The power struggles of South Asia will define the future of the terrorism in the world in the next 4-5 years. And the cards are stacked heavily against India at the moment. Despite the best efforts of Doval and Modi to counter Pakistan, the Pakistani establishment has once again aligned itself to the group which is on the ascendency when it comes to controlling the nuts and bolts of terrorism nurtured in South Asia in India’s neighborhood.
Consider the following:
- In June 2016 Obama’s administration snubs Pakistan on India’s role in Afghanistan and also holds talks between US, Afghanistan and India keeping Pakistan out. In fact, the Obama administration official tells Pakistan that “the country will not have a “bright future” unless it takes action against terror groups like Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network”
- In September and October 2016, Taliban officials held two rounds of secret talks with Afghanistan’s intelligence chief and a senior US official in Doha – where Pakistan was excluded.
- In October 2016, Senior members of the Taliban’s political commission in Qatar travelled to Pakistan to discuss with the Security establishment about the peace talks with Afghan government.
- The Quarterly report by Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) stated in October 201 that Taliban had made significant gains in Afghanistan and Afghan Army was losing its control. In fact in June, Army Gen John Nicholson has told the Obama administration that Taliban had gained in the Southern provinces of Afghanistan and now Taliban controlled more ground in that country than at any time since 2001!
- In the first week of December 2016, at the Heart of Asia summit in Amritsar, PM Modi and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani told Islamabad to end terrorism. India and Afghanistan basically cornered Pakistan on this issue without talking about Kashmir.
- At the Heart of Asia summit – Afghan President made a startling, although well known – statement saying “This is unacceptable… Some still provide sanctuary for terrorists. As a Taliban figure said recently, if they had no sanctuary in Pakistan, they wouldn’t last a month”
- On December 27 2016, Russia, China and Pakistan held meetings to create a new axis in Afghanistan where the decision was taken to have “flexible ties” with Afghan Taliban and accommodate it and “use it” as a tool against the Islamic State. India was neither invited nor would be briefed on it. In future the invitation may be given to Iran and Afghanistan but not India. Russia apparently wants to punish India for its close ties with US over the years, specially with the coming in of Modi.
- On the morning of December 29, 2016 Lala Del Souz – leader of the Sikh Community in Kunduz, Afghanistan was killed by Taliban at the behest of Pakistan – the terror games have begun!
As is obvious, the battle lines have been drawn up. Over the last 2 years, India – under PM Modi – had created a very good rapport with the Obama administration and had made a tremendous breakthrough in Afghanistan by sidelining Pakistan from any decision making in that country. A country that Pakistan has used as canon fodder! The idea was to counter the past terror related “Strategic Depth” path that Pakistan had vowed to take once US left. India was to be US proxy in Afghanistan to counter Taliban. That is why US – under Obama administration – was positing India as the “Good cop” as it were.
This was obviously something that Pakistan could not digest.
Then entered Putin and China into Afghanistan and now the tide has turned with Pakistan coming together with Russia and China to keep India out!! A coup of sorts for sure.
The battle lines in Afghanistan against Taliban are clear. The two camps are:
India + Afghanistan + Outgoing Obama Administration (US) VS Russia + China + Pakistan + Taliban
The question that is important to India obviously is: Where does Donald Trump Administration stand on this?
Here is something that gives an indication:
On the rare occasions that Mr. Trump has spoken of Afghanistan, it has usually been to state his desire to withdraw from what he has termed “a total and complete disaster.” But the most prominent member of the national security team he is assembling, Michael T. Flynn, a retired lieutenant general and former chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency who spent years focusing on the Afghan conflict, has been outspoken about his concerns that the chaos in Afghanistan may again directly threaten the United States.
“What we have to continue to do for that entire region is to reinstill confidence that we actually can help them,” General Flynn said this year. “We cannot leave this region to the likes of these multiple terrorist organizations. There is too much at stake.”
Trump’s obviously uninformed ignorance notwithstanding, Flynn’s statement is very instructive where he talks about being “engaged” and countering terrorist organizations in Afghanistan. Because, when within the US the public is presented with the choice between Taliban and ISIS – who do you think will the Trump base push the US to fight? ISIS!!
And who is supposedly fighting the ISIS in the new configuration in Afghanistan? Yes, the Russia/China/Pakistan/Taliban axis.
Of course, it is another matter that like in the past, once the “anti-ISIS fight” begins – neither Taliban nor ISIS will be gone. In fact, BOTH will thrive. Just like in the past – both Taliban and Al-Qaeda only became stronger!
That leaves India with the Afghans in a pit. Because, given the way Indian administration of PM Modi has put Pakistan in the dock, the Pakistani establishment has been itching to give it back to India for quite sometime now. If the past is any indication of the intentions and the ways of Pakistani establishment, then Afghan Taliban’s gift will be to go fight in Kashmir instead. When the last time this happened in late 1980s and early 1990s all hell had broken loose there.
In the new axis – where Trump should naturally join in (given his administration’s proclivities) – India will be negated and countered at every step.
Welcome to Afghan War redux from the 1980s – a la Reagan era nightmare. Specifically, it will mean:
- Russia, China, US and Pakistan using Taliban (yet again) to finance another Jehadi movement – this time to fight ISIS
- Pakistan to work with Taliban and ISIS – to create a much more potent terror group along with Saudi money
- India will see increased terror activities and stronger collaboration between Jehadist organizations and Maoists groups in a nightmarish scenario
- Isolation of India on the terror issue and abandonment of all US commitments to fighting terror that were done during Obama administration as Trump administration pulls out of all major global engagements relating to substantive terror battles undertaken earlier
- Russia and China to lead the new resurgence of global power with CPEC being the signature joint undertaking
- Chahabahar becomes a non-starter and ends with Iran abandoning India as it is also included in the new Russia/China/Pakistan axis and integrated into the Expanded CPEC pipeline program
This is the new scenario emerging and it does not bode well for Modi/Doval strategy and India. The way forward for India is to do to Pakistan what US did to USSR. It is on the verge of bankruptcy, what is remaining is to push it over the edge.
The stakes are high and so is the danger of terrorism. And 4 years from now, Trump would have done what Reagan had done for terrorism – become a hero for them. Election rhetoric notwithstanding.