US SEEKS INDIAN HELP IN ‘KEEPING AN EYE’ ON PAKISTAN

That is what Nikky Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, said while addressing an event. She pressed on making Pakistan accountable for its acts, demanding more from India’s neighbour. Pakistan has received billions of US dollars in the name of assisting the US in its fight against terror or to check the designs of the erstwhile USSR in the region.

But at the same time, it has harboured terror outfits that, apart from doing their routine drill – trying to destabilize and bleed India, something that makes them dear to the ruling Pakistani elite – now threaten and attack US interests, be it in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

A fact for which the US has been warning Pakistan for past some years, especially after Afghanistan based terror outfit Haqqani network was given safe haven by Pakistan and Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was found and killed in the country.

And the last two instalments of the US military aid to Pakistan, tied to its action against the Haqqanis, was stopped Pakistan couldn’t convince the US of its intent and action.

“We are really going to need India’s help in Afghanistan. They are the good neighbours and partner that we have in the region. So having them helps not only with infrastructure and the aid that they can give towards rebuilding Afghanistan, they can also help us to keep an eye on Pakistan,” Nikky Haley said while adding the elements from US President Donald Trump’s new Afghanistan and South Asia policy.

Under his government’s Afghanistan Policy, unveiled in August, Trump, among other policy changes, also announced that developing a strategic partnership with India was going to be a critical part of new US’ strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia in future.

While reiterating his stand on Pakistan being a safe haven for terrorists, he also warned Pakistan that the US would no longer be silent about Pakistan’s double-dealings and demanded that this attitude of doublespeak had to change immediately.

Trump and his administration, in fact, regularly slams Pakistan for being a terror haven and has warned if Pakistan doesn’t mend its ways then the US will be forced to withdraw Pakistan’s US ally status.

Nikky Haley repeated that again slamming Pakistan for harbouring terrorists, “Pakistan has been a partner to the US at times. We value and respect that. But we cannot tolerate this government or any other government giving safe haven to terrorists who target Americans. This new approach will require understanding and restraint from both Pakistan and India.”

©SantoshChaubey

IN HIS MAIDEN UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY SPEECH, DONALD TRUMP TARGETS TERROR SAFE HAVENS AGAIN

The article originally appeared on India Today.

US President Donald Trump, while speaking at the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, reiterated his government’s resolve to hunt down and kill terrorists wherever they are.

Reaffirming his government’s resolve to fight terrorism he said, “We must deny the terrorists safe haven, transit, funding, and any form of support for their vile and sinister ideology and we must drive them out of our nations.”

And then, in a clear warning again to nations harbouring terrorists, he said it was time to expose and hold responsible those countries who support and finance terror groups like Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Taliban and others that slaughter innocent people. Though not named here, the world clearly knows that Pakistan is indeed a safe haven for terror groups like Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

And like he had said just a week ago, speaking during the 9/11 Memorial Observance at the Pentagon, he repeated that the US and its allies were working together to crush terrorists and stop the re-emergence of safe havens.

His Afghanistan policy, that he unveiled in July, found a place in his maiden UNGA speech. He said that from now on, the US security interests will dictate the length and scope of its military operations.

While speaking on the policy last month, Trump had slammed Pakistan for being a safe haven for terrorists and had sought to increase India’s role in Afghanistan. Earlier, Modi-Trump Joint Statement in June had called Pakistan a safe haven for terrorists and the term made its way to the US Country Report on Terrorism in July.

The US is disappointed and angry over Pakistan’s double-dealings, the country that has been a major recipient of US financial aid, over $15 billion in just last five years.

While detailing his South Asia policy, Trump slammed Pakistan and warned that the US will no longer be silent about Pakistan’s double-dealings. He demanded that Pakistan’s attitude of doublespeak had to change immediately.

Pakistan was still reeling under the pressure of an increasingly demanding US to crack down on terror networks when another powerful bloc of countries, the BRICS, alluded to Pakistan to rein in the terror groups operating from its soil.

It was a double whammy for Pakistan because the censure came from a multilateral platform which had its all-weather ally China as one of founding members besides India, Russia and Brazil.

