moreover, it has also expressed interest in joining SAARC with observer status in which India is a founding member.

Russia currently is one of only two countries in the world (the other being Japan) that has a mechanism for annual ministerial-level defence reviews with India.

The Soviet Union has been an important supplier of defence equipment for several decades. Russia 68%, USA 14% and Israel 7.2% are the major arms suppliers to India (2012-2016), and India and Russia have deepened their Make in India defence manufacturing cooperation by signing agreements for the construction of naval frigates, KA-226T twin-engine utility helicopters (joint venture (JV) to make 60 in Russia and 140 in India), Brahmos cruise missile (JV with 50.5% India and 49.5% Russia) (Dec 2017 update). In December 1988, an India–Russia co-operation agreement was signed, which resulted in the sale of a multitude of defence equipment to India Now,

The co-operation is not limited to a buyer-seller relationship but includes joint research and development, training, service to service contacts, including joint exercises. In 2012, both countries signed a defence deal worth $2.9 billion during President Putin’s visit to India for the 42 new Sukhois to be produced under licence by defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics, which will add to the 230 Sukhois earlier contracted from Russia. Overall, the price tag for the 272 Sukhois – three of the over 170 inducted till now have crashed – stands at over $12 billion.

Bilateral trade between both countries is concentrated in key value chain sectors. These sectors include highly diversified segments such as machinery, electronics, aerospace, automobile, commercial shipping, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, fertilisers, apparels, precious stones, industrial metals, petroleum products, coal, high-end tea and coffee products. Bilateral trade in 2002 stood at $1.5 billion and increased by over 7 times to $11 billion in 2012 and with both governments setting a bilateral trade target of $30 billion by 2025.

Russia has stated it will co-operate with India on its “Make in India” initiative by engagement in the development of “Smart Cites”, the DMIC, the aerospace sector, the commercial nuclear sector and enhancement in manufacturing of Russian military products through co-development and co-production over $100 billion

On 7 November 2009, India signed a new nuclear deal with Russia apart from the deals that were agreed upon by the two countries earlier.[98]India and Russia are in discussion for construction of two more nuclear power units at Kudankulam. Russia has agreed to build more than 20 nuclear reactors over the next 20 years. Running until 2030, sixteen to eighteen new reactors will be constructed, with installed capacity of 1,000 MWeach. A 1,000 MW reactor costs around $2.5 billion so the deal may touch $45 billion in worth

India is currently the world’s largest cutting & polishing centre for diamonds. Both countries have agreed to streamline their bilateral trade in diamonds through reductions in regulations and tariffs. Indian oil companies have invested in the Russia’s oil sector a notable example is ONGC-Videsh which has invested over $8 billion with major stakes in oil fields such Sakhalin-1.. Both countries have discussed how to increase co-operation between their countries respective IT industries. Historically, there has been a long history of cooperation between the Soviet Union and India in space. Examples include Aryabhata it was India’s first satellite, named after an Indian astronomer of the same name.[66] It was launched by the Soviet Union on 19 April 1975.

The ongoing collaboration in the field of science & technology, under the Integrated Long-Term Programme of Co-operation (ILTP) is the largest co-operation programme in this sphere for both India and Russia.. The North–South Transport Corridor is the ship, rail, and road route for moving freight between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia. The route primarily involves moving freight from India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia via ship, rail and road. The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such  as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Bandar Abbas, Astrakhan, Bandar Anzali etc.

On international terrorism, India and Russia agree that there is no justification for terrorism- both state and non-state ones. Russia and India are going to hold a joint war game in October in Russia’s far east, close to China. Russia and India have held annual Indra exercises since 2003, but what is different this time is that it’s the first ever combined force drill. As the standoff between China and India goes on in the Doklam area and neither country shows intention to back down, Russia seems to not only hedge its bets on both sides, but also benefit from the tensions. Russia has been constantly enhancing diplomatic relations and military cooperation with China recently. In early May, during the Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing, China and Russia agreed to maintain a high level comprehensive strategic partnership and to reinforce all-round cooperation.

