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Afghanistan: US pull out and the way ahead for India
US will pull out from Afghanistan as soon as it can. It implies violence, bloodshed, refugees and terror trail will be left behind. There are too many players with own agendas. But where does India fit in?

US would be leaving Afghanistan in a matter of time. Though it's being claimed as some victory but the fact is that the US is abandoning Afghanistan out of frustration, as nothing has unfolded as per its plans.

Pakistan sees this as a big victory as it hopes it would be able to install Pak-based Taliban rule in Afghanistan after US' exit. It would be a huge setback for the weak democratic government of Afghanistan as well as India, which has invested huge resources in developing its soft power and providing training to the military and police forces.

Afghanistan has been ruled by a weak centre with strong tribal lords exercising influence on their tribes. War/tribal lords are ferociously independent but loyalty can be purchased with adequate compensation in cash or kind. People are hardy and not inclined to follow strict discipline, religious but tolerant unlike Taliban which believes in Sharia. It has weak institutions with writ running over restricted areas with little authority to enforce its directions. Democracy, women empowerment etc are not very popular being Western concepts.

Drugs have of late become major source of earnings, otherwise agriculture and allied activities keep people employed.

On the western front, Russia, CAR and Iran do wield influence and would not like a hostile regime in Kabul to support tribals with cross border loyalties. Thus, would retain degree of influence through tribal warlords and exercise control over areas close to borders.

On the eastern side Pakistan has strained relations with tribals. Border between the two nations is loosely demarcated, underdeveloped with extremely rugged terrain. Balochs and other tribes are not too happy and would like to cede away from Pakistan and ethnic affinity is closer to Afghans than Pakistanis. Pakistan has also been exploiting this area without any development.

China would like to fill the void created by the US withdrawal but the Muslims don't trust the Chinese due to their harassment of Uighurs in Xingjiang province. China has the financial might to influence or control Afghanistan through loose federation of tribal warlords but Taliban will not accept any Chinese role, a dilemma for both Pakistan and China.

India has a challenging period ahead. The masses are not happy with Indian influence as many see India as an uninvited guest and must exit leaving Pakistan to manage Afghanistan.

The US and Afghan governments desire that India should deploy its military forces in Afghanistan. For obvious reasons India is disinclined. Also the moment US departs first to fall would be the central democratically elected government at Kabul. And it really would make no difference since it has limited influence beyond Kabul.

After US departs with or without an agreement, uncertainty that follows will lead to huge bloodshed, refugees exodus and collapse of whatever governance is there. Taliban will come back and try to establish its writ through tribal warlords by promising power and money. Chaos would prevail for considerable amount of time. China, India, CAR, Russia, Iran and India would like to follow wait and watch policy whilst Pakistan will try to establish a regime loyal to it with China quietly directing things from behind the scenes to ensure favourable regime.

Another scenario is China takes the lead incorporating all Afghanistan's neighbours and try to hammer out way ahead to ensure peace in Afghanistan and all share holders security and financial concerns are addressed. China would pump in huge resources for road and allied infrastructure development enabling connectivity and access to all for trade and other activities.

Islamic forces led by Saudi Arabia or Iran is another option, but existing animosity amongst these nations and strained US-Iran relations rule out this, otherwise a workable option.

Finally, UN sponsored process comprising forces of neighbouring countries and China/India could stabilise Afghanistan without undue bloodshed. Treaty brokered primarily by US, Russia and UN amongst Afghanistan government, other influential tribal leaders and Taliban leadership.

India should encourage US to go far UN facilitated stabilisation and agreement implementation programme with security and financial during transition clearly defined. UN has adequate expertise in managing multi lateral forces with reasonable level of efficiency.

India must be more proactive as PM Modi has reasonable trust of all stake holders less Pakistan, that can be better managed through China. Its most workable and Indian long term interests adequately safeguarded.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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