Trump’s warning again, this time from the world’s only organization with a truly global participation, the United Nations, should only add to that pressure, when he made his priorities clear in unequivocal terms that “the US will stop radical Islamic terrorism because it cannot allow it to tear up his nation, and indeed to tear up the entire world.”

©SantoshChaubey

9/11 ANNIVERSARY: DONALD TRUMP REITERATES RESOLVE TO ELIMINATE TERROR SAFE HAVENS

The article originally appeared on India Today on September 12.

Speaking during the 9/11 Memorial Observance at the Pentagon, US President Donald Trump reiterated his resolve to crack down on terror safe havens. Warning those who shelter terrorists and use terror as a policy tool, Trump warned that the “American forces were relentlessly pursuing and destroying the enemies of all civilized people, like we’d never seen before.”

Remembering the horror of the dark day when multiple terror attacks at the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania sixteen years ago left 2977 dead and changed America and the world forever giving it organized, transnational terror organizations, Trump said that his administration was ensuring that terrorists never again had a safe haven to launch attacks against America.

Terming the attack on September 11, 2001 even worse than the attack on Pearl Harbour as it targeted civilians, Trump reassured American that terrorists have nowhere to hide, “We are making plain to these savage killers that there is no dark corner beyond our reach, no sanctuary beyond our grasp, and nowhere to hide anywhere on this very large Earth.”

REMINDER TO PAKISTAN

This is yet another stinging reminder to nations like Pakistan that harbour terror groups and employ terror as state policy. Trump has named Pakistan directly, on multiple occasions.

While unveiling his government’s Afghanistan centric South Asia policy last month, he had repeated his stand about Pakistan as a safe haven for terrorists, had slammed it for supporting terrorists and had sought to increase India’s role in Afghanistan.

Earlier, Modi-Trump Joint Statement in June called Pakistan a safe haven for terrorists and the term made its way to the US Country Report on Terrorism in July. Trump’s warning to Pakistan tells how miffed he is with the country. While detailing his South Asia policy, Trump slammed Pakistan and warned that the US will no longer be silent about Pakistan’s double-dealings. He demanded that Pakistan’s attitude of doublespeak had to change immediately.

Pakistan was still reeling under the pressure of an increasingly demanding US, the only superpower of the world and a major aid provider to Pakistan, to crack down on terror networks in real and tangible terms, when another powerful bloc of countries, the BRICS, alluded to Pakistan to rein in the terror groups operating from its soil. It was a double whammy for Pakistan because the censure came from a multilateral platform which had its all weather ally China as one of founding members besides India, Russia and Brazil.

The BRICS Declaration, while directly naming Pakistan based terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, said, “Recalling the primary leading role and responsibility of states in preventing and countering terrorism, we stress the necessity to develop international cooperation, in accordance with the principles of international law, including that of sovereign equality of states and non-interference in their internal affairs.” The BRICS Summit was held in the first week of this month in China.

INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE ON PAK TERROR

Increasing international pressure on terror infrastructure in Pakistan has created a sense of panic in the country’s ruling establishment. Though they deny it, their contradicting responses confirm it. First they rejected the BRICS Declaration. Then Pakistan’s Foreign Minister admitted presence of terror groups terming then an embarrassment for his country.

While Pakistan’s Foreign Minister was being realist and honest, its army chief chose to preach the world again when he said that “if Pakistan had not done enough in the war against terror, then no country in the world had done anything.” So it didn’t come as a surprise when Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi today warned the US approach on Pakistan, cutting military aid and sanctioning Pakistani officials would be counter-productive.

©SantoshChaubey

PAKISTAN’S NATIONAL SECURITY COMMITTEE REJECTS TRUMP’S SOUTH ASIA STRATEGY

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Pakistan’s National Security Committee, headed by its prime minister and its president, leader of the opposition, state chief ministers and three services chiefs as other members, has outrightly rejected US President Donald Trump’s South Asia policy which criticised Pakistan heavily for not doing enough and promoting terrorism in Afghanistan in spite of taking US aid money in the name of cracking down on Afghan terror groups like the Haqqani Network and the Taliban operating from Pakistan.

