India needs a new Afghan policy: Report

Noting that India`s stakes in Afghanistan are multi-faceted, a think-tank of Indian policy professionals in the US Wednesday sought a new policy by it on the war-torn nation.

Washington: Noting that India`s stakes in
Afghanistan are multi-faceted, a think-tank of Indian policy
professionals in the US Wednesday sought a new policy by it on the
war-torn nation.

"India needs an independent, long-term policy towards
Afghanistan driven by pro-active initiatives," says the
report- "India`s strategy in Afghanistan: A Farewell to
Dilemmas" released by The India Research Group, a think-tank
of Indian policy professionals.

The report which has been drafted by a task-force of
Indian development professionals and academics who have worked
extensively in Afghanistan was informed by insights from
veteran Indian experts on Afghanistan.

"India`s stakes in Afghanistan are multi-faceted and
India`s policies there will affect the way other countries
perceive India", says Raja Karthikeya, one of the lead authors
of the report, who is based in Washington.

The report says that India enjoys tremendous soft
power in Afghanistan but the challenge lies in converting that
soft power into influence.

Also, Pashtuns in Afghanistan feel alienated by
India, and the report recommends a series of measures to
address this perception.

The report argues that while there are no "good" or
"bad" Taliban, the Taliban are not a monolithic political
entity and that hence, India should differentiate its approach
towards various groups that constitute the Taliban in
different regions of Afghanistan.

Broadly, in pushing for an Afghan rather than an
externally mediated solution to the conflict, India should
back the Karzai government`s Reconciliation efforts with the
Taliban, it says.

The report suggests India`s approach towards various
regional powers on Afghanistan.

India should convene a forum for dialogue between
multilateral political and military entities - NATO, SCO and
SAARC on Afghanistan to reduce duplication of reconstruction
effort.

"India`s policy in Afghanistan should neither be
predicated on Pakistan nor should Afghanistan be on the agenda
of any dialogue with Pakistan.

At the same time, India should encourage Afghanistan
and Pakistan to settle the Durand Line dispute", said Mohsin
Khan, another lead author of the report.

The report recommends that India should view
Afghanistan as a collection of regions rather than a
collection of ethnicities and develop a different policy for
each region of that country.

India should engage with provincial level leaders on
all sides of the war and India should diversify focus into
small-scale construction projects, as per the demands of the
local communities, including places for worship.

In order to benefit the entire Afghan population,
India should engage in developmental projects in
Taliban-controlled areas as well, the report recommends.

Noting that India`s most immediate priority is to
secure its citizens in Afghanistan, the report suggests that
India`s stakes in Afghanistan need to be better communicated
to the Indian public so that even in the face of a terrorist
attack such as the attacks in February in Kabul, public
support for India`s commitments to Afghanistan remains
unfazed.

India should also help the Afghan Army constitute
special warfare teams in key battalions on the lines of
`ghatak platoons` of the Indian Army, it recommends.

"Public diplomacy initiatives need to be stepped up.
These include training for Afghan sportsmen including
cricketers in India, a sustained medical diplomacy initiative
involving Afghan-run clinics with medical personnel trained in
India and quotas in Indian engineering colleges for Afghan,"
the report said.

PTI

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