Don’t Pick Pakistan Over India!

Government building in New Delhi, India, 2008
Government building in New Delhi, India, 2008 (Laurie Jones)

Reuters reports that the Obama Administration is grappling with how to balance India’s role in Afghanistan as archrival Pakistan also jostles for influence there ahead of Washington’s planned troop withdrawal starting next year.

Making India the priority was one of the notable foreign policy successes of the Bush Administration but America’s relationship with Pakistan has always been a frustrating factor in South Asia. President Barack Obama was quick to capitalize on the United States’ newfound alliance by inviting his Indian counterpart to the White House last December. Since then however, the administration has remained ambiguous about its commitment.

At the time, Fareed Zakaria urged the president not to neglect India in favor of building a stable Pakistan — which may well turn out to be a futile effort anyway. In order to win the war in Afghanistan, India’s support is indispensable. As the Taliban were forced out of power, Zakaria noted, “the cuisine, movies, and money that flowed into the country were, naturally, Indian.” With $1,2 billion in aid, India is the world’s fifth contributor to the reconstruction of Afghanistan, investing more dearly than even China. After all, it stands much to lose should NATO simply abandon the country. Pakistan might succumb to total chaos with terrorism dripping over the border into India.

America’s current strategy does not seem to appreciate that India’s objectives in Afghanistan, unlike Pakistan’s, are perfectly aligned with its own — “to defeat the Taliban and to support the elected Afghan government.” Islamabad, on the other hand, “has long argued that it has a right to see a pro-Pakistani government in Afghanistan.”

Zakaria gave this warning almost six months ago. Judging from a leaked report written by General Stanley McChrystal, ISAF commander, the United States don’t agree with him. “Increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan or India,” he noted. In all fairness, that was pinned down in September of last year so a subtle shift in perception may have occurred in the meantime. If it has, India hasn’t seen it though.

The same Reuters wire quotes Assistant Professor Christine Fair, a South Asia expert at Georgetown University, Washington DC, who doesn’t think that “this administration or the previous one knows how to balance our legitimate interests in both Pakistan and India effectively.” The implication of McChrystal’s view, she said, was that India’s approach is not being regarded as helpful while Pakistan’s strategic interests are more in play. What the United States should do instead is “positively reinforce the political and economic activities of engagement by India.”

It’s not just because of Afghanistan that the United States should favor India. Zakaria summed it up best in December when he wrote that “Obama must keep in mind that South Asia is a tar pit filled with failed and dysfunctional states, “save for one long-established democracy of 1.2 billion people that is the second-fastest-growing major economy in the world, a check on China’s rising ambitions, and a natural ally of the United States. The prize is the relationship with India. The booby prize is governing Afghanistan.”

Comments

  • Pakistan Pakistan Pakistan but the rival India always find it difficult engaging Pakistan and blaming while now India claims American Friendship but use to be a close mate of USSR as now Russia is weak so American friendship is better isnt it.
    While Pakistan and America are friends and will stay even Americans are aware of Indians propoganda and infact India has no role in Afghanistan but Pakistan and its people are sacrificing lives in friendship with America.

    Why India Then?????????????????
    Its a fact since years that India will see again the the Pak Nation not the broken family but Asian Tigers again as our Lions army is taking very good care of its Borders and will always do.

  • If India wants to REPLACE America as the principal occupier of Afghanistan, they are welcome.

    A prudent option will be to work with Pakistan, Iran, China and India to influence Afghanistan post America as handing it over to Mullah Omar again will create mess for all of its neighbors. Helping India to resolve Kashmir dispute with Pakistan will be the real and sustainable fix of South Asia’s several problems.

  • As far as I know, India has no intention of occupying Afghanistan or even dominating it. What they don’t want though, is Afghanistan becoming Pakistan’s playground again, becoming a safe haven for terrorists and threatening India’s interests. Rather, there’s a lot to be gained for India from a stable, more or less democratic Afghanistan, politically and economically.

  • i am an Afghan and i know better than all of you, America has no right to give Afghanistan to any country either for good or bad. afghanistan is not America’s colony or territory. they have not right to have a say in Afghan affairs. they are fighting a coward’s war. a machine war and even hindu india has no right to come to afghanistan. who gave some bunch of hindu’s a legetimate right to interfere in Afghan affairs. or even come to Afghanistan. india has not border, no culture, no religion ties with Afghans. so why should they nifluence Afghanistan. but Pakisttan has all the ties, border, religion, culture language you name it. every thing. i never applied for visa to come to Pakistan.

  • but because of America now evry Afghan has to apply for visa to come to Afghsanistan. who gave America the right to choose who come to Afghanitan or who should not? half of pushtoons live in Pakistan. half of Tajiks live in Pakistan, half of Hazaras live in Pakistan. and they all pakistani nationals. do you know these things or not? of you don’t know then you know nothing about Afghanistan. then you live in fools world sitting behind warm office desk,in first world country and writting something none sense about Afghanistan. who should do what?

  • I think Nick you did not listen to what syed has said above or maybe you just want to ignore it as everybody has done till today since 1947.
    maybe this will help “RESOLVE KASHMIR AND ELIMINATE ALL TENSION FROM SOUTH ASIA”. does this help now? i guess not.
    What would be India’s interest in afghanistan? did you ever asked this question by yourself? why not build bangladesh on the east? or nepal in the north? or bhutan? maybe srilanka? WHY ONLY AFGANISTAN? because that will give india an edge to encircle Pakistan..
    Believe me or not, although Pakistan has faced many corrupt politician in recent history but this BALL is out of the game brother.