The Pak NSC meeting was held in Islamabad today to discuss Trump’s revamped South Asia policy focusing on Afghanistan. After the meeting, Nafees Zakaria, spokesperson of Pakistan’s foreign ministry, in a series of tweets, said that the NSC outrightly rejected allegations against Pakistan adding that making Pakistan a scapegoat would not help in stabilizing Afghanistan.

NEW US POLICY ON AFGHANISTAN

Under his government’s Afghanistan Policy, Trump has announced several departures from his established stand to withdraw the US from the war-torn South Asian nation. The new US policy on Afghanistan pushes for increasing the number of US troops in Afghanistan and gives the forces free hand to handle insurgents instead of micro-managing them from the Washington. Also, developing a strategic partnership with India is going to be a critical part of new US’ strategy for South Asia in future as per the revamped policy.

Trump has also slammed Pakistan and has warned that the US will no longer be silent about Pakistan’s double-dealings. He has demanded that this Pakistan attitude of doublespeak has to change immediately.

Pakistan is naturally more pained at the prospect of a larger Indian role in Afghanistan which it sees inimical to its interests and the Pak NSC observed that India cannot be a net security provider in the South Asia region it has conflictual relationships with all its neighbours and is pursuing a policy of destabilizing Pakistan from the east and the west, a Radio Pakistan release on the meeting said.

PAKISTAN REPEATS ANTI-INDIA RANT

Repeating the anti-India rant, the Pak committee expressed deep concern at Indian policies inimical to peace in the region including interference in the internal affairs of neighbouring countries and using terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

Pakistan, it seems, is also pained at Trump’s charges of taking the US money while not being accountable for it. While unveiling his new South Asia Policy, Trump had said that “the US has been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that US is fighting.”

The NSC of Pakistan rejected this terming it misleading and instead projected Pakistan as a victim, “The claims of billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan are misleading to the extent that the reimbursements to Pakistan since 2001 only account for part of the cost of ground facilities and air corridors used by the United States for its operations in Afghanistan, rather than any financial aid or assistance.”

Well, that is a plain lie. According to a Reuters report, since 2011, Pakistan has received over $15 Billion in US aid including over $5 Billion in economic assistance.

Then contradicting itself, it went on to say that instead of any financial or material assistance, there should be understanding and recognition of Pakistan’s efforts, contributions and sacrifice of thousands of Pakistanis and claimed that Pakistan has suffered over 120 billion US dollars of economic losses due to terrorism.

Pakistan also refuted Trump’s allegations of Pakistan being a safe haven for terrorists and instead blamed Afghanistan for having safe terror havens and demanded effective and immediate US military efforts to eliminate sanctuaries harbouring terrorists and miscreants on the Afghan soil including those responsible for fomenting terror in Pakistan.

©SantoshChaubey

PEEVED AT TRUMP’S PRO INDIA BENT, CHINESE MEDIA DEFENDS PAKISTAN AND BATS FOR A GREATER CHINESE ROLE IN AFGHANISTAN

Will the US turn Afghanistan into a geopolitical bridgehead in Central Asia or work with China to build peace there?

That is a question posed by an editorial in China’s state-run publication Global Times. The editorial believes that the Afghanistan policy revamp by US President Donald Trump is a step in wrong direction.

Presenting the case for greater Chinese involvement in Afghanistan and defending Pakistan whom Trump again called a safe haven for terrorists and a duplicitous nation, the editorial says that “the US needs to enhance cooperation with China and improve ties with Pakistan to stabilize the Afghanistan situation.”

Reeking of the usual arrogance of Chinese media that threatens India with war every other day in the ongoing Doklam standoff, the editorial argues that it will be stupid on the part of the US “to abandon Pakistan and particularly short-sighted to get too close to India and drift away from Pakistan.” Pushing the Pakistani case further, it says that the US needs to respect and consider Pakistan’s interests and difficulties, and not push the latter too hard on anti-terrorism issues.

Under his government’s Afghanistan Policy, Trump has announced several departures from his established stand to withdraw the US from the war-torn South Asian nation. His emphasis is on increasing the number of US troops in Afghanistan and giving the forces free hand to handle insurgents and not micro-managing then from the Washington. And he clearly said that developing a strategic partnership with India was a critical part of US’ strategy for South Asia.