Other than the mega military exercises, India is going to purchase Russian weapons worth $10 billion and the negotiation has come to the final stage after the meeting mentioned above. The weapons projects include the purchase of S-400 air defense systems, the acquisition of four Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates and the acquisition of 200 Kamov 226T light utility helicopters, or LUH

Officials from both countries have discussed how to increase co-operation between their countries respective IT industries with possible joint projects in the field and closer contacts between Russian and Indian companies. The development of IT products and software has traditionally been a strong point of India. We welcome

Due to India simplifying recent visa rule changes for Russians travelling to India, the number of tourists increased by over 22%.In 2011 the Indian consulates in Moscow, Vladivostok and St. Petersburg issued 160,000 visas, an increase of over 50% compared to 2010.

Russian imports from India amounted to $3.1 billion or 1% of its overall imports, and 0.7% of India’s overall exports in 2014. The 10 major commodities exported from India to Russia were:

Due to India simplifying recent visa rule changes for Russians travelling to India, the number of tourists increased by over 22%.In 2011 the Indian consulates in Moscow, Vladivostok and St. Petersburg issued 160,000 visas, an increase of over 50% compared to 2010.

Russian imports from India amounted to $3.1 billion or 1% of its overall imports, and 0.7% of India’s overall exports in 2014. The 10 major commodities exported from India to Russia were

Both governments have long viewed their bilateral trade well below its optimal potential, with the only long term way of rectifying this through having a Free trade agreement (FTA).  It is predicted once an FTA is in place bilateral trade will increase manifold, thereby significantly increasing the importance of economics in bilateral ties.

“…India-Russia relationship is one of deep friendship and mutual confidence that would not be affected by transient political trends. Russia has been a pillar of strength at difficult moments in India’s history. India will always reciprocate this support. Russia is and will remain our most important defense partner and a key partner for our energy security, both on nuclear energy and hydrocarbons.” -— Former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, about relations with Russia.

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Why Strategies of Stakeholders in Afghanistan Failing Against Taliban?

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Taliban is increasingly gaining ground in Afghanistan, on daily basis, for considerable period. US may have declared ending its military mission in Afghanistan as “Mission Accomplished on ‘Global War on Terrorism’ (GWOT)”, but in reality, its embarrassing exit will continue to haunt its reputation for a long time. With Taliban gaining territory every passing day, simultaneously imposing horrifying restrictions on captured territory as ‘Islamic traditions’ it indicates transition of GWOT into global resurgence of terror, in collusion with Pakistan. While all regional stakeholders are concerned, but watching helplessly, it is evident the strategy adopted by Taliban, assisted by Pakistan has done better than that of others, so far, unless a positive mid-course correction takes place to turn the tides. A critical analysis of strategies of each of the stakeholder is necessary to infer future possibilities.

Why US lost GWOT in Afghanistan? 

US supported by multinational forces entered GWOT, post 9/11 incident, with an aim to dislodge Taliban Regime, which sheltered al-Qaeda under Osama Bin Laden, who masterminded execution of the barbarous terrorist act in New York.  Their military aim encompassed ensuring that no terror group in Afghanistan becomes strong enough to hit their mainland again, besides eliminating Osama Bin Laden and some other terrorist leaders. Peace and Development in Afghanistan was an expected side-effect, not their main aim. To execute it, US had to depend on Pakistan for logistics chain, intelligence and boots on ground, despite full knowledge of Pakistan’s support to Taliban and other terror groups, having gainfully used services of ISI and Pakistan Army against erstwhile USSR.   

As per principles of war, had US stuck to its aim and exited after dislodging Taliban Regime, reinstating a democratically elected Government in place, eliminating Osama Bin Laden, marginalising al-Qaeda and other terror groups, it would have been a graceful exit. It stretched its aim to impractical limit, of eliminating Taliban and other Islamic terror outfits from Afghan soil, least realising that the military power by itself can’t eliminate Wahabi ideology. Finding only military solution to problem of religious fundamentalism was a strategic misjudgement. This shifted achievement of the aim of multinational forces (MNF), beyond their culmination point, operationally.

MNF was of fighting from urban bases, through technology and airpower could not eliminate Taliban from rural areas. People are centre of gravity in such operations; hence one innocent kill in collateral damage of airstrikes can lead to birth of many terrorist, strengthening ideology of fundamentalists. Battle fatigue and political considerations steered the desire of MNF to pull out. In exuberance to do so, sham peace negotiations of US with Taliban (which turned out to be an exit deal) was the next error committed by US. It legitimised Taliban as political entity from terrorist status; which led to a tired US military, fighting defensive battle against a resurged, legalised Taliban for a safe exit. 

