Manmohan Singh’s Kabul visit

In his address to the Afghan parliament, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave a very generous and supportive message to the elected representatives of the Afghan people: Afghanistan had to make its decisions without “outside interference or coercion”. The timing of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Afghanistan and his address to the Afghan parliament as the first foreign leader to do so not only indicate the rising influence of India in Afghanistan but also the efficacy of soft power in pursuing foreign policy objectives in today’s world. In view of the imminent withdrawal of the US and NATO forces from Afghanistan, all the regional actors are jockeying for influence in the war ravaged country. In such a situation, to support the right of the Afghan people, who are victims of outside interference in their internal affairs for the past four decades, to decide their own fate, was a very statesman-like approach.

It is high time the Afghan people took their fate into their own hands. It may sound idealistic, given that the American and NATO troops are present and, arguably, Pakistan is fighting a proxy war to attain ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan, but the principle cannot be denied. Whatever the shape of the final outcome of the situation that is lurching towards the withdrawal of foreign troops, this principle must be kept uppermost in mind when trying to draw up a paradigm for Afghanistan’s future.The second most important highlight of this visit was Manmohan Singh’s support for the reconciliation plan with the Taliban. Although hawks in the Indian establishment have been opposing any idea of reconciliation with the Taliban, considered tools of Pakistani interference in Afghanistan, Dr Manmohan Singh has been more realistic and understanding of the situation, whose perpetuation will only bring more misery to the Afghan people. He understands that the Taliban are a reality and the Afghan people have the right to decide on a strategic compromise in the interests of the Afghan people.

After the overthrow of the Taliban, India had lent a helping hand to Afghanistan through aid and reconstruction of the war ravaged country, which has created goodwill for India and also revived an old friendship. This has not gone down well with Pakistan’s security establishment. It was the fear of being sandwiched between a hostile India and a pro-India Afghanistan that led our security establishment to create and implement the ‘strategic depth’ doctrine, but the diminishing returns of that policy have started to become apparent. Not only has Pakistan been engulfed in the fire of extremist violence, the Americans are losing patience with Pakistan’s policy of promoting jihadis for use in Afghanistan and are threatening more drone strikes and other unilateral actions. India is succeeding in achieving its objectives in Afghanistan through soft power, which we have failed to do because of our reliance on hard power through proxies. It is time Pakistan revisited its Afghan policy. – Dailytimes