After the Kabul embassy bombing

How should India respond?

Shanthie Mariet D’Souza argues that India should stick to its strategy:

In the aftermath of the July 7 attack, some Indian analysts have suggested an active role for India in the security affairs of Afghanistan. They characterise the Indian Defence Minister’s April 2008 ruling out of the option of sending troops to Afghanistan as “deficient strategic thinking”. Such analysis, to say the least, is based on a complete lack of understanding of the dynamics of insurgency in Afghanistan. It also ignores the far reaching benefits flowing to the Afghan people from the activities that India has been engaged in and which in fact has troubled the Taliban and its sponsors.

It needs to be understood that India, like many other countries, is operating in a highly insecure environment in insurgency-ravaged Afghanistan. In such a scenario, while attacks of the magnitude of the July 7 incident can be better avoided with adequate security preparedness, these certainly do not call for a dramatic reconsideration of India’s non-involvement in security operations. The Government of India should maintain its present course of minimal presence of its security forces personnel coupled with long term developmental activity that weaves aid delivery around greater Afghan ownership and participation. Sending troops to Afghanistan would merely serve as a red rag for the Taliban and its sponsors, even as it causes resentment among common Afghans at the introduction of more foreign troops into their land. Better security for Indian personnel and projects can actually be ensured by working in conjunction with Afghan security forces (including community policing) and other stakeholders interested in building a stable Afghanistan. [IDSA Strategic Comments]

Dr D’Souza has a point. The security situation in Afghanistan today is very different from what it was two years ago. So India would do well to avoid becoming a significant military combatant in the Afghan war. Rather, it would do well to press the United States, and especially NATO, to enhance their military commitments to Afghanistan.

However, additional troops might be necessary to secure Indian re-construction efforts. This is the other factor determining troop levels. Therefore, instead of a policy that rules out additional troops, India’s response should be one of constantly calibrating its security presence.

In any case, the point of focus is quite likely to be Pakistan. As Praveen Swami writes in The Hindu today, an unavoidable (from India’s perspective) “proxy war” is already going on in Afghanistan. Given the state of affairs in Pakistan, reading the signals right, and achieving escalation control in the proxy war is the fundamental challenge to India’s Afghanistan policy.

9 thoughts on “After the Kabul embassy bombing”

  1. excerpt:

    Much of the currently perceived threat to regional stability from the Taliban is a dark illusion that has been exaggerated and distorted. But then we became trapped by a fear and adversarial perceptions crystallised already by the late 1990s. We promptly, unconditionally surrendered the right to question the myth about the Taliban. Indeed, Taliban functionaries kept conveying to us directly and through intermediaries that they didn’t harbour ill-will toward India to provoke such vehement Indian support for the Northern Alliance. — Rediff

  2. Amit,

    Bhadrakumar is talking through his hat. It requires one to ignore history, chronology and causality to argue that the Taliban harboured ill-will towards India merely because India supported the Northern Alliance. The Taliban that controlled Afghanistan in the 1990s were the creation of the ISI and have always remained so. The problem was with the cat, not it’s paw.

    Not sure what Bhadrakumar smokes…Afghan opium perhaps.

  3. very true. what bothers me most is that these views are expressed by seasoned diplomat of india.

  4. Beyond playing defensive, I am not sure how India can play offensive in this game. Troops are surely no solution. Fortunately, the American and NATO seem to be turning around along with Karzai and Afghans themselves when it comes to seeing through LoP games. But there doesn’t seem to attack strategy, whether pursed or not, for us.

  5. Bhadrakumar maybe right, in some sense.

    For both the Taliban and Delhi, the enemy is the same – Papistan. Th etaliban are essentially an islamist manifestation of Pushtu nationalism. They want to reclaim all Pushtu lands regardless of the Durand duck sitting in the middle. Delhi wouldn’t mind a papistan split along the Indus, either, IMHO.

    Sure, ISI created and nurtured Taliban in the initial days. But with Opium monies flowing in, and ISI split into factions, and the post 9/11 repeated volte-faces by Islamabad, Taliban is largely on its own now.

    India should encourage Talibunny elements to recreate Paktunistan. Our interests decidedly converge there.

  6. …. no more talks are needed with pakistan. Everybody knows that ISI was involved in this attack , so india shall do as ISI is doing i.e, secret attacks n assissanation of those who r involved in this attack shall be done by RAW.This action is needed now, pakistan has crossed its limit & there is no use of talks.India shall come out of the box of moral image.
    TIT FOR TAT

  7. “The security situation in Afghanistan today is very different from what it was two years ago”

    “Much of the currently perceived threat to regional stability from the Taliban is a dark illusion that has been exaggerated and distorted” by amit

    Do you even read the news? eg. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/15/world/asia/15afghan.html

    Let me make it clear that I’m not a Taliban sympathizer. People like you don’t understand who Talbian really are. They are not a bunch of crazy terrorists, as portraid in the media, Americans are hunting them and killing them and so on. Stupid propaganda! People like you believe it because you want to. Americans don’t even go outside major cities and neither does Karzai. Taliban control everything outside the oasis of American safety.

    Taliban is the name given by Americans to the resistance of Afghan people. Americans are going to leave. Its just the question of when! You have a little catching up to do, read Afghan history!

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