Siddharth Varadarajan

Journalist | Writer | Analyst

U.S. sees rising Indian influence in Afghanistan as problem

India is damned if it does (help Afghanistan) and damned if it doesn’t….

22 September 2009
The Hindu

U.S. sees rising Indian influence in Afghanistan as problem

Siddharth Varadarajan

In the clearest statement to date of Washington’s reservations about the rising Indian economic and political profile in Afghanistan, the top American general in charge of the war against the Taliban and other insurgents there has said India’s increasing influence in the insurgency-wracked country “is likely to exacerbate regional tensions”.

In his ‘Commander’s Initial Assessment’ on the war in Afghanistan dated August 30, made public on Sunday, General Stanley A. McChrystal said the situation there is “serious” and “deteriorating”. Though a significant section of his report emphasises the need for a change in U.S. strategy and the way U.S. forces deployed there “think and operate”, the section on “external influences” is likely to grate on New Delhi’s ears because of its implication that India ought to scale back its presence in order to placate Pakistani fears about growing Indian influence.

“Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan, including significant development efforts and financial investment. In addition, the current Afghan government is perceived by Islamabad to be pro-Indian”, the McChrystal report notes. But it adds: “While Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people, increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan or India”.

India has extended more than $1 billion to Afghanistan in financial and development assistance and is training the Afghan police force and bureaucracy. In recent years, it has been asked by key European countries like Britain and France to step up its assistance even as the U.S. has warned of a negative reaction by Pakistan.

The coy phrase ‘countermeasures’ in the McChrystal report is clearly a reference to Pakistan stepping up its funding of anti-Indian and anti-Afghan (and thus anti-U.S.) insurgent groups and terrorists.

However, in its section on Pakistan, the report only says that insurgent and violent extremist groups based in that country “are reportedly aided by some elements of Pakistan’s ISI”, an assessment far less categorical than what U.S. officials and military commanders have said before in public and private. The report zeroes in on Al-Qaeda’s links to the Haqqani network (HQN) inside Pakistan and says “expanded HQN control could create a favourable environment for AQAM to re-establish safe-havens in Afghanistan”.

The HQN is believed to be behind the bombing of India’s embassy in Kabul in 2007 and the recent assassination of Afghanistan’s deputy chief of intelligence, Abdullah Laghmani, and is widely suspected of enjoying the patronage of the ISI.

Though the McChrystal report falls short of prescribing that India scale back its presence in Afghanistan, the implication is clear: the U.S. is dependent on Pakistani support for the war in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s capacity to use extremists to hurt American interests remains high, and that India should realise its assistance to Afghanistan might provoke Islamabad into taking “countermeasures”.

Gen. McChrystal calls for additional U.S. forces but says “focusing on force or resource requirements misses the point entirely ? Success is achievable, but it will not be attained simply by trying harder or ‘doubling down’ on the previous strategy”.

In line with the Pentagon’s view of the damage that mounting civilian casualties have had on the image of the U.S. and Nato forces in Afghanistan, the McChrystal report squarely admits that “pre-occupied with protection of our own forces, we have operated in a manner that distances us — physically and psychologically — from the people we seek to protect. In addition, we run the risk of strategic defeat by pursuing tactical wins that cause civilian casualties or unnecessary collateral damage. The insurgents cannot defeat us militarily; but we can defeat ourselves”.

4 comments on “U.S. sees rising Indian influence in Afghanistan as problem

  1. Anonymous
    September 28, 2009

    US murmurs against India is probably to convince Pak to invade South Wazirastan and act decisively against Taliban which Pak is unwilling to carry out for because of its problem with transferring troops from the Indian front –

    From the recent article Afghanistan impasse

    “….Pakistan's generals made it abundantly clear that they will not invade South Waziristan for the moment. “It's going to take months” to launch a ground offensive, the senior commander in the area, Lieutenant General Nadeem Ahmad, told reporters after meeting with Holbrooke on August 18….”

    ..”Senior Pakistani officials say they will only be able to adopt a new strategy against the Taliban when India changes its current policy toward Pakistan and Kashmir. In Swat the army succeeded because it made use of Pakistani troops transferred from the Indian border, where 80 percent of the army is based. The key to launching a Pakistani offensive in the tribal areas is for the Americans to help improve Pakistan's relations with New Delhi, so that the army can move more of its troops to the Afghan border….”

  2. Anonymous
    September 24, 2009

    Zero Bama will hand over Afganistan to Paki Colonial Rule and call it a victory. Just watch ..

    India is better of to boycott YES his regime .

  3. Anonymous
    September 24, 2009

    Zero Bama is against indian intrests – Against Indian nukes – Against Indian Security (pakis) – Against Indian economic intrest (Carbon cap etc)

    Better to boycott his regime.

  4. Anonymous
    September 23, 2009

    I guess, the US will probably ask India to tone down its presence in Afghanistan by closing some consulates near the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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This entry was posted on September 22, 2009 by in Afghanistan, Indian Foreign Policy, U.S. Policy in South Asia.



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