US consistently underplayed Pakistan’s support to Sunni terrorists in the region, making it a major beneficiary of monetary help and military hardware. It is to the credit of Pakistan that it lured US to extract maximum, by encashing their expertise in terrorism, and finally helped US in defeating itself in GWOT. Now after 20 years of war, losing 2400 soldiers, more than $3 trillion, US and MNF have also lost the strategic space, bases in Pakistan, amounting to a walkover in Af-Pak region. A threat by US, not to recognise Taliban, if it takes over Afghanistan by force, forming Quad with Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, some drone strikes and evacuating informers are weak responses to mitigate embarrassment indicating its helplessness.   

Is Strategy Adopted by Taliban Superior?  

A battle hardened Taliban having learnt some lessons after losing war against MNF, managed to survive in rural areas with full support of Pakistan, hosting some of their leaders in safe sanctuaries in their country, despite claiming to fight for US and MNF. When the MNF crossed their culmination point, Taliban with Pakistan’s support started to gain ground in rural areas. Taliban encashed on the combat fatigue of US forces and its political ramifications, encouraged US Administration to talk, establishing its legitimacy as an essential actor. Pakistan’s mediation in this exercise favoured Taliban and not US, although the optics was differently narrated. Thus a rejuvenated Taliban was fighting a tired US Forces, operating from their bases avoiding rough terrain and infantry dominated operations, relying more on technology and firepower, which has serious limitations in type of terrain in area of operation. The air and drone strikes proved inadequate to prevent growing influence of Taliban. This triggered a race for strategic space in that region, with almost every neighbour (Russia, Pakistan, China through Pakistan, Iran and Qatar) organising peace talks between various stakeholders, primarily to suit their own interests.

With US Taliban Peace Deal signed and US withdrawal in progress, Taliban gained maximum strategic advantage by consolidating occupation of rural areas and then increasingly capturing various border districts to takeover crossings of Afghanistan with other countries to isolate Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF), which have numerical superiority, but are based in urban areas, having defensive mindset. With few military gains the strategic momentum of Taliban has improved and initiative is on their side. This has increased the pace of capturing territory, while their political and diplomatic wing continues with sham talks.

Taliban also encashed on urgency of US Forces to exit, by putting up demands like release of 5000 prisoners, which Afghanistan Government had to agree under US pressure. This in effect increased the numbers of fighters of Taliban. In the meantime Pakistan, increasingly under pressure from FATF, diverted over 10,000 terrorist to fight alongside Afghan Taliban, besides some professional guidance from Pakistan Army and ISI, and occasional air support. Taliban is now in a position to insert itself between important towns to isolate ANDSF, struggling with low morale, due to some surrenders.  

Taliban’s strategic aim is to get into power structure on their terms, without fighting any elections, by putting maximum pressure on negotiating table, after capturing maximum territory. That is why they are continuing with talks and offensive simultaneously. Taliban is aware that with Sharia Law tag it can never win an election (which it terms as non-Islamic governance model of West). It may not be keen to seize power by Force due to fear of being isolated, which will make it difficult for them to govern, giving rise to forces countering them within. They are aware that they don’t have mass people’s support, who have got used to democracy in last 20 years. Taliban thus finds talks and offensive simultaneously, as their best option for political solution in their favour.

All promises of Taliban leaders that it is moderate Taliban 2021 capable of meeting people’s aspirations, stand junked as ‘Shariah Law’ like curbs back in place in Taliban controlled areas. Men lose freedom to shave & smoke, forced to wear turban, women lose freedom to moving out without male companion and most disgusting is listing of single girls between 15 to 45 years, to be married to Taliban fighters as reward. Even if Taliban leaders pose moderate, their fighters will not let the leaders settle down for anything but Shariah Law.

What is Going Wrong with ANDSF Strategy?