    Zakaria mentioned indian movies or bollywood? is this a joke or for real?
    Pakistan 35% population is Pashtun which is ethenically tied with 60% of pashtun in afghanistan. 4 million afghanis are living in Pakistan as refugee. Afghanistan live stock has been shattered and depends on Pakistan smuggled meat, milk, skin. They grow 75% of worlds poppy, there wheat comes from Pakistan? THIS AINT BOLLYWOOD movie, this is real life.
    The list goes on from shoe makers to cloth suppliers everything in afghanistan is dependant on Pakistan…but not bollywood movie.

    and i have no comments… about world biggest democracy.:) you know i am laughing, but dont mind it.

  • Australian, if you believe the United States have any intention of occupying Afghanistan indefinitely, you’re mistaken. Most of the American people would rather their army left in a hurry and the president has already set a time table for withdrawal, in part, in order to quell fears about America staying forever.

    The point of my article, and this is in response to Danish Ali Ahmad’s comment as well, is to argue that it is in America’s long term interest to establish an alliance with India. Considering the intense Indo-Pakistani rivalry that continues up to this very day, such an alliance is impossible as long as the United States intend to be Pakistan’s friend. I see no point in perpetuating that illusion. Half of Pakistan is a war zone today. The government is weak and not in control of the entire country. No matter the cultural and ethnic ties with Afghanistan (which are significant as you rightly point out), Pakistan, as it is, is of little value to the United States.

  • This is a nice article. I agree that Pakistan has lost it’s golden chance to stabilize Afghanistan after the Russians left. Pakistan could have developed its economy and made it an economically viable State. Instead it made Afghanistan a fertile ground for TALIBAN terror- training and operations world wide. If they have so much interest in Afghanistan why did it not build even basic infrastructure there , of course other than terror infrastructure.

  • Nick: no wonder about your short comings as you are just an undergrad.
    The point i mention above and i can repeat it here again. solve the kashmir problem and it will solve the south asian problems.
    i dont want to gloss over and niether i am halucinating when mentioning about maoist rebels in indian 36 districts and assam rebelions.
    security wise india is no different than pakistan.
    yeah in case of Pakistan, afghanistan is stratgecally important to fend of russia and tap caspian sea resouces.

    after all Pakistan does not need to be in good books of america anymore, as china is the new sun.
    as an american, i must say that betting on india to counter china is itself a naive idea to start with. India as its history tells us is an opportunist, and they have intention to repeat what happened with them in 1962 (china war).
    zakaria article is very nice… as far as yoga goes or bollywood movies.
    but practically its not in US interest to play bet on a lame horse.

  • It is a very well known fact that the Indian spy agency RAW in tandem with Mossad and CIA are trying to destabilize Pakistan and pull it down. The 3 countries of India, Israel and US should be tried for war crimes in Kashmir, Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.
    US has been for long acting as Pakistan’s friend. Just come to the streets of Lahore and ask the common people and not the “elites” about the US. Any talk about the US would lead to anger among the common Pakistani people. The Pakistani economy has been pushed to disaster because of the so called “war on terror”, where our own Pakistani people are killed. Allah will definitely pay back.

  • Danish may have a point.

    Just like for the Nuclear agreement with India, USA should now make an agreement to recognise India’s claim on all of Kashmir, and in return India will allow all flights and transport to Afghanistan, since North Kashmir has direct border with Afghanistan.

    to USA will then have

  • well i have been in Kashmir and i have seen the realities on a very grass root level…. Pakistan is not economically stable to even start any kind of development in Kashmir… India on the other hand has with all the problems they face,have improved the conditions of living of the ordinary people…they now have free electricity,basic amenities,not taxed directly,free health care etc… Indian army has realized its mistakes and have started a massive program of welfare to win the hearts and minds of the locals…now Kashmir was never with India or Pakistan to start with and being independent they will end up like Afghanistan…and its a fact that they were hindhus living in Kashmir since a very long time and who are a part and parcel of the region…..please dont be blind by un realistic patriotism…be sensible…after all before 1947 we were one nation and lived like brothers…now after so many wars and suffering..its time we leave the past and join hands…we will be a super power a force strong enough to reckon with..

    its very easy for me to start bashing/criticizing Pakistan as i am an Indian and its very difficult for me to like you as i am a Hindu…but by extending my hand in friendship and understanding i am doing in a very small way something to end this mindless hatred and bring peace..

    please now dont criticize me……i have the most experience in Kashmir as i have served there for 2 years

  • karim…..you blame India for war crimes in four nations….its bullshit but still ok…..you have any idea how many nations blame Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine for terrorism??…..dude its pretty much a senseless blame game….and if RAW was actually in tandem with mossad and CIA then 90% of terrorism would have been eliminated…..dont just dream up accusations…and Allah the merciful…will judge the right rightfully and punish the wrong rightfully…insha Allah.

  • danish ali ahmad….you are right in saying that china is the next sun….but can you really trust them….what is the guarantee that they will do the same thing to you what they did to us in 1962???
    we were in super friendly terms with china before 1962.check up on it

  • Very good article which evaluates the Afghanistan’s situation and Indo-US relationship very well. In general, we (India/USA) really don’t care what happens in Afghanistan but we have to care because it directly affects about security. If you ask about the people in Afghanistan, they love India and hate Pak, which is a well known fact and thats why India is able to get a footing in the development work and even Taliban has said that it doesn’t want Indians to leave.

    Regarding Kashmir, in a recent survey, 51% said that they want a separate but only 1-2% said that they want to join Pakistan. If we let kashmir go, then tomorrow Punjab, Tamilnadu, Maharashtra will want to become independent and all of them will be supported by Pakistan. So the point is forget Kashmir, We are not a Hindu country, we are secular, thats why we have more muslims and muslim intellectuals than the whole Pakistan.

    Regarding Pakistan, Pakistanis in west in so ashamed of their origin many of them call them Indians (and their kids) to avoid discrimination.

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