By ruling out the deployment of Indian troops to Afghanistan, Defence Minister has confirmed that our foreign policy remains mired in the bogs of panchsheel and non-alignment
The Narendra Modi regime has blundered by refusing to scale up India’s involvement in Afghanistan. It has confirmed the fear if confirmation was needed, that the same old, rotten policy of the Congress is being pursued in foreign affairs, a few bright spots like surgical strikes notwithstanding.
By ruling out the deployment of Indian troops to Afghanistan on Tuesday, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has confirmed that our foreign policy remains mired in the bogs of panchsheel and non-alignment. “There shall not be any boots on the ground from India,” Sitharaman said at a joint press conference with US Defence Secretary James Mattis. “We have built dams, hospitals and roads; that has been India’s contribution and that will continue.”
The fact that even though we have spent $3 billion in the war-torn nation in developmental aid, this has resulted in achieving neither any stability in Afghanistan nor in containing Pakistan’s terror export.
This was in response to a query whether India would contribute troops to Afghanistan as part of US President Donald Trump’s Afghanistan policy. A typical, pusillanimous response. This is evident from the fact that even though we have spent $3 billion in the war-torn nation in developmental aid, road making, power transmission, dams, etc., this has resulted in achieving neither any stability in Afghanistan nor in containing Pakistan’s terror export.
At international conferences to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan, India, which has done so much for that country, is not even invited, while Pakistan, which has been Afghanistan’s bane, is an important player. So much for India’s contribution that Sitharaman crows about.
As P. Stobdan, a foreign policy expert and former diplomat, wrote in a paper for the Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses (April 28, 2015), “India’s $2 billion commitment for Afghanistan [it has grown to $3 billion since then] seems to have been driven more by woolly ideas of ‘gaining goodwill’ rather than being based on a sound strategic assessment. India’s desire to help may have been genuine, but not everyone viewed it that way, nor has it worked that way because politics does not necessarily work on the logic of showing benevolence, magnanimity and a display of riches.”
He rightly pointed out that our money has been wasted: “there are no visible strategic gains for all the resources spent. It seems as if all that money has gone down the drain. And India can at best console itself for having earned some good Punya (merit) in Afghanistan; hopefully, this will help the country in its future destiny.”
He went on to quote a Pakistani analyst who had said: “India trains Afghan forces but does not arm them… does not build houses—so morally weak army join the Taliban insurgents.” What is worse, Stobdan wrote, “what drove India to adopt such a course was respect for Pakistan’s sensitivity in the first place.”
“The US is very keen on India, the rising power that India is, to be part of, if not an alliance, then at least a grouping that can stand up to some extent to China.
So, Pakistan aids and arms jihadists who slaughter Indian security personnel and citizens destabilizes Kashmir, and threatens to nuke us—and we respect its sensitivity! Our confused thinking and actions don’t end here. Our Prime Minister goes to attend his Pakistani counterpart’s private function, we continue full diplomatic and other ties with our western neighbor—and we expect the United States to declare it a terrorist state! This despite the fact that Pakistan was a US ally for decades, while we abused it as a ‘neo-imperial’ hegemon.
In October 2001, when the United States and its allies attacked the Taliban in Afghanistan under Operation Enduring Freedom, Washington was keen on active Indian participation—that is, the involvement of Indian military in its global war on terror. But the Atal Bihari Vajpayee exhibited exemplary timidity, offering cooperation only in terms of intelligence and logistics.
Similarly, the US expects India’s more assertive role in south-east Asia to contain China’s imperial ambitions. Last year, a journalist from Wall Street Journal asked Modi, “The US is very keen on India, the rising power that India is, to be part of, if not an alliance, then at least a grouping that can stand up to some extent to China. Where do you see India taking a position on the global stage?” Modi answered, “There is no reason to change India’s non-alignment policy that is a legacy and has been in place.”
The guy who swears to obliterate the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru calls the latter’s signature principle as his own policy! At any rate, the incumbent policy has adopted the essentials of Nehruvian foreign policy—namely, grand statements and photo-ops signifying nothing.
So, Mattis said in his statement, “We applaud India’s invaluable contributions to Afghanistan and welcome further efforts to promote Afghanistan’s democracy, stability, and security.” Further, he said, “There can be no tolerance of terrorist safe havens. As global leaders, India and the US resolve to work together to eradicate this scourge.”
If thousands of Indian soldiers can serve under the UN flag for peace-keeping, why can’t they get stationed in Afghanistan to safeguard national interest?
Then there was Sitharaman with statements that we have heard a million times: “The same forces that find havens in Pakistan hit New York and Mumbai.” “There is growing convergence in the approaches of both our countries on this issue. We both recognize the importance of holding those who use terrorism as an instrument of state policy to account, and to dismantle the infrastructure that supports terrorism.”
Words that don’t mean anything, claptrap that just conceals the cowardice of the Modi regime. What Mattis and his government want is India’s military involvement in Afghanistan. This is also actually in our national interest, for we have to encircle Pakistan—India in its east, Afghanistan and Iran (with which its relations are not very good) in its west. This is what Sitharaman has flatly denied.
Reason demands India’s military intervention in Afghanistan. If thousands of Indian soldiers can serve under the UN flag for peace-keeping, why can’t they get stationed in Afghanistan to safeguard national interest? It requires courage but the Modi government seems to lack both reason and courage.
Which means that the Mattis visit was a wasted opportunity.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.