India’s Policy Thinking About Its Security Objectives in Afghanistan Needs Reimagination
Afghanistan features high on India’s national security radar, and has direct and indirect repercussions on Indian interests. India dreads an Afghan government not in control of its territory, allowing extremist militias to make up the supply side of the insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir. Its secondary interest lies in undercutting Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan by virtue of the Taliban and Haqqani Network militant outfits, and thereby Pakistan’s ability to shape the end-state of the political organism in Afghanistan.
India’s only pathway to achieve its security goals has been reliant on its developmental and humanitarian assistance to cultivate goodwill within the masses and the political community. However this goodwill hasn’t necessarily translated into leverage or capacity to influence outcomes in the security sphere. This capacity is as much limited by lack of cost-effective direct access to Afghanistan territory as it is by choice. Within the strategic community in India the view that holds traction is that putting boots on the ground is neither possible nor advisable.
Its limited military assistance has involved transfer of four military helicopters and training imparted to Afghan Security Forces (ASF). India believes that given the current state of the conflict in Afghanistan, in which United States and other international actors have not been able to stabilize the security situation, pooling in resources is an exercise in futility. However the current policy is essentially a hands-off approach to a conflict that involves no risks and therefore no gains. India’s strategy for Afghanistan must change to hedge against emergence of alternative end-state possibilities, which could either involve lethal military assistance or directly engaging Taliban.
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Image: "PM Modi with Afghanistan President Ashra" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by narendramodiofficial