India and the Af-Pak Geopolitical game

Last updated on Jul 14, 2009

Posted on Jul 14, 2009

There was an interview on CNN with Pakistan military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas. where he suggested several things, of which two were most significant.[1]

  • Talks are possible between U.S. and Taliban, and Pakistan can broker it
  • Pakistan wants U.S. concessions over Islamabad’s dealings with India in return

Pakistan has overtly voiced one major concern against India in Afghanistan – of how India is “brewing trouble” in Balochistan for Pakistan.  India has maintained that this is patently untrue.

Situation as it unfolds

Afghanistan/Pakistan area is in a flux right now.  The US are fighting the Afghanistan Taliban aided by Pakistan, and Pakistani army are fighting the Pakistani Taliban.  While the US is clear about who the enemy is and what it feels about it, Pakistani Army is not so lucky.    In fact, Abbas even puts it like that:

That can only happen when you have an intense, uh, negotiations and engagement only then you can understand the real difficulties of operating against those people who were the allies in the past, and in the area which were the sort of a training centers of the past.


Now that situation has reversed. It is we find these tribes on the other side, and it is difficult for their recruits or their people also to understand, why once we were allies are fighting against each other.

Now, although he is decidedly talking about the Afghan Taliban, somewhere in there – is also some reference point of Pakistan Taliban.  Why?  Because Pakistan Taliban – despite the Pakistani rhetoric IS AN offshoot of Afghanistan Taliban.  And as Muslim Khan, Taliban leader (Muslim Khan, Chief Spokesman of Tehrik-e-Taliban) has said clearly – that there is only ONE Taliban.

Some interesting points need to be remembered:

Advances against Taliban: There have been significant advances in Afghanistan and in Pakistan against the Taliban in both areas in the past few weeks.  There is a strong offensive and successes of bombings by US drones have been very apparent.
Confusion / emotional dichotomy in Pakistan: That there are two camps within Pakistan – pro-Taliban and pro-Pakistan-ONLY is pretty apparent.  There is a division within Pakistani army as well.. as is the case in the civilians.  The reconciliation between the two groups will increasingly become tougher and tougher.
Economic Deadend: Pakistan really does not have much in terms of economy and the current situation has made things even worse.

Af-Pak Policy

I think if the Af-Pak policy of the current times has to be described then the best way is that this time around, a thief has been turned up against another thief.  One thief has been asked to eliminate another.  The very thief he brought up and mentored.

What was the bane of the world – Islamic terrorism – has now become the bane of Pakistan.  The monster has been turned on internally.  Beyond the rhetoric of outside enemies, there is some element of internal soul searching occuring – honest or otherwise.  But this may lead into a direction that may be good for the world.  For example, here is a person who is advocating elimination of Madrasa Education completely in Pakistan.[2]  Something unheard of.

While common men and women are forced to look at this situation – of Taliban and Jehadis uprooting the foundation of their country – those in power, who cultivated these monsters as a means to create and perpetuate power/war/strife for their own good, are not entirely convinced.  Which means that there is still an internal dichotomy continuing.

Abbas’s statement of Pakistan “helping” and brokering dialog between Taliban and US should be viewed in light of the following:

1. Despite the continued stand by George Bush and Musharraf that Pakistan was working as an “ally”, the truth was that Pakistan had not really delivered much of value and used the aid given to it against India.  A fact, acknowledged by Obama on his campaign trail as well.  Basically, Pakistan was playing a “double game”.
2. After 9-11, after announcing its alignment with the US, a group of Pakistani intelligence officials went to Afghanistan to “help the Taliban prepare their defences and a strategy against US attacks”.[3] 3. The way Pakistanis can keep their relevance is by being the brokers (dishonest, albeit) between the US and the Jehadis/Taliban AND leading that discussion and action on the ground so they can turn it the way they want.  To understand this strategy of engagement, please listen to Hamid Gul in detail here on the modus operandi and how it is done.

What Hamid Gul says in this video is the place where Pakistanis yearn to be again.  That is where the “offer” for brokering comes from.

India’s Strategy
Last time in the 1990s, in Afghanistan, India lost big time.  Taliban won and Northern Alliance was routed and with it went all the bets that India placed in that country.  This time, the victory of US and British is IMPERATIVE for the future success of India in this region.  Failure in Afghanistan will cost us DEARLY!!

I am not sure whether indeed India is helping the Balochs or not.  If it is not, then strategically and to maintain parity with Pakistan’s game, it should.  You leave India alone, and we leave your country alone. That should be the motto of our intelligence game.  Period.  There is nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to be apologetic about.

Balochistan is a good place to engage in this game of “Quid pro quo” chess at for various reasons:

  • Balochistan is the home of the Nuclear Testing facilities (Chagai Hills in the Chaghai district).
  • Balochistan is rich in minerals – one of the largest copper deposits are fond in Reko Diq in the Chagai District.  Also Balochistan is one of largest supplier of Natural gas to its nation.
  • Balochistan is also the home of Gwadar Port – Pakistan’s main port – which is being expanded into a Naval base with the help of Chinese technical and financial assistance.  Its importance is critical in terms of Pakistan-China nexus and partnership.  A control or ability to exercise leverage in Balochistan over the Gwadar Port is CRITICAL to India in time of war against Pakistan and/or China.  Wikipedia explains its importance here which is self-explanatory:
China has acknowledged that Gwadar’s strategic value is no less than that of the Karakoram Highway, which helped cement the China-Pakistan nexus. In addition to Gwadar serving as a potential Chinese naval anchor, Beijing is also interested in turning it into an energy-transport hub by building an oil pipeline from Gwadar into Chinese-ruled Xinjiang. The planned pipeline will carry crude oil sourced from Arab and African states. Such transport by pipeline will cut freight costs and also help insulate the Chinese imports from interdiction by hostile naval forces in case of any major war.

Preparation for times when a war breaks out and creating leverage for national interest should be viewed in strict terms.  Importance of Balochistan to India’s National Interest is VITAL!

Conclusion: If we have a leverage in Balochistan, then lets enlarge it.  If we don’t, then lets create it!


Pakistan’s goal is to take India out of the Afghanistan picture and calculations.  India hasn’t until now committed military to US/NATO forces.  India is probably helping militarily but not explicitly.  I believe, India should announce that we will be part of the NATO forces in Afghanistan and help US/NATO forces this time.  Let India help in Afghanistan.  Why? Because India DOES need to be part of the decision making ON THE GROUND!

But it is not “our war”?  HECK yes, it is OUR WAR!  Any war which will influence our national interests is ultimately India’s war.  Just as Afghanistan is US’s and NATO’s war.. it is India’s war as well.  In fact, India stands to lose more if US forces lose there than US will stand to lose overall!

So, lets BECOME a part of this war to BE on the table of decision making.  We need to make sure that future decisions take our perspective into account.

In the coming months, Pakistanis will try and change the discussion in new directions.  China will also use its leverage.  For, it also stands to lose from India’s engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s loss.

In the coming days, probably, India may be attacked.  By terrorists or by a nation.

And to succeed in all this we must be sure to recognize our National interest and make sure we don’t lose in Afghanistan this time.

Reference Links:

1. Transcript: Pakistan’s Abbas talks about Afghanistan
2. Time to Dissolve all Madaris
3. Intelligence team defied Musharraf to help Taliban

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