Let India help Afghanistan
Shashank Joshi, guardian.co.uk, Friday 25 December 2009
In the 19th century, Indian armies twice crossed the Hindu Kush, hoping to stitch together the patchwork political authority of the territory in the service of their British masters. Over a century later, the sovereign republic of India once more has a renewed presence in what was once its mountainous buffer from the Tsarist, and then Soviet, giant to the north.
A year ago, Indians completed the construction of Afghanistan's new parliament building and, to compound the symbolism, provided training to the legislators who would make the country's laws. Over a billion dollars in aid and investment, multiple consulates, and a little-reported thousand-strong troop presence all testify to the flourishing ties between the two democracies.
India is Afghanistan's fifth-largest donor, pledging $1.2bn since 2001 and providing aid that spans education, health and infrastructure. The most eye-catching project, a 215km road connecting the Iranian border to Afghanistan's arterial highway, will eventually allow India to transport goods by sea to an Iranian port it is developing, and thence to Afghanistan and beyond. This circumvents the overland route, blocked by Pakistan, but also gives a fillip to Indo-Afghan trade ($538m during 2007-8). Hamid Karzai, himself educated in India and the beneficiary of Indian military support during the 1990s, visited India four times in the first five years of his tenure. The Afghan national army, the linchpin of the new American strategy to pacify the country, receives training across India.
Not everyone is happy with the widening Indian footprint. Pakistan, long reliant on Afghanistan as a source of "strategic depth" has invoked fears of encirclement and Indian-sponsored separatism. This is in addition to the panoply of wild "conspiracy theorists who insist that every one of Pakistan's ills are there because of interference by the US, India, Israel and Afghanistan", says Ahmed Rashid, a noted Pakistani journalist.
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India-Afghanistan Relations - Jayshree Bajoria, CFR
Let India Prove her Sincerity before Talking of any Alliance - Naveed Tajammal