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Old Saturday, November 10, 2012
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Strategic Depth in Afghanistan New Calculations


The U.S is least concerned about the Pakistan’s genuine strategic concerns vis-à-vis giving greater regional role to India, as this move will make Pakistan’s western borders unsafe and has the potential to destabilise the precarious balance of power that exists in subcontinent.


Since the initiation of U.S attack on Afghanistan, in pursuit of her illusionary objectives, South Asia’s geo-strategic milieu is being continually defined and redefined by the changing realities of the time – and that too at a fast pace. The ongoing tussle among the key players – U.S.A, Talibans, Pakistan, India Russia and China - has become further complex by the Global economic recession in general and the U.S desperate search for a face saving military withdrawal from Afghanistan, at the earliest, in particular. This article is penned to highlight the new trends and shifts in the war on terror in general, and their impact upon Pakistan.

On February 01, in a rare press briefing General Kayani ‘spelled out the terms for regional stability’. The proper context of the news item is the offer to the Indian army by the U.S.A to train the Afghan Army and Police. In addition to this carefully calculated offer, Indian army Chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor is also on record when he gave this statement that ‘a limited war under a nuclear overhang is still very much a reality at least in the Indian sub-continent.’ On November 23, 2009 Pakistan Foreign Office Spokes man Abdul Basit had to ask the world community to take notice of remarks passed by the Indian Army Chief. He also said that India has set the stage and is trying to impose a limited war on Pakistan: “There are reports that Indian intelligence agencies have made a plan to hit some Indian nuke installation, alleging and then striking Pakistan.”

Now the question arises why the U.S has given such an offer to India and what would happen if she would seize this opportunity to entrench in Afghanistan in the name of improving the security apparatus of Afghanistan? For the first part of question the reasons are not far to fetch and important ones are as follow:

1. The U.S wants to pave way for an early face saving exit from Afghanistan and it has given the opportunity to India possibly for three reasons.

a. After global economic recession, the leading U.S economic institutions failed miserably leaving the U.S economy in dire straits. Therefore this public perception is gaining strength that this recession is somehow linked to the global war on terror and also the U.S economy is not in a position to effectively finance this war. Hence, President Obama’s administration is under great pressure to ensure an early withdrawal from Afghanistan – which was also one of his election manifestoes.

b. The U.S wants to take India into confidence since another great game, chronologically the third one, is being played and this time between the U.S and the China because the U.S wants to counter the China’s economic expansion with India’s growing influence in the region.

c. The U.S wants the India to fill that vacuum that would be created after the withdrawal of U.S and NATO forces lest the Taliban would seize this opportunity.

2. Notwithstanding the buzzwords of major Non-Nato-Ally and the Front-Line-State in the WOT, It has become evident from this offer that the U.S administration doesn’t want the ISI or any Pakistani sponsored factor to manipulate this vacuum in its favour. Also, it shows that the U.S is least concerned about the Pakistan’s genuine strategic concerns vis-à-vis giving greater regional role to India, as this move will make Pakistan’s western borders unsafe and has the potential to destabilise the precarious balance of power that exists in subcontinent.

The answer to the second half of the question as to what would be the aftermath, once the India would seize this opportunity, and decides to go ahead with training the Afghan Army and the Police, is as follow:

1. India’s traditional hostility against Pakistan is in evidence. India will make every possible attempt to develop the Afghan security apparatus to take on Pakistan Army and will try to sandwich Pakistan between threats from both the eastern and the western borders.

2. It will exploit every possible opportunity to spark the flames of sectarianism and ethnicity in the Baluchistan and the N.W.F.P. Even in present times, there are many compelling evidences that India is involved in fishing in troubled waters of Baluchistan and FATA.

3. Pakistan’s economy will be strangulated by the Indian blockade.

4. The regional Balance of Power would be destabilized massively and would be tilted in favour of India and that scenario would be a nightmare for Pakistan.

5. India’s extended presence in Afghanistan will create problems for China as well and heightening of regional tensions would be its immediate fallout.
6. U.S will cash in the opportunity by selling its military hardware to India in the name of upgrading and overhauling the Indian Army to enable it to take on the Chinese forces. The earlier mentioned statement of Gen. Deepak Kapoor is an evidence and supports this analysis.
Now in the context of this analysis, it is quite clear that the statement of Army Chief is perfectly timed and germane. He sounds unequivocally when he articulated it loud and clear to all and sundry after participating in Nato commanders’ conference in Brussels that Pakistan had serious reservations over Indian Army stepping in to fill the vacuum as this would create new tensions in the region. He offered help of Pakistan Army in training the Afghan’s security status and expressed his optimism that the proposal would embrace a positive response. In the same breath he went on to emphasize upon the concept of strategic depth vis-a-vis Afghanistan with a crystal clear connotation.

“We want a strategic depth in Afghanistan but do not want to control it. A peaceful and friendly Afghanistan can provide Pakistan a strategic depth… If we get more involved with the ANA (Afghan National Army) there’s more interaction and better understanding…. We have opened all doors ... It’s a win-win for Afghanistan, the United States, Isaf and Pakistan.”

-Gen. Ashfaq Pervaiz kayani
Realistically speaking, Pakistan has been left with a few options to press the international community to accede to its concerns. For instance, Pakistan could strain its battle against militancy and extremism but this is not a viable option given the fact that Gen. Kayani has himself pointed out that Pakistan is fighting ‘our’ war, not ‘America’s. But General’s statement is perfectly timed since international community is pushing Pakistan to launch Military operation in North Waziristan and Pakistan is refusing to acquiesce in such demands before some of its key concerns, as discussed earlier, remain unaddressed. In the words of Daily Dawn:

“We hope that the army’s response is part of a well calibrated response for there are many other powers jockeying for some say in the future of Afghanistan (Russia and the Central Asian Republics, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, America, etc)…. Then there is the question of a future power-sharing agreement among Afghanistan’s internal players. Here, too, what the Pakistan Army can achieve appears to be limited. Pakistan is hugely disliked by the non Taliban, non-Pakhtun forces in Afghanistan, while its ability to influence the Taliban and the broader Pakhtun community may be in question. What, then, are Pakistan’s options? Gen Kayani called on the US and Nato to come out with a clear strategy on Afghanistan; we can only hope he has told his Pakistani strategists the same thing.”
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