What are India’s basic interests in Afghanistan?

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India’s basic interest in Afghanistan can be summed up as follows-

(i) India’s primary interest is to ensure the continuity in relations between the people of India and Afghanistan.

(ii) India believes that this process can be strengthened only if it supports the trends and policies in Afghanistan which will ensure the economic wellbeing of the Afghans, stability of the polity and modernization of that country, free from the shackles of extremist power structure.

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(iii) India has no intention of interfering in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and will be willing to deal with whichever government is in effective power there. India is quite clear in its stand that an Afghanistan dominated by externally supported Islamic extremist forces will not be in India’s political or geo-strategic interests.

(iv) While India will not participate in any manner in the conflicts in not participate in any manner in the conflicts in Afghanistan, it will be willing to continue bilateral cooperation in those spheres which will be of mutual benefit, particularly which will benefit the Afghan people.

In the year after the Soviet withdrawal, India maintained contacts with President Najibullah’s government as well as with the various Peshawar based Mujahideen groups to be able to establish a working relationship-with whichever government stabilized itself in the country. While the Najibullah government progressively weakened, no stable alternative government came into being.

Despite this, India maintained its embassy in Kabul till the conflict compelled India to close down the mission. India, however, continues to maintain contacts with the government of President Rabbinic.

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These contacts have continued at Mazar-e-Sharif and at Tashkent after the incremental military successes to Taliban. These contacts were both official and through Indian experts in the academic and media fields who have Afghan connections. India is perhaps one of the few countries which does not view the Taliban only through the prism of its theological Islamic identity. Taliban’s Pushdown ethnic identity is an equally important factor in comprehending their psyche and policy orientations. Taliban ultimately be characterized by a volatile chemistry of Pushdown nationalism and Islamic orthodoxy.

It is not the core cadres of the Taliban of Afghan origin which bother India so much as the adjunct cadres of mercenaries from various countries. These mercenaries and some Pushtoons have been engaged in extensive violence and terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. As this activity is supported both by the central authority of Taliban and Pakistani institutions, an effective Indian response in cooperation with the other powers is necessary at this juncture.

An Afghanistan allied with a hostile Pakistan poses a significant strategic threat to India affecting our regional security environment.

Ideally, friendly relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan are of utmost importance to India not only in terms of bilateral equations but also as areas through which India’s economic relations and cooperation in other fields with the Central Asian republics will be facilitated.

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Since prospects of such an ideal situation are distant, an attempt at stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan and working on possibilities of normal relationship with that country is desirable. This “normalcy is not achievable as far as the present state of affairs continues in Afghanistan. Though the Taliban controls about 80 per cent of the territory, it is not based entirely on popular support. It is rooted more in Taliban’s coercive authority.

The Taliban has not yet neutralized the military capacities of Afghanistan, the Tidies. Hazards, some Uzbeks, and so on, are a hurdle to Taliban establishing stability in that country. Pakistan compounds the political process by not being sensitive to the concerns of the minorities in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s training Taliban cadres to create disturbances in Central Asian countries bordering Afghanistan exacerbates the tense atmosphere. There seems to be an emerging consensus among the important powers and Afghanistan’s neighbors that a joint effort is required to bring the Afghan civil war to an end.

The alternative is Afghanistan becoming the hub for generating violent centrifugal forces in the surrounding countries. The Indian Initiative of undertaking consultation with the US is the first step in joining this emerging mainstream effort.

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