Located in Kabul, Afghanistan, CAPS is an independent, research centre that strives to conduct action-oriented research which will influence policy-makers. It works diligently towards building local capacity to produce conflict and threat assessments that will influence the safety and security of the people serving the governments, and international aid organizations.
Jun 08, 2009
The Afghanistan-Pakistan jigsaw
Global politics is a game ofprobability and flexibility. Till the 9/11 destruction of the World TradeCenter, India was a local player. With the emergence of global terrorism, worldconflict is at our doorstep.
Our nation was born in the middleof the Cold War. The failure of Pakistanto develop as a democratic state lies in its involvement in the Cold War. Ithas now produced the Taliban. Almost all frontline states in the Cold War havehad unstable or autocratic governments. As for China, we could have globalised theTibetan problem by raising it in the United Nations but we actually preventedit. A debate on the issue tabled by El Salvadorin the General Assembly was withdrawn at India’s request. Standing in Gyantsein front of the Palchoi monastery, the seat of the Panchen Lama, I thought thatPanchen Lama helped Chinatake over Tibetand we gave asylum to the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan government-in-exile when theworld did not care. That was greatness but not politics. In foreign policystrategy, ideology has to be matched with the nation’s interest.
Indian Communists are rigid inworld affairs because of a stagnant ideology. That ideology has never risenabove national interests in Communist countries. Russia,China and Vietnam foughtbitter wars between them.
Those who are blinded by historyare incapable of taking correct decisions. History should provide knowledge,not bias. Would it have been better if we had a friendly Pakistan on ourwestern border? The answer is obviously “yes”. That must make us wonder ifthere is anything we can do about it, not now but if such a situation arises?Things change in this world; one should anticipate changes.
Who are the Pakistani Taliban?They are mostly Pashtu-speaking people in the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Before partition, theywere our friends. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, the Badshah Khan or Frontier Gandhi,was a staunch opponent of partition and supported the Congress. Wali Khan, hisson reconstructed the history of that era after spending years in Pakistanijails. Pakistandecimated that generation of Khidai Khidmadgars. Later, they were worried aboutDaoud Khan’s intentions for a Pashtunistan or Pakhtoonistan.
After the end of the monarchy ofKing Zahir Shah in Afghanistanin 1973, the Marxist PDPA party gained strength. Zahir Shah’s prime minister,Daoud Khan, captured power. He was assassinated in 1978 and Nur Muhammed Tarakiof the PDPA became President. Factional struggles split the party and attemptedsocial reforms produced rebellion. Taraki was killed and Hafizullah Amincaptured power. Rebellion spread and the CIA stepped in with training, armssupply and propaganda against the ‘godless’ Marxist regime with the aim ofdragging the Russian army to their Vietnam. The CIA’s proxy warthrough Pakistan, helped by China,succeeded in bringing in the Russians.
The Soviet army entered in 1979,a slow trickle at first, progressively increasing in numbers and force. Themujahideens were helped by the ISI and the Special Services Group of Pakistan. Thepump-priming by the American dollar inflated Pakistan’s economy and intensifiedthe war. In 1989, the Soviet army retreated back to Russia. Najibullah’s Marxistgovernment survived for a short time and then the mujahideens captured power.
The Afghans and Pathans arefiercely independent people devoted to Islam but generous and large-hearted.The British lost two wars against them and then realised it was better tobefriend them and through a treaty made Afghanistan secure against theRussian advance. The Americans used these people against Russia and thenforgot them in a land decimated by war. Flourishing orchards became the fieldfor poppy cultivation.
During the war many Islamicmercenaries, Arabs and Central Asians joined the Afghans - the so-called ArabAfghans. One of them was a young Saudi named Osama bin Laden. The Islamists,who fought, believed that they were responsible for the fall of the Soviet Union. Osama even asserted that the credit for“the collapse of the Soviet Union ~ goes to God and the mujahideen inAfghanistan - the US had no mentionable role,” but “collapse made the US morehaughty and arrogant.” This led to the emergence of a large mercenary force.
Osama and al-Zawahiri are thecreations of the Arab-Israeli conflict. They were against the Egypt-Israelpact. Pakistanhas used terrorists over the years to receive aid without developing its owneconomy. The society has been corrupted by bribe since birth.
India has no role in this conflictbut we are getting involved. We are being advised to be kind to Pakistan sothat they can redeploy their army in the east. But that is a hoax; terrorism isprofitable to the leadership of Pakistan.Our agenda is to contain infiltration in Jammuand Kashmir. But the Taliban have free access to Pakistan territory and have virtual control overBaluchistan, Peshawarand NWFP. They are progressing in the north and came to Buner and close to Pakistan’snuclear installations. Following Hilary Clinton’s address to Congress, Pakistan’srulers ‘drove’ the Taliban away from Buner in return for billions of dollars.
The American push in Afghanistan has pushed the mixed Taliban to theeast and Pakistanis
using them to earn money andarms. But that game will not last long or else the structure of terrorism maychange with access to nuclear arsenal regardless of whether Osama is alive ordead.
The Nato army has so farsucceeded in keeping areas around big cities under control, but for how long?It is the same old story. The Karzai government has taken lessons from the pastand is slow in pushing reforms. Americacould have helped development when the Soviets left.
There is already a de factoPashtunistan in Baluchistan and NorthWest Frontier Province. The refugees from the Swatvalley are the same people as the fighters. Would paying Pakistan helpthe development of Pashtu-speaking people? If that had happened the entire areatoday would not have been one united terrorist territory.
The social situation on bothsides of the Pak-Afghan border is similar and hence the unity. To the Americans,the people of Asia have been a facelessmultitude. They are not conscious of cultural barriers within and instead oftaking advantage of that like the British did as colonial rulers, they breakdown the barriers by force and unite terrorists.
Americavaguely considered the possibility of a Pashtu state at one time but was afraidof the Russians approaching the Indian Ocean.That fear has gone and now there is the fear of China. But they have other optionssuch as access from Central Asia. They canfind another Ahmad Shah Massoud to prevent that. Very few people know that thisTajik warlord, supporter of western style democracy and used for blocking theRussians, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 but was assassinatedbefore that.
In this jigsaw, India’s onlyoption is to be a close observer. The British sent ‘advisers’ to what is nowTaliban land and Central Asia. Let us hope wealso have watchers around and a sensible government in Delhi.
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