At the same time, he came down heavily on Pakistan and warned that the US would no longer be silent about Pakistan’s double-dealings and pressed that it had to change immediately. How frustrated the US is with Pakistan becomes clear with Trump’s remarks that “the US has been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that US is fighting.”

Now China is batting for that Pakistan and it tells how hollow these Chinese claims are, either in this boastful editorial about Chinese importance in Afghanistan when it has almost negligible presence there or the response of the China’s Foreign Ministry earlier which defended Pakistan saying the international community should recognize Pakistan’s efforts against terrorism.

Continuing its verbal tirade against the US, which banned some Chinese companies and individuals yesterday for their North Koreans links, the editorial says that there is nothing new in Trump’s Afghanistan policy and it ignores the complicated situation in Pakistan which cannot be handled by a single power.

The editorial accepts that the US doesn’t trust China enough but goes on to say that the US and China share common interests in Afghanistan and proposes that “Afghanistan could become a bridge for the two to expand their cooperation.” While the new US policy sees a clear strategic shift towards India, Afghanistan’s trusted partner in its reconstruction, Global Times finds no initiative on international cooperation and new thinking in Trump’s vision which it believes dangles between the approaches taken by Barack Obama and George W Bush and is aimed at maintaining the status quo.

That line of argument is in stark contrast to what Trump thinks. While detailing the policy in an address to the nation, Trump said, “One way or another, these problems will be solved – I’m a problem solver – and, in the end, we will win.” According to Trump and his aides, lengthy deliberations went into formulating the strategy after which Trump reached to a conclusion that the US could not leave Afghanistan in a state that would make it a breeding ground for terror outfits quoting the example of Iraq where a US withdrawal saw emergence of the Islamic State.

Now if the editorial calls that Afghan policy of the US aimless, it is nothing but driven by its vested interests and anti-India streak. China doesn’t want a US military base in Afghanistan. And China doesn’t want an increased strategic presence of India in Afghanistan that can provide it a vital base overlooking China and deeper access to energy rich Central Asia and Iran.

©SantoshChaubey

WHY THE US POLICY CHANGE ON AFGHANISTAN MATTERS FOR INDIA

The article originally appeared on India Today on August 22.

As expected, US President Donald Trump has called for a greater Indian role in Afghanistan. During his address to the nation on US’ Afghanistan policy review, during which Trump made several departures from his established stand to withdraw the US from the war-torn South Asian nation like increasing the number of US troops there and giving the forces free hand to handle insurgents and not micro-managing then from the Washington, he clearly said that developing a strategic partnership with India was a critical part of US’ South Asia strategy.

His policy statement that the “India, the world’s largest democracy is a key security and economic partner of the US and it appreciates India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan and wants India to help the US more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development” is an extension to a last month report by the powerful US Senate Armed Services Committee report that advocated a trilateral arrangement between India, Afghanistan and the US. “The committee believes that the US needs to recommit to the fight in Afghanistan and that India, as a major defence partner of the US and a contributor to regional security, has a critical role to play in this effort”, the report said.

In fact, a greater Indian role in Afghanistan where it is already playing a big part in its reconstruction, will not only give India strategic advantage over its traditional rivals like Pakistan and China, but would also mean greater access to the oil and mineral rich Central Asian nations and opportunity for its industry to gain a larger share in the whole Afghanistan rebuilding business.

And this is coupled with the fact that the US review on Afghanistan has been extremely harsh on Pakistan with Trump describing Pakistan again as safe haven for terror groups. He warned that the US will no longer remain silent about it and pressed that it had to change immediately. Now that has huge implications for an increased Indian role in Afghanistan as it has been primarily Pakistan’s objection, a US ally in war on terror, that sees India’s rise in Afghanistan inimical to its interests. How frustrated the US is with Pakistan’s double-dealings becomes clear once again with Trump’s remarks that “the US has been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that US is fighting.”

INDIA’S GATEWAY TO CENTRAL ASIA

In July 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a historic visit of five Central Asian nations, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan and the main objective was ensuring India’s future energy security. For India, Afghanistan is the gateway to Central Asia and a stable Afghanistan with greater access will go a long way in fulfilling India’s objective.

