News Commentary: The Future of India-Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations

10 10 2011

by Paula Bianca Lapuz

In 2014, the US military forces are pulling out of Afghanistan, after years of deploying support to the Northern Alliance, the pro-democracy forces in the country combating the fundamentalist group, Taliban.

Afghanistan has had a long history of war and security threat issues, owing to mixed internal and external factors, which include but are not limited to the following: (1) its strategic location beneficial to both Pakistan and India, two countries that have had disputes over Kashmir, an Indian administered area whose ownership is being claimed by the former; (2) its border dispute with Pakistan; (3) the sustained struggle of the Taliban and the Haqqani Network against Afghan President Karzai’s government; and (4) the inability of the democratic government to govern resolutely amidst the withstanding crisis, among other issues (Bajoria 2009).

This is a long story whose end is still unclear. Analysts claim that the solution to the Afghan war is to attain a sincere, genuine and lasting peace between Pakistan and India (BAKER 2008). Reports early in July showed newly installed Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna signifying renewed commitments to peace talks (Denyer 2011).  While credible documentation exist, verifying Pakistan’s support to insurgents in Kashmir (Bajoria 2009), both countries are allegedly pressured by the United States to resume diplomatic relations, as the retraction of US military forces nears (Lakshmi 2011).

However, three months later, India signed a security and trade pact with Afghanistan (Lakshmi 2011) which purportedly casts doubt over the sustainability of the peace talks between Pakistan and India. At the moment, Pakistan allows the transit of Afghan goods through its territory but denies the similar access to India (Bajoria 2009). A culture of distrust resonates throughout the borders of Pakistan. Peace talks are so fragile that once interrupted, violence is expected to rise just as quickly.

Afghanistan is likewise seen as an entry to the oil rich Central Asia (Bajoria 2009), which energy hungry states like the US and India are keen on observing since oil reserves in the Middle East are fast diminishing. With all interests clearly on the table, Afghanistan’s stability is seemingly the only viable option.

But with India’s growing influence in Afghanistan, the challenge to appease Pakistan is again presenting itself. Caught amidst the cost of the war are the Afghan people, the International Security Assistance Force soldiers, the Indian workers deployed in Indian-funded projects in Afghanistan, and the many families of all parties involved. Even the insurgents themselves are not reaping any fruit of the war.

Without peace, the government in Kabul will not be able to move things radically forward. And to attain peace, it has to deal with externalities and the compounding internal problems with the Taliban and its allied forces.

The US cannot delay the withdrawal of its troops as it is costing too much money and too many lives. President Barrack Obama is mindful of the direction that his government is dedicated to take as this can contribute significantly to his re-election bid in 2012, among other things. What remains to be clear is that Afghanistan is set to embark on a long and painful journey toward nation building and it cannot do this alone. President Karzai has to avoid political gridlocks between and among all the political stakeholders within and outside its borders.

Bajoria, Jayshree. “India-Afghanistan Relations.” Council on Foreign Relations. July 22, 2009. (accessed October 06, 2011).

BAKER, ARYN. “The Key to Afghanistan: India-Pakistan Peace.” TIME. November 11, 2008.,8599,1857953,00.html (accessed October 06, 2011).

Denyer, Simon. “India, Pakistan pledge warmer ‘new era’.” The Washington Post. July 27, 2011. (accessed October 06, 2011).

Jobs, Steve. “2005 Stanford Commencement Address.” June 14, 2005.

Lakshmi, Rama. “India and Afghanistan sign security and trade pact.” The Washington Post. October 05, 2011. (accessed October 06, 2011).