A UN mandate might make it easier for India to send troops to Afghanistan
In the July-Sep 2009 issue of Indian Foreign Affairs Journal, Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal (retd) concludes his scenario analysis of Afghanistan with the following:
A peaceful and stable Afghanistan capable of maintaining its strategic autonomy is a vital national interest for India. It is a country with which India has traditionally enjoyed warm and friendly relations. Since the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001-02, India has contributed only soft power to the international reconstruction effort in Afghanistan. It has spent approximately US$ 1.5 billion for reconstruction, including building the Delaram-Zaranj highway, building and running schools and hospitals and in training the fledgling Afghan administration. As an aspiring though reluctant regional power, India must overcome its fear of overseas military interventions – occasioned by the ill-advised and unsuccessful foray into Sri Lanka in the 1980s – and stand up and be counted as a genuine rising power that is willing to discharge legitimate regional responsibilities.
Should India agree to send its troops to Afghanistan, it will do so only under a United Nations flag. A fresh UN Security Council mandate will be necessary under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Pakistan will be extremely reluctant to accept Indian troops being positioned in the Jalalabad-Ghazni-Kandahar triangle comprising the worst affected areas as it will see such presence as a direct threat. It will be more prudent to send Indian troops to either Mazar-e-Sharif in the north or Herat in the west and relieve US and NATO forces to fight in the east and south-east. India could send a brigade group (5,000 personnel) to begin with and gradually step up the force level to one infantry division (15,000 personnel) when a fully functional logistics system is in place – either from the south through Chabahar Port (Iran)-Zaranj-Delaram-Garland Highway or from the north through Turkmenistan or Uzbekistan. Both the routes will present formidable challenges for logistics, but none that cannot be overcome with methodical planning.
The present situation in the Af-Pak region has reached a strategic stalemate. To break out of the logjam, the international community must consider a fresh approach. The tactical situation calls for the infusion of a much larger number of professionally competent military personnel than NATO-ISAF are capable of mustering. If the challenge of fundamentalist terrorism is to be successfully overcome, the aim should be to close in with and fight the Taliban and the al Qaeda on the ground, rather than seeking to bomb them into submission from the air. Among others, the Indian army and air force can help to turn the tide. It is time the international community stopped playing politics with the future of a volatile region and called on the regional powers to play their rightful role. [IFAJ]
Now, here at INI, we are not big fans of supplying troops for UN peacekeeping operations merely because they are for UN peacekeeping operations. But it must be admitted that, in a positive sense, an Indian military deployment to Afghanistan is more likely if it has UN sanction. Also noteworthy is that Brigadier Kanwal, who has served in the army’s Directorate-General of Military Operations (DGMO), believes that the logistics hurdle of supplying up to 15,000 Indian troops is surmountable.