GREATER LEVERAGE IN DEALING WITH TERROR GROUPS

A wider presence in Afghanistan will give India greater leverage in dealing with the terror groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State which are trying to establish their Indian footprint. There groups are currently using restive regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan as their gateway opportunity to the Indian Subcontinent.

OPPORTUNITY FOR INDIAN INDUSTRY IN AFGHANISTAN’S RECONSTRUCTION

India has played an important role in Afghanistan’s reconstruction in post Taliban era spending around $2 Billion since 2002 on development projects including its parliament building and committed another $1 Billion last year. The Indian aid basically has been in infrastructure development, health services and military equipments like bullet proof jackets and convoy vehicles. But breaking the tradition of not giving lethal military equipments in aid, it gave Afghanistan four attack helicopters last year and is also training its soldiers.

Now with the US policy change, seeking an enhanced Indian role, coupled with the fact it seeks to limit the Pakistan’s presence there, Indian companies have an opportunity to invest more in Afghanistan, especially when the US wants to win the war on terror, its longest foreign war that is on for the past 16 years, at any cost. A drastic change in the US policy to crack down on Afghan terrorists with a free hand to security forces can effectively take care of the terror menace. How big the opportunity is can be gauged from the fact that the US has spent over $100 Billion of Afghanistan reconstruction yet it is just far from producing any tangible outcome and now that Trump has made it clear that there will be no more ‘blank check’ from the US, the door is wide open.

Also, Afghanistan in future can emerge as a big push for Make in India initiative for India’s nascent defence industry as the country would need a sustained military supply to handle not only its internal terror threats but also to secure its contentious borders with Pakistan, a terror exporter that has been destabilizing Afghanistan for the past four decades.

KEEPING PAKISTANI AND CHINESE DESIGNS IN CHECK

If Pakistan has used Afghanistan as its junkyard to push terrorists there to maintain its hegemony and export them to India at the same time, China, too, has been trying to increase its influence there owing to Afghanistan’s geographical advantage but so far has failed. A stable Afghanistan, which is fiercely against Pakistan, can in fact give India strategic advantage by providing a valuable military base in future, overlooking both Pakistan and China. It is important for India as reports indicate that China is going to establish its military base in Pakistan, most probably at the Gwadar port in India’s backyard.

©SantoshChaubey

WHY AFGHANISTAN MATTERS FOR INDIA

KEEPING PAKISTANI DESIGNS IN CHECK

PAKISTAN CONSIDERS AFGHANISTAN ITS BACKYARD

HAS TRADITIONALLY USED THE COUNTRY TO PUSH FOREIGN TERRORISTS IN JAMMU & KASHMIR WITH PAKISTAN SPONSORED TALIBAN GOVERNMENT THERE TILL DECEMBER 2001

NIPPING IN BUD A POTENTIAL FRONT FOR THE CHINESE THREAT

A STRATEGIC DEFENCE PARTNERSHIP MAY PROVIDE INDIA WITH A DEEP PRESENCE ENCIRCLING CHINA AND PAKISTAN

INDIA WILL HAVE GREATER LEVERAGE IN DEALING WITH TERROR GROUPS LIKE ISIS AND AL QAEDA THAT ARE TRYING TO ESTABLISH THEIR INDIAN FOOTPRINT

THESE GROUPS ARE CURRENTLY USING RESTIVE REGIONS OF PAKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN AS THEIR GATEWAY OPPORTUNITY TO THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT

INDIA’S GATEWAY TO RESOURCE RICH CENTRAL ASIA, ESPECIALLY AFTER PRIME MINISTER’S FOCUS ON CENTRAL ASIAN NATIONS FOR INDIA’S ENERGY SECURITY NEEDS

MAJOR OPPORTUNITY FOR INDIAN INDUSTRY IN AFGHANISTAN’S RECONSTRUCTION

AFGHANISTAN OF FUTURE MAY BE A BIG PUSH FOR THE MAKE IN INDIA INITIATIVE OF INDIA’S DEFENCE INDUSTRY

©SantoshChaubey

DONALD TRUMP’S AFGHANISTAN POLICY REVIEW TODAY. WILL US PICK A LARGER ROLE FOR INDIA?