ANDSF in numbers are two to three times more than Taliban fighters, but are low in morale, suffering a defensive mindset.  They are not venturing out of urban areas and trying to halt Taliban with less potent air power which Americans had. Over last 20 years they went into a syndrome of overdependence on foreign forces and foreign aid. The Afghan Government with fractured mandate and various groups eyeing to share power, weakened the homogeneity, as an effective establishment to govern. In military strategy, a defender can never win, but can at best delay the defeat. Operationally ANDSF are making same mistake as MNF made by trying to win by airpower and defending bases, thus leaving the initiative with Taliban. If ANDSF fights with offensive mindset, sound strategy, small gains can improve sagging morale, which can change the tide against Taliban.

China; A wild Card Entry!

Chinese strategic interest in Afghanistan includes, connectivity projects to Iran by extending CPEC to get warm water access, fill the strategic space vacated by USA and exploit mineral and other resources of Afghanistan, including share of narcotics  trade.

China, with initial hesitancy of not becoming the third power (after USSR and USA) to suffer “Graveyard of Empires” seems to have made an unprecedented move of recognising, engaging and striking a deal with Taliban by inviting its high power delegation to Tianjin, ignoring the Government of the day in Afghanistan. China hopes that it will be able to secure its security and economic interests with Taliban, which is promising no support to ETIM and inviting their investments, thus opening the window for economic exploitation, in a haste for recognition. It is interesting to see that Islamic Emirate, posing to champion Islamic cause are getting sold out to ignore atrocities to Uyghurs for the sake of power and money, or it’s a sham promise to get recognition.

This is a dangerous honeymoon, because neither Taliban is homogenous, nor Chinese have support of local population and there are many groups like ISKP, which may not buy the offer of China to ignore atrocities in Xinjiang. Taliban itself has ETIM cadres fighting for them including some commanders, who are unlikely to compromise, although they don’t mind making a sham promise for the sake of seeking international legitimacy. China may thus find that it may be much more risky to operate any transport corridor in Afghanistan, than doing so in Pakistan, where a politicised Army is involved in sustaining it with little success. Chinese however have learnt a lesson out of Russian and US debacle, therefore, despite their strategic interest they haven’t invested any large amount in Afghanistan so far, nor are they likely to do so, unless they are very sure of the viability of the next government.   

Pakistan’s Double Game: Unprecedented Opportunities and Concerns!

Pakistan’s strategic aim has always been to seek strategic depth in Afghanistan by enforcing Durand Line over friendly or weak government in Kabul, and edge out other players from Afghanistan. It has been uncomfortable with Indian presence for developmental work in Afghanistan and growing closeness between USA and India to an extent that it was propagating an unsalable narrative that India is trying to surround it from three sides. Its nexus with Taliban is quite old and its assistance to it was one of the causes of US failure in Afghanistan, as it managed to play a double game with US and Taliban. It was also an opportunity for Pakistan to send out large number of terrorists to fight alongside Afghan Taliban, whom it wanted to relocate to avoid FATF fallouts, to preserve what it terms them as their ‘Strategic assets’ to be used elsewhere later.

The opportunity is also marred with some serious concerns. Taliban in power never compromised on Durand Line and their stance in future is likely to be similar. Taliban also has many groups within including TTP, which will also get stronger to strike Pakistan, as power of Taliban grows. Innumerable refugees outflow along with some inimical terror groups is also a concern. Pakistan’s strategy of joining hands with Taliban, dumping Ghani’s Government and luring China in this strategic space has gone off well so far. It has also been successful in edging India out of Afghanistan, to some extent, with its terrorists incrementally damaging Indian built assets.  

Other Stakeholders!

All other stake holders are concerned with likelihood of export of terrorism, but are gravely short of options and leverages, as no one is keen to put boots on ground, knowing fully well that no foreign recipe of peace in Afghanistan has worked in past, nor will it work in future. Russia is concerned about export of terrorism in CAR states, where it assumes a priority right due to historical connect of USSR. It is however in no mood to burn its fingers again by any direct intervention. CAR countries are strengthening their military forces along borders to minimise export of terrorism into their countries and handle upcoming unprecedented refugee crisis, if Taliban comes to power.

The Indian Discomfort!

