It is surprising that not much is being said or written about the serious situation in Afghanistan. Except when the Kabul bombing of the Indian mission took place, the Indian media has not paid much attention to the ongoing war in our neighbourhood. The overwhelmingly pro-western media connives in the fiction that the “war on terror” is being valiantly waged by the US-NATO troops occupying Afghanistan and that it is in India’s interests to cooperate in this effort. That the war is going badly for the United States and NATO is now universally acknowledged. Last month, the senior most British commander in Afghanistan, Brigadier Carleton Smith, declared that the war cannot be won and that the aim should be to reduce the insurgency to a manageable level to be tackled by the Afghan army. At least 20 districts in Kandahar, Helmand and Uruzgan provinces are under the control of the Taliban. The notoriously corrupt Karzai regime ensconced in Kabul has no credibility outside the environs of the capital. The repeated massacres of civilians by US air strikes has led even president Karzai to vehemently denounce the killings of civilians. On November 5, 2008, a US air strike killed 40 civilians and wounded 28 while they were attending a wedding party in Kandahar province. Earlier, in August, a similar air bombardment had killed 30 civilians. The “collateral damage” of hundreds of civilians dying in the war waged against the Taliban has been of no concern to the Bush regime.
But the Indian government should be deeply concerned. Whenever civilians have been massacred, there were no protests or statements of regret from the UPA government. The Manmohan Singh government, in line with the strategic partnership with the United States, has fully backed the Karzai regime and sees the Afghan situation through the security prism of the US-Israel-India axis. India has become increasingly involved in supporting the Karzai government and the US-NATO project. Earlier, when the US launched its “war on terror” after 9/11, the Indian establishment saw an opportunity to weaken Pakistan’s links with Afghanistan by its increasing involvement with US approval. The US has now extended its military operations into Pakistani territory with president Bush authorising in June 2008, operations even without the permission of the Pakistani authorities. It would be exceedingly shortsighted for India to acquiesce on this expanding American interference and violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty. As far as Afghanistan is concerned, it is not the Taliban forces alone, but the strong feelings of the Afghani people against foreign occupation that should be considered.
With Barack Obama assuming the presidency, more American troops are likely to be deployed in Afghanistan. But this will only lead America further into the quagmire. Despite the best efforts of the United States and the NATO command, they have failed to persuade the major NATO powers to commit more troops in Afghanistan. Even the loyal ally, Britain baulks at the idea. Political and diplomatic steps to get out of this deadlock are also being attempted. Saudi Arabia hosted the Mecca meeting between representatives of the Taliban and the Afghanistan government in September. This is being seen as a beginning for talks between the warring sides. India cannot be oblivious of the dead end the Afghanistan war is reaching. The Americans and NATO are against involving the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in any regional moves to bring about a settlement. When the Taliban took over in 1996, India had cooperated with Russia and Iran to support the Northern Alliance. Today, it is a far cry from that. The Manmohan Singh government’s obsession with the strategic alliance with the US has precluded any working with Russia, Iran and the SCO to broaden the international and regional effort to tackle the Afghanistan situation.
From Syria to Afghanistan, India’s policy of aligning with US-Israeli interests has inflicted major damage to India’s image. The unthinking acceptance of the US designs in the war against “Islamic terrorism” will cost India heavily, just as Pakistan is paying a heavy price for it. The internal security situation and the problem of terrorism within are directly impacted by the repercussions of such a stance.
It is time for the Indian government to change its Afghan policy. India should stop dovetailing its Afghan policy to the strategic interests of the US and NATO. India should make it clear that it is for the Afghan people to choose their own government. For this, a dialogue between different sections in Afghanistan should be promoted. The Afghan people have, throughout their history, shown a fierce national feeling and hatred for foreign occupiers. India, as a country with strong historical and cultural bonds, must stress that it wants an independent and united Afghanistan, free from foreign interference.