India works to protect interests not inflame Pak: Afghan report
Washington: India wants to deny Pakistan strategic depth in Afghanistan and ensure its interests are not attacked there but has little interest in inflaming Islamabad's sentiments by playing a large security role, a Congressional report has said, terming Kabul's handling of its two crucial neighbours a 'delicate balancing act'.
The report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), an independent research wing of the US Congress, which prepares periodic reports to help Congressmen make informed decisions, also details how India's activities in the country are "inverse" of Pakistan and how New Delhi is wary of the reconciliation efforts with the Taliban.
"The interests and activities of India in Afghanistan are the inverse of those of Pakistan: India's goals are to deny Pakistan 'strategic depth' in Afghanistan, to deny Pakistan the ability to block India from trade and other connections to Central Asia and beyond, and to prevent militants in Afghanistan from attacking Indian targets in Afghanistan," said the latest Afghan report by CRS.
Also wary of the recent reconciliation efforts with the Taliban, which will give Pakistan more influence in Afghanistan, India in the recent past has stepped up contact with Northern Alliance, which it supported in the past, says the report.
"India saw the Afghan Taliban's hosting of al Qaeda during 1996-2001 as a major threat to India itself because of al Qaeda's association with radical Islamic organisations in Pakistan, such as LeT....," the report said.
Afghanistan has sought close ties to India but without alarming Pakistan: a delicate balancing act backed by the United States, it said.
The report also cites how on October 5, 2011, shortly after the assassination of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani and related Afghan recriminations against Pakistan, Hamid Karzai visited Delhi to sign the "strategic partnership" pact with India.
The pact, it says, affirmed Pakistan's worst fears because it gave India, for the first time, a formal role as one of the guarantors of Afghan stability, and provided for expanded India-Afghanistan political and cultural ties.
"Indian experts noted that no Indian troops or security forces would deploy to Afghanistan as a consequence of the pact, but it did lead to a late 2011 agreement for India to train some (Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) personnel in India.
"As an outgrowth of a four-day Karzai follow-up visit to India in November 2012, India reportedly agreed to train up to 600 ANSF per year at the Indian Army's jungle warfare school," it said. Still, India reportedly does not want to be saddled with the burden of helping secure Afghanistan as US-led forces depart.
Nor does it seek to inflame Pakistan's sentiments by playing a large security role in Afghanistan, CRS said.
"India has stressed its economic aid activities there, showcased by its hosting of a June 28, 2012, meeting in Delhi to discuss investment and economic development in Afghanistan. Some believe India has been concerned that any negotiated settlement of the Afghanistan conflict will give Pakistan preponderant influence in Afghanistan," CRS said.
"India, which supported the Northern Alliance against the Taliban in the mid-1990s, has been stepping up its contacts with those factions to discuss possible contingencies in the event of an Afghan settlement deal," it said.
Many Northern Alliance figures, it pointed out, have lived in India at one time or another, although Indian diplomats also stress they have long had close connections to Afghanistan's Pashtuns.
"Still, possibly at US urging, during the May 2011 Singh visit discussed above, India publicly expressed support for the reconciliation process. In addition, Tajikistan, which also supported the mostly Tajik Northern Alliance against the Taliban when it was in power, allows India to use one of its air bases," it said.