India has always been emphasising on Afghan led, Afghan owned, Afghan controlled, elected, democratic government and has invested tremendous amount of goodwill in people of Afghanistan and Ghani’s Government through large amount of development projects, and capacity building of various institutions, with a cumulative sunk cost of $3 billion, more than any other country in the region. India suffers from a major handicap that despite being a legal neighbour of Afghanistan, it doesn’t physically hold the common border, thus has no direct land route. This reduces the capability of India to directly influence outcomes in Afghanistan; hence it was never taken seriously by other stakeholders even during talks.

All effort by India are being made indirectly, through diplomacy and capacity building of institutions including ANDSF. The historical engagements with Taliban in past have not been positive, in the backdrop of Kandahar hijacking or Indian support to Northern Alliance; hence if Taliban comes to power it is unlikely to prioritise Indian interest over Pakistan. The Indian strategic interest include connectivity projects to CAR through Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan and prevention of export of terrorism. In this context, if Taliban comes to power, India will have to do business with Government of the day. It was known that Afghanistan was never stable in last few decades; hence Indian planners need to rethink if investment of $3 billion in an unstable country was worth the effort or otherwise.  

What Next?        

There is a need to boost the morale of Afghan Forces, with air support, military assets and maintenance of its existing damaged air assets. An offensive mindset, and sound military strategy can turn the tide in ANDSF favour. They need to focus on recapturing border crossings, utilise other non-state actors also in engaging Taliban to weaken blockades with guerrilla tactics. There is a need to create a viable countervailing force within Afghanistan, as Taliban suffers a weakness of poor population support and lesser numbers. There is a need for US to rein Pakistan in adding strength to Taliban through overt/covert means, for the sake of innocent people ladies and children of Afghanistan. History may not excuse global community, silently witnessing a democratic society being plunged into stone age governance, functioning on religious fundamentalism mode, ready to export terrorism globally.

If left to Afghan people, civil war will continue and Taliban even if in power, will also face unprecedented cycle of instability from angry population resenting Sharia law and rival groups in Afghanistan and within Taliban. Various tribes and terror groups will ensure that no single entity or  foreign player gets that strategic space exclusively. It is unlikely that China-Pakistan will find it easy to exploit the situation amidst expected instability. This will certainly have a telling effect on regional and global security situation, as Af-Pak Region will become the largest breeding ground for terrorism, with some of the terror groups again becoming strong enough to strike US, EU, China, India or CAR. Afghanistan seems to be heading for a situation where in different areas will be under influence of different entities, leaving helpless population in the hands of fundamentalists.

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India’s North East: A cauldron of resentment

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The writer is of the view that the recent clash between police force of Mizoram and Assam is not an isolated event. Similar incidents have happened in the past. They reflect that it is not hunky dory in India’s north east as BJP’s government would have us believe. New states in India were created willy-nilly pacify agitation. Yet the boundaries of the new states do not satisfy the people of the new states fully. They are a simmering cauldron of resentment against India’s central government. They love their traditions more than monolithic Hindutva. s

On July 10, 2021, five Assamese policemen were killed while proceeding towards Varengate (outsider gate). Amid fiery statements of chief ministers of Assam and Mizoram, police officials and politicians, it appeared that the two states would launch a full-fledged war against one another. This was not the first incident of its kind. There had been similar clashes in the past (1979, 1985 at Mirapani where 42 persons were burnt alive and 2014 clash).

Crux of the problem

Hasty creation of states to deal with separatism

When India came into being, many of it states were in grip of insurgencies. To pacify the separatist movements India hastily bowed to demand for creation of new states by reorganising the existing territories of bigger states. Many northeastern states were carved out of the state of Assam. Under the Indian constitution, secession is an offence but a new state could be created through reorganistion of the bigger state. Mizoram and Nagaland were created in haste to meet insurgents’ demand for greater self-representation.

Northeastern frontier Agency was converted into Arunachal Pradesh after the fall of Dacca. Indira Gandhi hoped that China would remain a silent spectator to her initiative as it did while East Pakistan was seceded through intervention in East Pakistan.

Linguistic states of Maharashtra and Gujarat were created mainly owing to agitation by Marathi and Gujarati speaking populations of Bombay.

In 1960, the Indian government accepted the Naga tribes’ demand for a separate state. Three districts of the state of Assam were detached from Assam to create Nagaland. It had no railway station or airport. So Dmapur also was truncated from Assam and included in Nagaland. The Dima Kachhari tribe that mostly inhabited Dimapur resented this decision. Any how the city is now a throbbing commercial centre.

