When US Defence Secretary James Mattis overflew Pakistan while visiting New Delhi and Kabul, the symbolism was clear. The new US Administration wants to change the geopolitical equations in the region. It seems to have dispensed with the Obama era’s strategy of giving Pakistan ample space in Afghanistan. Though US President Donald Trump has struck several sour notes on the way, he seems to be in no doubt about a higher profile for India in Afghanistan. India too has not been shy in spelling out its priorities — a firm no to boots on the ground but a ready acceptance of a more prominent economic role.
The US change of tack may have been helped by India’s active interest in South China Sea and the huge spending on American surveillance platforms for keeping an eye on Chinese activity in the Indian Ocean as against an aid-dependent but duplicitous Pakistan. At last count, India has patronised the US military industry to the tune of $10 billion. However, this may be a new Administration’s opening gambit where it has not factored in the role of other nations. Pakistan is yet to reveal its hand and ally China will also be wary of a more prominent Indian role in Kabul. A zero sum game of keeping out Pakistan has never worked.
Moreover India operates with a handicap in Afghanistan. Most of its eggs are in the Tajik basket and their dominance means that the Pashtuns are either disengaged or hostile to the current ruling arrangement. It is easy to partner the US in the high seas but a partnership in Afghanistan comes with assured unpleasant surprises. Will the Indian public hold its patience, if New Delhi’s projects come under attack amid a loss of lives? How prudent is it to join hands with a country which is looking for an early exit?
Besides, there is no word about the concomitant economic benefits for the big bucks India is expected to splurge. It has been easy to say yes but New Delhi will have to make several difficult calls as it seeks to spread its wings in the subcontinent.
Source & Pic : TribuneIndia