Denis MacShane: India is key to solving Afghanistan
It beggars belief that a fellow Commonwealth country - both a democracy and a nuclear-armed power - can be talking about an invasion of Pakistan
Telegraph, 20 May 2010
When will the Commons start telling the truth about Afghanistan? Other than immigration, no other subject was raised so often on the doorstep in the election. But no other issue was less discussed by the party leaders. There is an ever widening gap between the military-political establishment and the people of Britain who fail to understand why so many of their own people are dying or returning home hideously maimed. This is not the Falklands or even a conflict to stop the UK being blown apart by unionist bigotry and IRA terror bombs.
Conservatives talk grandly about creating a "war" cabinet to wage war in Afghanistan. Mr Cameron should find a word other than "war" to use. We are winning battle after battle: when British troops take on the Taliban face to face, there is only one winner, despite the sad sacrifices that are made. But the notion that we will win a war in Afghanistan commands no serious support anywhere, even among those who support our presence there. Talking of war implies victory. It is the dream of the generals as they send young officers and men achieve the unachievable – to win a war in the sense of the destruction of Nazism in 1945.
Can containment replace confrontation as policy? After 1945 the democracies adopted a philosophy of containment rather than military destruction of opposing ideologies. So too in Afghanistan; we cannot keep on sending British soldiers to die in the will-'o-the-wisp search for an ultimate military victory. Instead of warcraft we need statecraft and that must involve a stronger relationship with Pakistan. There has been much talk about Pakistan and the solution to Afghanistan. But there will be no solution in Pakistan until India changes its strategic approach in the area.
According to a report in Le Monde earlier this year, The Times of India reported a secret conclave of the Indian general staff at Simla in December, at which they discussed a "double-front" strategy – an assault on both China and Pakistan. General Kapoor, the Indian chief of staff, has talked about a limited military attack on Pakistan. It beggars belief that a fellow Commonwealth country and nuclear-armed power – and a democracy to boot, can be talking about an invasion of Pakistan, when what we need is a complete re-setting of India-Pakistani relations. As is well known, in 1989 democracy was suspended in Kashmir, and 500,000 Indian troops moved in. Since then, between 50,000 and 70,000 people have been killed in probably the biggest bloodbath of Muslims in recent times under the Indian army occupation. Some of that was in response to Pakistan-initiated terrorism – the horrible explosions at Srinagar and elsewhere, but India is not even on the way to finding a political solution to the problem of Kashmir, and it is under pressure given the Mumbai massacres and other issues.
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Related from archives:
India-Afghanistan Relations - CFR
The Key to Afghanistan: India-Pakistan Peace - TIME
India Befriends Afghanistan, Irking Pakistan - WSJ
South Asians must stand together - Guardian