In 1966, the state of Punjab was divided to create the hind-speaking state of Haryana. In 1971 Himachal Pradesh was created. Then in early 1970s, three new states were created: Jharkhand out of Bihar, Chhattisgarh out of Madhya Pradesh, and Uttaranchal out of Utter Pradesh. In 2014, Talangana was created out of Andhra Pradesh.

Nagaling (Naga homeland)

The Naga consider that the demarcation of their state is repugnant to demarcation done in 1875 by the British government. Their concept of Nagaland extends up to Nepal.

Citizenship Amendment Act and the national Register of Citizenship

These two laws are abhorred in many states of the North East.

Concluding remarks

The pitched battle between the Mizo and Assamese policemen exposed India’s “myth of unity in diversity”. Like the British rulers, India is holding together its union of states by use of brutal force and draconian laws. However sub-surface against the Indian government persists. Obviously people cherish their tradition culture and religions more than monolithic Hindutva. The BJP has set up a north East Democratic Alliance to forestall disputes between the northeastern states. This body utterly failed to predict or prevent the recent Mizo-Assam clash.

India understood that if the erstwhile East Pakistan supported the insurgencies in the North east, it will be impossible for India to keep them within Indian fold. As such, India aided and abetted insurgency in East Pakistan.

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Pakistani PM’s Interview with PBS News Hours on Afghanistan Issues

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In an interview with PBS News Hour, host Judy Woodruff asked PM Imran Khan multiple questions about Pakistan’s point of view for Afghanistan and its relationship with the United States.

When she asked the PM about his assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, he said that Washington had really messed up the situation in Afghanistan. The US military failure is causing mess-ups in Afghanistan. “First of all, they tried to look for a military solution in Afghanistan when there was never one. And people like me, who know the history of Afghanistan and kept saying there isn’t a military solution, were called anti-American. I was called Taliban Khan,” said PM Imran. But now the US, after spending trillions of Dollars, sacrificing thousands of servicemen, and killing millions of innocent Afghans, destroying Afghanistan infrastructure, and damaging the whole country, realized that it is un-win able and withdrawing its troops in hap-hazard, causing a huge mess-up.

PM Imran also shared that despite the US being in Afghanistan for 20 years and 46 nations’ strong allied forces up to 150,000 troops, he does not know what the US objective was in the country. Only the destruction of a country, killing human beings, is beyond understanding.

“I don’t know what the objective was in Afghanistan, whether there was to have some nation-building, democracy, or liberate the women. Whatever the cause was, the way they went about it was never going to be the solution,” said PM Imran.

While the US is facing tremendous unrest and the civil war-like situation at home and yet wanted to interfere in other domestic issues. Beyond understanding!

He also lamented the way the US dealt with this solution. The PM explained that when the NATO forces had decided that there was no military solution, the bargaining power they had was gone.

“When they finally decided there is no military solution, unfortunately, the bargaining power of the American or NATO forces had gone,” said PM Imran. He added that the US should have gone for a political solution when 150,000 NATO troops were in Afghanistan.

“Once they had reduced the troops to barely 10,000, and when they gave the exit date, Taliban thought they had won,” said PM Imran. He added that it is difficult right now to ask the group to compromise or “force them” to take a political solution. “It’s tough to force them into a political solution because they [Taliban] think that they won,” said PM Imran.

PM rejects claims of Taliban sanctuaries.

The anchor also asked PM Imran about claims of Taliban sanctuaries being present in Pakistan and a report about 10,000 fighters crossing the border to help the group in Afghanistan.

“Judy, for a start, this 10,000 Taliban, or as the Afghan govt. Says, Jihadi fighters have crossed over, is absolute nonsense. Why don’t they give us evidence of this?” he said in response.

As a matter of fact, the Afghan Government is confused and helpless. After the foreign troop’s withdrawal, they are left at the mercy of the Taliban. The US has admitted its defeat, Afghan Government as a puppet Government has also been defeated. Taliban is the winner and in a position to dictate.

To the question about the safe-havens, PM Imran wondered where the sanctuaries are located in Pakistan. In fact, Pakistan is a victim of terrorism, and the recent terrorist attack in Pakistan is planned, managed, and originated from Afghanistan. Pakistan has provided irrefutable evidence on several occasions.

