India and the Af-Pak question
Recently, US Secretary of State John Kerry elaborated on the need for India to take on a proactive role in Afghanistan’s elections next year. According to him, Indian involvement in Afghanistan could lead to greater institutional stability in the country and help Afghanistan’s nascent, troubled democracy. This statement may ring alarm bells in Pakistan, especially its security establishment. A key concern of Pakistan’s strategists for post-2014 Afghanistan is not to be encircled by its traditional arch-rival. Pakistan has often stated its geostrategic concerns to the world, including to the US. Secretary Kerry’s comments do little to alleviate those reservations. With India to the east and an Indian presence in Afghanistan to the west, Pakistan’s conventional security paradigm gets challenged. Indian influence in Afghanistan may also lead to Pakistan further militarising the Durand Line. Pakistan may even be pushed to embark on a relentless drive to increase its influence in that country, even if it were to involve alignment with the Taliban.
Unless Pakistan’s concerns are taken seriously, it is likely that a post-2014 Afghanistan may turn into an arena for proxy wars between India and Pakistan. This is recipe for further instability in the region. Afghanistan and Pakistan need to forge constructive relations so that they can fight the menace of terrorism together. Hostilities between them would allow insurgencies to foster, further relegating the region to a spiral of militancy.
The Af-Pak question cannot be answered without the involvement of India, but the US’s reluctance to view Pakistan’s concerns as viable does nothing to mend South Asia’s most fragile relationship. Lastly, elections in Afghanistan must be an Afghan-led process where all political factions in that country agree to resolve their differences through dialogue rather than through guns, while all regional countries firmly commit that they will not interfere with its internal political process.