Mr. Trump, India is Winning in Afghanistan and America is Footing the Bill

01:01 PM | 24 Oct, 2017
Mr. Trump, India is Winning in Afghanistan and America is Footing the Bill

Governments in Pakistan and the United States are pursuing a sophisticated approach to rebuilding ties, rising above entrenched lobbies and special interest groups in both capitals that hinder a normalization. It’s a diplomatic innovation befitting an important relationship that changed the face of the world not very long ago.

A good example of this complex diplomacy was seen on October 19, when Mr. Mike Pompeo contradicted the Pakistani military on the rescued Canadian-American family.

Islamabad chose to ignore it and avoid a public back-and-forth with the CIA director. It was a smart decision.

Mr. Pompeo’s casual remark, during a Washington policy forum on October 19, had the potential to torpedo careful work to salvage a crucial relationship. Two-months’ work could have gone down the drain. (This careful effort began in New York in September, when Vice President Pence and Prime Minister Abbasi had a groundbreaking meeting, followed by Foreign Minister Asif’s meetings with Secretary Tillerson and National Security Adviser Gen. H. R. McMaster, followed by Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells landing in Islamabad, and then a US invitation to Chairman Joints Chief Gen. Zubair Hayat to attend a military forum in Washington.)

Mr. Pompeo indirectly accused Pakistan of lying about the rescue of the Canadian-American family. His remark was in stark contrast to the Trump administration’s praise for Islamabad, hailing it as a turning point in a difficult relationship.

Pompeo’s statement came less than a week after Secretary Tillerson’s visit to Islamabad. Had Pakistan responded to Pompeo, this could have scuttled the visit.

Many lobbies, in Washington, Islamabad, and Kabul, are working against a Pakistan-American reconciliation. But none stronger than India, which considers itself directly affected by any improvement in Pak-American ties.

New Delhi benefits from permanent chaos in Afghanistan. And why not. The instability leads to mutual recriminations between Washington, Islamabad and Kabul, and the mounting casualties on all sides push all of them to dig their heels in, increase mutual acrimony, and complicate matters, all while India keeps a safe distance, and exploits the mess to engage Pakistan by proxy on multiple volatile borders.

A messed-up Afghanistan and a quarrelling America-Pakistan is the ideal situation for India. The country has little interest in ending the Afghan war.

This partly explains India’s lukewarm response to President Trump’s call for it to spend money to stabilize Afghanistan. Beyond rhetorical statements (“We share President Trump’s concerns on Afghanistan”), New Delhi has kept silent on Trump’s call for India to spend money and do more to help Afghanistan.

India extracted impressive benefits from a war-torn Afghanistan with very little investment, while the United States invested money and blood in return for a very little benefit.

In short: America did all the legwork while India reaped all the benefits in Afghanistan, not much different from America’s war to remove Saddam only to see Iran sweep.

India’s strategic actions in Afghanistan post-9/11 have devastated the Afghans, the Pakistanis, and the Americans. New Delhi used Afghan lawless badlands to create a terror militia like BLA, and assist anti-Pakistan groups like TTP and LeJ. And then expanded its outreach into Iran in partnership with the IRGC, where the Indian consulate in Zahedan and the intelligence outpost at Chabahar became centres for an unprecedented covert push into Pakistan that destabilized Balochistan and the country’s business hub of Karachi.

So, while Pakistanis, Afghans and the Americans struggle with their losses, it’s party time in India’s strategic quarters. Never did India accrue this much strategic influence across the region, weaken its traditional target, Pakistan, and then achieve all of this with virtually no loss of money and lives, all paid for by America.

India is spending a lot of money inside the US to keep the focus and the blame on Pakistan for America’s floundering Afghan war. This firmly keeps the lid on India’s double game in Afghanistan.

Washington appears to be oblivious to this Indian foul play. Earlier this month, India received its first shipment of US crude oil of 1.6 million barrels, part of 7.85 million barrels that are on the way from the US, according to a statement by India Oil Corp. Ltd.

These shipments of American oil are part of the closeness that Obama administration developed with India. The American crude helps New Delhi lessen its reliance on shipments from Gulf Arab states. Iran is the other source of Indian crude imports.

The United States is generally keeping a positive policy toward India, and New Delhi is benefiting from this. But, at the same time, New Delhi is working against President Trump’s agenda. Apart from destabilizing both Afghanistan and Pakistan, India is supporting anti-Trump lobbies in the US.

The Indians are not happy with Trump’s America-first immigration policies. India is not happy to see Trump keep Pakistan out of the travel ban list.

India would like to see a conflict between Pakistan and the United States, and it benefits from America continuing to pay in Afghanistan while New Delhi reaps benefits. This is where Pakistan diplomacy fails to seize the opportunity and engage the American public opinion. Pakistani diplomats are impressive and capable, but generally are misfits in Washington.

Our Chinese and Arab neighbours have done better there. Ironically, the one Pakistani ambassador in Washington who played it well turned rogue and joined Pakistan’s antagonists.

Mr. Pompeo’s remarks show there still are many in DC who want to continue the America-Pakistan-Afghanistan quarrel while others, like India, benefit strategically. Obama was a disaster for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

We can help President Trump and the United States to bring peace to Afghanistan, and help America succeed there. In return, President Trump should help in containing India’s destructive role in Afghanistan that cost endless Afghan, American and Pakistani lives. India’s obsession of taking revenge for Kashmir has ruined the region.