The premier explained that Pakistan is hosting three million refugees, Pashtuns, the same ethnic group as the Taliban. He added that there are camps of 500,000 and 100,000 people or more. “Taliban are not some military outfit. They are normal civilians. If there are some civilians in these camps, how is Pakistan supposed to hunt these people down? How can you call them sanctuaries?” asked PM Imran.

The host had thrown this question to a follow-up on Washington and other organizations’ claims that Pakistan has helped the Afghan Taliban. The PM had told the host that the allegations were unfair and told her the history of the conflict. He explained that Pakistan had nothing to do with the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in New York. The premier said that Al Qaeda was based in Afghanistan, and no Pakistani was involved in the attack. “There were no militant Taliban in Pakistan, and no Pakistani was involved,” said PM Imran. He added that when Pakistan decided to join the US war on terror, the country was devastated as it lost 70,000 of its citizens, and $150 billion was lost in the economy.

Pakistan’s good and bad outcomes for Afghanistan

The host had also asked the PM about Pakistan’s good and bad outcomes for the Afghanistan conflict. PM Imran told the host that the good outcome for Islamabad would be if an inclusive government with all factions, including the Taliban, is formed in Afghanistan. He added that the worst situation for Pakistan would be a “protracted civil war” in Afghanistan.

In such a scenario, the PM said Islamabad would face two problems, firstly, of refugees, and secondly, the country fears that Pashtuns within Pakistan would be drawn to the conflict.

“What we fear is that a protracted civil war would bring more refugees, and you know our economic situation is not such that we can have another influx,” said the PM.

“Secondly, the worry is that the civil war will flow into Pakistan because Taliban are ethnic Pashtuns. Now there are more Pashtuns on our side of the border than in Afghanistan. And so the worry is if this goes on, the Pashtuns on our side will be drawn into it, and that is also the last thing we want,” said PM Imran.

US bases will make Pakistan a target: PM.

The PM also shared that having a US military presence in Pakistan would make the country a target. He told Woodruff that when Pakistan joined the war on terror, it lost 70,000 people and was on the verge of bankruptcy. “We do not have the capacity to have any more fighting within our border or any terrorism within our country,” said the PM. He reminded that at the height of the war on terror, there were suicide bombings taking place all over the country, and businesses and tourism had collapsed.

“If there is a conflict going on in Afghanistan and there are bases in Pakistan, we then become targets, and we will then become part of a conflict,” said PM Imran. The premier said that Pakistan wants to partner with the US in peace but not in conflict. He added that the last relationship between Islamabad and Washington was transactional. “Pakistan was more like a hired gun. The US says we gave you aid, and that’s why you were fighting this so-called war on terror,” said PM Imran. He added that the aid given by the US was “minuscule” compared to the cost of Pakistan’s participation in the conflict.

‘Afghanistan in this situation because of US military failure.’

PM Imran told the host that Pakistan could not do much if the Taliban take over Afghanistan as the military solution has already failed. “What are we supposed to do about it? Here was the US for two decades in Afghanistan trying to force a military solution. The reason why we are in this position now is that the military solution failed,” said PM Imran.

The premier repeated that the best choice that everyone has is that somehow a political settlement emerges in Afghanistan. He added that the Taliban sitting down with the Ashraf Ghani government to form an inclusive government was the best choice.

“Absolutely, there is nothing more we can do except push them as much as we can for a political settlement – that’s all,” the PM said when asked if Pakistan was willing to accept a Taliban government in Afghanistan. However, he said that all Pakistan could pray that the people of Afghanistan decide what Government they wish to have, “As far as Pakistan is concerned, we have done what we can,” said PM Imran.

It is well understood that the Taliban have won the war, and it is time to rule the country. The US has negotiated with the Taliban and recognized them as the actual power of pillar and real owner of Afghanistan. It is a practice that the winner will dictate the defeated ones. It is proved that the unholy and biased media projecting Taliban as terrorists, insurgents, and illegal outfits were right people and were freedom fighters and opposed their homeland’s foreign occupation. Suppose the Taliban were so bad, how the US negotiated with them and signed a peace agreement with them. It is indirectly recognition of the Taliban as legitimate rulers of the country.

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