India and Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan

Source: The Express Tribune
Author: M. Hassan Khan

For the last decade or so, the global community has been fighting a war in Afghanistan which has its roots originating from the Soviet-Afghan war of the 1980s. The current war has various stakeholders involved who are vying for greater influence in the region which also includes South Asian arch rivals India and Pakistan.

On a historical note, the American and Pakistani leadership of the 1980s sought to eradicate the USSR’s geo-strategic agenda in Afghanistan by training large numbers of local and foreign militants in the name of ‘Islamic jihad’. These militants were indirectly funded and trained by the CIA and the ISI under ‘Operation Cyclone’.

India, being Pakistan’s natural enemy, provided logistic support to the USSR, and also carried out various espionage operations against it through its external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). However, in the post 9/11 world, the geo-politics of the region drastically changed due to the ongoing war on terror against the same militants who were trained in the 1980s.

When the Taliban rose to power in Afghanistan in 1996, the only three countries which officially endorsed it were Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. All the planning which was necessary to bring the Taliban in control was conducted by army officials under the supervision of the ISI and late Interior Minister and PPP leader Major General (r) Naseerullah Babar.

Pakistan’s political aim was to maintain Afghanistan as a satellite state to secure the western border. However, the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States changed the dynamics of global politics; the Bush administration decided to launch a full scale invasion of Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 to topple the Taliban regime which had allegedly provided safe haven to Osama bin Laden.

A number of countries, which included Pakistan’s military rule under Musharraf, along with Afghan rebel leaders from the Northern Alliance consisting of Uzbek, Tajik and Hazara communities, later joined the offensive to topple Mullah Omar’s regime to install a Western oriented democracy under Hamid Karzai. This was the best time for India to jump into Afghan affairs as Karzai was considered a trustworthy ally.

The economic interests of India and Pakistan in Afghanistan are similar, but they differ as far as handling security affairs are concerned.

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