The Afghan dilemma

Afghanistan and Pakistan, is also expected in New Delhi this week to hold consultations. Russian security secretary N Patrushev is also expected early next month to specifically discuss Afghanistan.

Cowper-Coles met foreign secretary Nirupama Rao and special envoy S K Lambah and exchanged notes on the upcoming conference. “He is talking to key countries in advance,” said a British high commission spokesperson. He also met US ambassador Timothy Roemer and Pakistan High Commissioner Shahid Malik. Earlier in the week, British High Commissioner Richard Stagg also met National Security Adviser (NSA) M K Narayanan.

PLAN PURPOSE

The British plan has three elements for peace and reconciliation with the opposition, that is Taliban: Integrate Taliban’s front soldiers within six months; Integrate its mid-level commanders who are also called “shadow governors” within one year; and Deal with the Taliban leadership for its integration within the government.

Though the British project the plan as search for a regional solution to the Afghanistan mess, it will amount to throwing the Bonn Accord and Afghanistan Constitution into dustbin. Taliban is on the terrorist list of the United Nations Security Council that will have to be revised if they are to be recognised for restoring peace.

PAK OPPOSED

Pakistan has been resisting the plan, also because it envisages India joining a regional council on Afghanistan to be set up after the London Conference. Islamabad fears India’s increased role in Afghanistan will compromise Pakistan’s interests.

India on the other hand is lobbying that the participating countries at the London summit resolve for a show of support for the Karzai government. India cannot talk to the Taliban leadership which it considers as “nothing but ISI proxies” and as such its worry at the western gamble giving credibility to Taliban once again.

If the British plan is put into operation, Indian officials worry that it will result in the handover of the country once again to Taliban, Pakistan and ISI. That means back to 2001 situation. No wonder, India does not want surrender to Taliban but a continuous fight to finish them.

SECRET CONTACT

Ahead of the proposed plan, the foreign forces are already making secret contacts with the Taliban leadership. Lt. General Grahm Lamb is in charge of reintegration. He is trying to set out a plan to deal with good Taliban.

Reports suggest that there is also a group within NATO which is working on reconciliation. They are working on an agreement that Afghan government should set up reintegration fund. Japan has committed 5 billion dollars and more may come. Reports are that Lamb will get $1.5 billion from the Japan aid to bribe Taliban and tribal leaders to win them over.

INDIA’S ROLE

Western countries are suggesting India to avoid any high profile role in security operations in Afghanistan and continue to focus its energies rather on reconstruction of the Afghans’ civilian infrastructure, including roads and healthcare system. Its worry, however, is that if the coalition forces pull out, unlike Najebullah, the present government will not last long.  Soviets may not have done 95 percent of things right, and were opposed by Afghans and world, but they did five percent things right by building infrastructure and left a strong Afghan national army.

India has considerably gained confidence of the Afghans because of its humanitarian intervention and food assistance. This included supply of biscuits to two million school children, medical mission, access to trade mechanism through Chahbahar and helping the World Bank and Asian Development Bank bring Uzbuk electricity to Kabul.

For the first time since 1996, Kabul is having uninterrupted electric supply since May. Uzbuk electricity costs 6-7 cents a unit against 35 cents that Americans demand by establishing diesel generators outside Kabul. India is also helping in the Salma Dam Hydel project in Chisti Sharief that may generate just 42 MW but will double irrigation potential.

As an Indian official points out, India is now concentrating on quick gestation projects like constructing school buildings, hospital wards, coordinating with Aga Khan Trust in places like Kandahar and Badakshan for institution building, capacity building and skill improvement.

Mining can redeem Afghanistan’s economy, but Indian companies are reluctant to invest as it will be uneconomical to bring ores to India. On this score, India would not mind China enter the mining arena as it already has transit facilities via Pakistan.

 

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