It is a pity that scams, the economic crisis, worsening communal tensions and the political uncertainties emerging with the approach of the 2014 parliamentary election, are obscuring some of the most critical issues facing the country. One of the most important of these is the situation unfolding in Afghanistan with the impending departure, perhaps total, of the Americans by the end of 2014. Its broad contours are known — the increasingly large question mark against the success of the peace dialogue currently under way between the Americans and the Taliban, doubts about the ability of the Afghan National Army (ANA) to stave off a Pakistan-backed offensive by a resurgent Taliban, and Pakistan’s increasingly confident and determined efforts to ensure a pliant regime in Kabul and wipe out India’s presence in Afghanistan.
The issues are closely inter-linked. Inherent in the question mark against the dialogue is the possibility of failure or of a settlement that virtually gives the Taliban a free hand in Afghanistan. In either case the question of the ANA’s capability will acquire a highly enhanced criticality. And, of course, a settlement that is a victory for the Taliban or the absence of one that leaves them free to act as they please, will greatly encourage Pakistan to step up its efforts to realize its goals in Afghanistan which, in turn, are a part of its wider designs weaken or Balkanize India by stoking regional insurgencies.
Significantly, Syed Saleem Shahzad, the outstanding Pakistani journalist tortured to death by the ISI, wrote inInside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11, that 9/11 “aimed to provoke a war in South Asia” and 26/11 “warned that Al Qaeda was expanding its operations to the east, from the Central Asian republics to India and Bangladesh.” For Al Qaeda, all this was in preparation for the “End of Time” battles referred by Prophet Mohammed in Hadith. These would begin in Khurasan of yore comprising parts of “modern day Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia”. Ghazwa-e-Hind — the battle for India — which then included what are now Pakistan and Bangladesh, would follow victory. Having won this battle as well, the Muslim army would march to West Asia where they would finally defeat the West and establish Sharia law worldwide under a Caliphate.
According to Shahzad, the ISI launched Ghazwa-e-Hind in the 1980s through terrorism. A sharp intensification of the latter will follow the collapse of the elected Government in Kabul. This in turn will sharply enhance the possibilities of an India-Pakistan war with its latent nuclear dimension. The conclusion is simple: India must do its best to foil Pakistan’s designs in Afghanistan. One step in this direction will be to provide the ANA with the kind of arms aid it has sought from India. The second will be to expand and intensify its training of ANA’s officers and men. The third will be to put both these in the framework of a diplomatic initiative that would involve close cooperation among India, Russia and the Central Asian countries menaced by Islamist extremists, backed by the Taliban and Al
Qaeda and practizing their reductionist version of the religion. China, which is threatened by Islamist Uighurs backed by the Taliban and Al Qaeda, should be sought to be roped in.
Cries of alarm would rise heavenward the moment one says this. Such adventurism, one has heard, would drag us into a war in Afghanistan, the graveyard of foreign armies, and, possibly, to one with Pakistan and, perhaps, a nuclear Armageddon. The stamp of the utter cowardice that underlies such protestations can be seen in our rejection of President Hamid Karzai’s request for arms aid.
Those who tremble and transmit such panic ignore that Pakistan is already waging an unconventional war against India through cross-border terrorism and it may in any case escalate to a conventional or a nuclear conflict. They also ignore the strong, but bleak, possibility that failure to contain Pakistani moves in Afghanistan may require us to fight Pakistani tanks in the plains of Punjab. The trouble is that one cannot wish trouble away and, like many before us, we will pay a very heavy price for believing that we can.
The article first appeared in Indian daily The Pioneer. Click here to go to the original.