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  • Afghanistan: Bad Options, Worse Outcomes

    The Indian policy establishment needs to start factoring into its security calculus the fallout of a Talibanised Afghanistan and eventually a Talibanised Pakistan.

    March 20, 2012

    The Perils of Strategic NCO and Tactical General

    War is a too serious a business to be left to NCOs and Generals must be involved both at the strategic and tactical levels to ensure the moral and disciplined manifestation of a professional military.

    March 15, 2012

    Rakesh Neelakandan asked: What are the strategic implications for India if Western forces leave Afghanistan?

    Vishal Chandra replies: Western forces are not going to completely withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014. Although both the US and the NATO may announce the end of combat mission and withdraw much of their conventional forces by 2014-15, they are likely to maintain some military presence even as they move into a more supportive role. The US Administration has alluded to the possibility of maintaining a strong presence of Special Forces, and continued special operations against militant/insurgent groups, in years beyond 2014. The nature and level of future Western engagement in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region would, however, depend on the strategic partnership agreement currently being negotiated by Washington and Kabul. NATO is likely to remain involved in training and funding the Afghan army and police for years beyond 2014.

    In the long run, much would depend on how effective the training and mentoring process of the Afghan army and police is; and on the level of international aid and support for the development of institutions and critical infrastructure in Afghanistan. As of now, the prospect of Taliban and other Pakistan-backed Afghan militant groups taking over Kabul or simply overrunning the country seems remote. Despite growing uncertainty over the Western mission, it is still early to be commenting on the likely situation in the region or the implications for India in the next few years. One would have to wait and see how the US deals with Pakistan as Western forces draw down, and how politics within Afghanistan evolves in the run up to the next presidential and parliamentary elections due in 2014-15.

    Ganesh Pol asked: Can you explain the 'red lines' drawn by India as talks with the Taliban, led and owned by Afghanistan, are initiated?

    Vishal Chandra replies: It is for the elected government of Afghanistan to draw the red lines or lay down terms and conditions for negotiating with the Taliban. The Afghan Government has stated that the Taliban must accept the Afghan Constitution, renounce violence and sever all ties with al Qaeda and other terrorist organisations. These three pre-conditions for an Afghan-led peace and reintegration programme were endorsed during the International Conference on Afghanistan held in London in January 2010. The Conference was attended by more than 70 countries (including India) and international organisations.

    Udhayan C C asked: India had a border with Afghanistan which is now with PoK. Why can’t we reclaim it by force?

    Priyanka Singh replies: The Wakhan Corridor in the Badakhshan province separates Afghanistan from Gilgit Baltistan in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).The corridor is approximately140 miles long and between 10-40 miles wide. Besides PoK, it shares border with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan, China, Tajiskistan and is thus of immense strategic value.

    The strategic significance of PoK cannot be denied in the present context and it is absolutely justified that India should reclaim PoK, but probably not by force. India’s stance on PoK has not been very forthcoming in the past so many years. Compulsions at the international level coupled with a rather defensive approach at the domestic level have meant that claims over PoK have not been adequately highlighted as part of the overall Kashmir issue. Hence, before we start thinking in terms of reclaiming our territory by force, a lot needs to be done on the policy front. We need to reshape and strengthen our policy on PoK which supports our legitimate claim on PoK. There is need to create awareness regarding India’s claim over PoK, not only at the international level, but also to a certain extent at the domestic level. Resorting to use of force without exploring all other possibilities would be unwarranted.

    More importantly, India’s claim on PoK should not be confined solely to strategic interests in Afghanistan. True, PoK will give India unfettered access to Afghanistan and more importantly to Central Asian markets. However, the strategic dimension should be preceded by the legal claim, which is that PoK is an integral part of India currently under illegal occupation of Pakistan.

    The Bonn II Conference on Afghanistan: A Step Forward Amidst Uncertainty

    Bonn II made it somewhat clear that there is at least an evolving discourse and a fleeting sense of realisation in Western capitals that Afghanistan cannot simply be abandoned once again.

    December 19, 2011

    Russia's Growing Afghan Re-Engagement

    The historical baggage weighing on the Russo-Afghan relationship is apparently in the process of being jettisoned. The two countries have been cautiously reaching out and engaging each other for quite some time now. Afghan President Hamid Karzai's state visit to Moscow on 20–21 January 2011 – the first by an Afghan head of state in more than two decades – could be perceived as a major step forward.

    July 2011

    The Evolving Politics of Taliban Reintegration and Reconciliation in Afghanistan

    The subject assumes significance in view of the politics evolving around the idea of negotiating peace, especially with the Taliban, as the West plans to withdraw bulk of their troops by 2014. Though often regarded as flawed, ill-timed, regressive, wobbly, dangerous and unworkable, the idea has nevertheless come to dominate the discourse on the Afghan war. However, principal Afghan opposition forces and networks operating from Pakistan continue to publicly rebuff and mock at the government's initiative.

    September 2011

    Istanbul Conference on Afghanistan: A Feeble Attempt at a Regional Solution

    It will not be fair to assess the success or failure of the Conference at this stage. The fact that there was an attempt to forge regional cooperation on Afghanistan was a positive but feeble step.

    November 04, 2011

    Rabbani Assassination: An Assertive Taliban and America’s Dilemmas

    With Burhanuddin Rabbani’s assassination, the reconciliation process with the Taliban is dead.

    September 22, 2011