Why does India want more presence in Afghanistan?

The enemy of an enemy is always a friend. In our field of study this can be termed as a strategic partner or an ally. That is the sort of relationship India is trying to build with Afghanistan. Our next door neighbor in the West is India’s dream ‘backdoor entrance’ into Pakistan. How ideal would it be for the Indians to manipulate the Afghan-Pakistan situation to their favor by buying the Afghan loyalty and using it against their one true enemy. However, unfortunately for India, we do not live in Narnia and things are not as magically easy as they would want them to be. The situation might seem to be in favor of the Indians at present since they have managed to build cordial relations with Afghanistan but it can’t be understated that an Afghanistan minus Pakistan is not possible.

Let’s take a step back and discuss things objectively. There is no doubt about the fact that there is only one thing common amongst the otherwise divided Afghan government and that is their blame for Pakistan. They blame us for their problems. These allegations are obviously baseless but that is something to be discussed in another debate. Right now the aspect that needs to be focused on is that the Indians have no brotherly affiliation or cultural proximity with the Afghans unlike Pakistan. They are merely trying to use their land as a playground for their massacre intended for Pakistan. Undoubtedly they are smart about it as we all know strategic planning with a hint of negativity is a part of India’s skill set and they feel no shame in using it anywhere and everywhere. Their $200 million aid to be spread over the future five years is not a step to help Afghanistan stand up on its own feet in terms of education, infrastructure, health and other aspects of a state. This is actually their attempt to have a more dependent state that runs to India in all times of need. One can simply not ignore the wish of their Godfather and the Afghani’s will be no exception.

They blame Pakistan for using their land in war to gain favors from the Americans but the question is that why love India when that is exactly what they are doing as well? India is only strengthening Afghanistan up to the extent where it is stable enough to be used and manipulated against Pakistan. Yes they are investing in their institutions in the present scenario but that is only so that they can reap what they sow in the past. There is one single reason why India wants more presence in Afghanistan, to threaten Pakistan from both sides when the time comes. It seems like all of India’s military and conventional strategies seem to be revolving around Pakistan’s lack of strategic depth. Their self-declared victory bound Cold Start Doctrine and their other regional pursuits like this venture in Afghanistan all revolves around the single advantage they have and that is Pakistan’s narrow territory. What they don’t realize is that this can and will be used in our favor as well when the time demands it.

However, despite India’s wishes and hopes there are some important factors that cannot be avoided when talking about the Pak-Indo-Afghan triangle. One of the major factor here is the ethnic, cultural and religious similarities that Afghanistan and Pakistan share. The Pashtun element between the two states is very strong and although India tries its ultimate best to maneuver this situation and highlight the aspect in negative light to create a rift between the two states and their people, this is not an easy goal to achieve. Pakistan and Afghanistan go long back and where it must be admitted that there is a certain degree of bitter taste and skepticism between the two states but that is something that can be solved through dialogue and other diplomatic channels. Given all of that the only hurdle or might we say the only force stopping this from happening is the neighbor next door with rapidly growing hegemonic ambitions. They are willing to compromise the security and stability of the region to achieve their selfish desires and this is the only reason why they want more presence in Afghanistan.

Uzge A. Saleem
Uzge A. Saleem
Researcher at Strategic Vision Institute. Bachelors in defence and diplomatic studies.