Afghan drawdown: The vultures descend

Published: June 27, 2011

Instead of competing over Afghanistan, isn’t it possible for Pakistan and India to co-operate?

Now that the die is cast and the United States is finally stepping up the process of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the vultures are finally swooping down to ensure that they get a piece of the carcass. Pakistan, Iran, India, Russia; all seem to have a stake in Afghanistan’s future. Out of these, Pakistan and India are arch rivals and have conflicting interests in Afghanistan. Pakistan, which often views Afghanistan as an extension of its own backyard seeks to play out the game of strategic depth in the country.

India, on the other hand is taking a more indirect route. Contrary to conspiracy theories, India is not likely to convert Afghanistan as a second front against Pakistan. Most of its work is focused towards infrastructure production, development aid etc. However, it would be naïve to think that India’s role is only that of a Good Samaritan. Previously, India had provided indirect support to the Northern Alliance to counter Taliban, which was supported by Pakistan. Furthermore, it is reported that the Indian Air Force has a presence at the Farkhor Air Base in Tajikistan, just a few kilometres from the border with Afghanistan.

Now that America has begun its withdrawal, it would be interesting to see how the Afghan endgame shapes out. Naturally India would like to depend on its allies like the Tajiks to maintain its influence. Pakistan on the other hand, has a natural advantage and can play the Pashtun card to its advantage. It has previously enjoyed close relations with the Taliban, and now that America seems to be in a mood to talk with them, it seems likely that Pakistan is bound to play a pivotal role in the ensuing negotiations.

India has always been wary of negotiating with the Taliban, and unless it shows some ideological flexibility, it might see its role diminished in face of waning US presence. On the other hand, in spite of its obvious edge over India in this regard, would be foolish for Pakistan to pursue an India-centric policy. Much to the disappointment of its generals, India is neither willing, nor does it have the resources or the desire to turn Afghanistan into a proxy front against Pakistan. However, in case Pakistan does decide to revert to its earlier policy (the one practised in 90s), I don’t think India will just sit on the fence like a passive observer. The biggest loser in this power struggle would be the Afghan.

Once again, he’d fall prey to feuds that aren’t his own.

Cooperation: The better choice

So, this leaves us with a brilliant, but quixotic choice. Instead of competing over Afghanistan, isn’t it possible for us to co-operate? It has advantages for both countries.

First of all, the amelioration of the situation in Afghanistan would have a direct impact on the problem of extremism that seems to have engulfed Pakistan. Conversely, any strategic adventurism can lead to another blowback. And I need not emphasize that Pakistan does not need another wave of unholy warriors lashing at its borders. The cooling of tensions would also be advantageous for India, which also faces the scourge of terrorism. Also, a pact with Pakistan could also provide Indian industry with a direct land route to Afghanistan. This can bolster trade and commerce in the region.

The past few weeks have seen frantic diplomatic negotiations. High level dialogue has resumed between India and Pakistan. On June 24, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan jointly agreed to fight terrorism. It is not entirely unrealistic to enlarge the scope of such co-operation to countries like India, China and Russia. After all, a peaceful Afghanistan is in everyone’s interest.

Last, but by no means the least, this deal would be good for the Afghan. Sick of his nation being used as a geo-political whorehouse, the ending of all games (whether great or not so great) gives him a glimmer of hope against the backdrop of a dark present.


Amit Julka

A student from India currently pursuing his Masters in South Asian Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. He blogs at

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Fatah

    India is a fascist state that is oppressing people in Assam, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kashmir, Orissa and other areas.

    India is done in Afghanistan. Bye bye India.Recommend

  • Awais Khan

    Terrorism is a global threat and it will be a good idea for the regional countries to combine their efforts to curb terrorism.Recommend

  • Z. Akbar

    As a Pakistani,

    I don’t want anything to do with Afghanistan….I want my country to Prosper forget Afghanistan.Recommend

  • hassan

    Afghan drawdown and what the future portends:

    —Come 2014, US does not need NATO route any more; so, bye-bye billions of dollars.

    —So, now Pak has a problem of finding new members for the Friends of Pakistan Club.

    —2014, marks the end of ‘Friends With Benefits’ status. No more aid, may be, US will try to get Pak declared as Terrorist Country. (in retaliation for all the arm-twisting we have done.)

    —How will Pak pay its import bill without the US money? How will the economy survive?

    — Can a cash strapped country hold itself together? Can Pak prevent Taliban from taking over power?

    Tell me if you know the answers !Recommend

  • jai

    A very good solution proposed by the writer that is cooperation between all stake holders.Gone are the times when military domination or economic domination used to do the trick now the society and world has evolved for the good now only interdependence can be a optimal solution .Its about time India and Pakistan realise this and stop the blame game they have been following unceasingly and look towards future with more resolve and empathy.This will not only be good in the interest of both nations but also will make this world a better place Kashmir will no longer be a battlefield and once again will transform into jannat.This wont be easy considering the bitterness these countries are filled with but a positive step in this direction is all needed.
    Tum hi tum ho toh kya tum ho hum hi hum hain toh kya hum hain.Recommend

  • Sameer

    @ Fatah – India certainly has problems and can treat citizens better but calling it a “Fascist state” shows a massive inability to compare and contrast.

    I’m presuming by your hate filled comment that you are Pakistani. I would like to be enlightened on your thoughts on the following:

    *Rights of women in Pakistan
    *Rights of minorities in Pakistan
    *Rights of athests and agnostics in Pakistan
    *Rights of secularists in Pakistan
    *Treatment of the Baloch
    *Treatment of the Baloch to Punjabi Settlers – reverse violence
    *Lack of democracy in AJK and Northern Areas
    *Police brutality by Rangers
    *Sectarian violence and target killings in Karachi

    Moreover, India does not have a government policy of discrimination. Pakistan does.

    Let’s applaud the writer for a smart article but “supporting the Taliban” is what makes most Afghans hate Pakistan. Don’t think it was just a matter of “picking a side” – Pakistan chose the evil, hateful side.Recommend

  • Frank

    Why should Pakistan cooperate with India on Afghanistan? What business is Afghanistan of India’s? India has no ethnic, geographical, cultural or linguistic connection to Afghanistan whatsoever. It interferes in Afghanistan only to harm Pakistan. Keep your noses out. Forget about Central Asian trade. Central Asia does not exist for India. Pakistan will make sure of that.Recommend

  • TP

    terrorist minded leaders will never accept freedom to grass root, but the free and democratic world determined ensure freedom to worldRecommend