The article originally appeared on India Today.

According to the White House, US President Donald Trump is holding his much awaited South Asia strategy review focused on Afghanistan today at his country retreat Camp David in Maryland. In attendance will be US Vice-President Mike Pence, US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and the US National Security Team.

The inter agency exercise aimed at redrawing US’ Afghanistan strategy includes inputs from the US State and Defence departments. An earlier plan by US Defence Secretary James Mattis and H.R. McMaster to increase the number of US troops in Afghanistan was rejected by Trump.

The plan sought to send around 5000 more US troops to the South Asian nation. The US has currently 9000 troops stationed in Afghanistan in its longest war in history that began in 2001. Reportedly, Trump has conveyed to his lieutenants that the US is not winning in Afghanistan and he might go for a radical revamp of the US policy there.

THE AIM OF THE INTER AGENCY EXERCISE

The exercise is also aimed at incorporating regional perspective to the whole Afghan issue. To explore the possibilities, the Trump administration had sent its top diplomat Alice Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs and Acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, earlier this month to India and Pakistan.

India also hosted other senior US State Department, Pentagon and US Security Council officials including Lisa Curtis and Cara Abercrombie during an event organized the MEA and a think tank.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S PRO-INDIA BENT

Given the Trump administration’s pro-India bent, India may emerge as an instrumental player in Afghanistan with US policy change and it happens so, it will certainly be a humiliating setback for Pakistan which sees India’s increasing influence in Afghanistan inimical to its interests and has linked peace efforts in Kabul to Kashmir something that India has completely ruled out. What also goes against Pakistan is the fact that it doesn’t hold good relations with Afghanistan’s ruling establishment and is fast losing its credibility in Washington as well.

That India is on the US radar become clear from the fact that the all powerful US Senate Armed Services Committee has strongly advocated for a strong Indian role in Afghanistan. “The committee believes that the US needs to recommit to the fight in Afghanistan and that India, as a major defence partner of the US and a contributor to regional security, has a critical role to play in this effort”, the committee report last month.

Also, the review meeting is going to be held in the backdrop of pro India and anti Pakistan developments in the US. Trump called Prime Minister Narendra Modi to wish India on its Independence Day while he didn’t extend the courtesy to Pakistan, its so-called ally in the war on terror.

SALAHUDDIN A GLOBAL TERRORIST, HIZBUL A TERRORIST OUTFIT

Then the US first termed Syed Salahuddin a global terrorist in June and then declared his ISI supported organization Hizbul Mujahideen a terrorist outfit. Pakistani propaganda calls them freedom fighters and has termed the US action completely unjustified. Before it, the US pressure had forced Pakistan to house arrest Hafiz Saeed in January this year. And to compound Pakistan’s problems, its latest Country Report on Terrorism has called Pakistan a haven for India-centric terrorists.

Also, the US has made a part of its military assistance to Pakistan conditional to its handling of Afghan terror groups including the Haqqani Faction and it withheld the amount for this year and the last year, over $600 million, as Pakistan could not convince the US of its action against the Haqqani Faction.

INDIA, A TRUSTED FRIEND OF AFGHANISTAN

India has been a trusted friend of Afghanistan for decades and shares cultural ties with it. The Pentagon defines India as Afghanistan’s most reliable regional partner.

India has played an important role in Afghanistan’s reconstruction in post Taliban era spending around $2 Billion since 2002 on development projects including its parliament building and committed another $1 Billion last year. The Indian aid basically has been in infrastructure development, health services and military equipments like bullet proof jackets and convoy vehicles. But breaking the tradition of not giving lethal military equipments in aid, it gave Afghanistan four attack helicopters last year and is also training its soldiers.

©SantoshChaubey

LARGER ROLE FOR INDIA IN AFGHANISTAN EXPECTED IN DONALD TRUMP’S SOUTH ASIA REVIEW TODAY

US President Donald Trump is going to hold his South Asia review at his country retreat Camp David today. In attendance will be US Vice-President Mike Pence, US National Security Advisor HR McMaster and the US National Security Team.

