India, Russia Ally Against Pakistan by Providing Arms to Afghanistan

India pays Russia to deliver weapons to Afghanistan, setting the stage for a proxy war with Pakistan.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India and President Vladimir Putin of Russia address a news conference in Moscow, October 21, 2013
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India and President Vladimir Putin of Russia address a news conference in Moscow, October 21, 2013 (MEA)

When NATO withdraws from Afghanistan later this year, India and Russia may well fill the security vacuum to prevent the Taliban from resurging, aligning them both against neighboring Pakistan.

India has reportedly agreed to pay Russia to deliver small arms, such as light artillery and mortars, to Afghanistan. The transfer could eventually include heavy artillery, tanks and possibly attack helicopters.

India’s foreign minister, Salman Khurshid, said during a visit to Afghanistan in February, “We are giving them helicopters and we will be supplying them very soon.”

A Foreign Ministry official told the Reuters news agency that India won’t commit troops on the ground nor give Afghanistan all the military equipment it has asked for — “for all sorts of reasons, including the lack of surplus stocks.”

“Involving a third party is the next best option,” the source said, referring to Russia. Indian officials apparently visited Moscow in February to firm up the deal.

Having contributed close to $2 billion in aid over the past decade, India is the fifth largest donor nation to Afghanistan. But it doesn’t share a border with the country, hampering its aid efforts. It cannot rely on its rival Pakistan to reach Afghanistan. That country is more inclined to strike deals with Islamist insurgents in its unruly frontier region whom it sees as a wedge against India. India’s expanded support for the civilian government in Kabul could therefore set the stage for a proxy war between the two once the Americans and their allies have pulled out next year.

India has depended on Iran to facilitate its trade with Afghanistan but that country’s port facilities at Chabahar may not be able support larger volumes of shipments. India did finance the construction of a road from Chabahar to Delaram, a town in the west of Afghanistan that is situated on its Ring Road, to transport goods into the country.

Iran’s troubled relations with the West are also an impediment if India wants to simultaneously expand its partnership with the United States in order to balance against a rising China. Hence the deal with Russia. Although, given the deterioration in American-Russian relations since the latter invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in March, it might not have chosen a far more respectable partner.

India, Iran and Russia previously worked together to support the Northern Alliance, made up mostly of ethnic Tajiks, against the Taliban before the Americans invaded in 2001.

During the Afghan civil war, Pakistan’s intelligence services backed the Taliban which they saw as the most viable political movement among the country’s majority Pashtun population and therefore the best ally to give them “strategic depth” in Afghanistan in the event of an Indian attack. If India doubled down on its commitment to the government in Kabul, Pakistan might face the prospect of a war on two fronts and is likely to respond by ramping up support for whichever faction opposes it.

Comments

  • This is comedy. This is not against Pakistan. It is to ensure that Taliban or anti-regional elements created by foreign agencies dont again prop up. Beautiful spin by Nick.

  • Yes, that is the primary aim, but that inevitably pits India and Russia against Pakistan in Afghanistan. It may be India’s or Russia’s intention to become involved in a proxy battle with Pakistan but by propping up the civilian government in Kabul, they, in all likelihood, will.

  • Nick, India and Russia repeatedly offered to equip and fund the ANSF since 2001. This is the first time since 2001 that the US government is not actively trying to block them from supporting the ANSF. It was US policy to block the formation of a capable ANSF until McChrystal/Petraeus/Caldwell persuaded Obama to partially switch course in late November 2009. Even after that Obama overruled the pro ANSF surge advocates (McChrystal/Petraeus/Caldwell) vision of a much larger more capable ANSF; and impeded the ability of other countries to support the ANSF.

    Russia’s and India’s reasons for supporting the ANSF are very similar to the international community’s (Europe, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Canada, America, Stans) reason for supporting the ANSF.

    This no more pits Russia and India against the Pakistani Army than it pits the world against the Pakistani Army. The GIRoA is supported by the UN and entire international community.

  • Great article. Give the endless support that Pakistan provides to the Islamic fanatics, the fact that the ISI birthed both the Mujahideen and Taliban movements and the fact that Pakistan’s only card to play is via the insurgents any state supporting the civilian government of Kabul will be directly challenging Pakistan. Make no mistake if Pakistan were to evaporate from the face of the Earth so would the Islamic fanatics who attack India and Afghanistan.

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