The US South Asia strategy review basically revolves around Afghanistan and given the increasing voices in the US to take a regional approach and the Trump administration’s pro-India bent, India is expected to become an instrumental player in Afghanistan, much to the chagrin on Pakistan which see India’s increasing influence in Afghanistan inimical to its interests.

That India is on the US radar become clear from the fact that the all powerful US Senate Armed Services Committee, headed by influential lawmaker John McCain, has strongly advocated for a strong Indian role in Afghanistan. “The committee believes that the US needs to recommit to the fight in Afghanistan and that India, as a major defence partner of the US and a contributor to regional security, has a critical role to play in this effort”, the committee report last month said realizing India’s role in Afghanistan’s future, “The committee believes that timely actions by the Indian government to fill identified needs in Afghanistan would significantly benefit the short and long-term security and stability of the region.”

Also, the review meeting is going to be held in the backdrop of pro India and anti Pakistan developments in the US. Trump called Prime Minister Narendra Modi to wish India on its Independence Day while he didn’t extend the courtesy to Pakistan, its so-called ally in the war on terror.

Then the US first termed Syed Salahuddin a global terrorist in June and then declared his ISI supported organization Hizbul Mujahideen a terrorist outfit yesterday. Before it, the US pressure had already forced Pakistan to house arrest Hafiz Saeed in January this year. And to compound Pakistan’s problems, its latest Country Report on Terrorism has called Pakistan a haven for India-centric terrorists whom Pakistan patronizes as freedom fighters of Kashmir.

India has been a trusted friend of Afghanistan for decades and shares cultural ties with its South Asian neighbour. It has played an important role in Afghanistan’s reconstruction in post Taliban era spending around $2 Billion since 2002 on development projects in Afghanistan including its parliament building and committed another $1 Billion last year. The Indian aid basically has been in infrastructure development, health services and military equipments like bullet proof jackets and convoy vehicles. It is also training Afghan soldiers.

India, as a policy, did not provide lethal weaponry to countries facing internal unrest but with Afghanistan, that policy is changing now. Last year India gave four MI25 attack helicopters to Afghanistan and a positive US decision on India’s increased role in Afghanistan can see increased flow of all sorts of Indian military aid to the country, especially when Afghanistan has been seeking support for long.

We go by the report of the committee, the US, in fact, is envisaging a fairly comprehensive strategic role for India in Afghanistan. It talks of trilateral cooperation between India, the US and Afghanistan saying, “This assistance could include logistical support; joint training; combined military planning; threat analysis; intelligence, materiel, and maintenance support for Afghan National Defense and Security Forces for humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, security assistance, and any other areas deemed appropriate.”

Apart from India’s humanitarian role in Afghanistan and its strengthening ties with the US, what can also work in India’s favour is the fact that the US is miffed with Pakistan’s double-dealings.

The world knows Pakistan is the main sponsor of terror in Afghanistan. The US has made a part of its military assistance to Pakistan conditional to its handling of Afghan terror groups including the Haqqani Faction and it withheld the amount for this year and the last year, over $600 million, as it found Pakistan’s claims dubious.

Pakistan’s situation in the US has seen a new low with the inauguration of the Trump Administration. The US has always questioned Pakistan’s dubious role in its war against terror and Al Qaeda and the voices that say that Pakistan be made accountable for billions of US dollars that it receives in US assistance in the name of being a US ally in the war against terror have taken the centre-stage of the US policymaking now.

We can say the inflection point in US-Pakistan ties was US locating Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and deciding to eliminate him without involving Pakistan. That showed how deep was the US distrust of Pakistan. But Pakistan continued double-dealing the US even after that, taking US money to fight terrorists while, at the same time, letting them run amok in Afghanistan.

So much so that the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan General John F. Campbell had described the Haqqani Faction as the most capable threat to the US and coalition forces. Also, Taliban is seeing a new surge. According to different analyses, it now controls 10 per cent of the Afghan territory and 30 per cent of its people. Taliban surge is good for Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan but the US would never allow Taliban to run over Afghanistan again after spending 17 years fighting Taliban and other terror forces of the country.

©SantoshChaubey