Afghanistan is seeing an exodus of the American forces and contractors who have been there since the Operation “Enduring Freedom” in October 2001. This adds to list of countries aka ‘Super Powers’ who have got involved in Afghanistan to facilitate or support regime change, ultimately leaving in disgrace owing to massing losses and unpopularity among the locals.
Despite the popular notion that Afghanistan is the ‘Graveyard of Empires’, we forget to acknowledge an important fact that has led to this belief.
Foreign powers have time and again tried to capture the country and add their style of leadership and administration to the society that is very different from the local populace. The underlining point of Afghanistan is that it is made of tribal communities who have local level leadership who decide the course of direction for the region where they reside. Except for some patches of stability in the past, the overall history of Afghanistan has been chequered.
Considering this, it is best for the any regional or international power vying for influence in Afghanistan to engage with local tribal leaders to gain access to the country. This approach though was not adopted by the British(19th Century), Soviets(20th Century) or Americans(21st Century). The tried to either subjugate or buy people which backfired in the mid to long-term health of the country
Now coming to the important question – Should India get Involved in Afghanistan militarily?
India since 2001, has been involved in multiple ways:
- Capacity Building of Afghan Population
- Training of Afghan Army Officers in the Indian Training Academies
- Building of Infrastructure – Schools, Hospitals, Dams, Roads and Parliament House
- Scholarship to Afghan students to study in India
- Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul of Soviet Era Tanks and Choppers in the Afghan Armed Forces
The entire idea of Indian assistance is for building a nation that is strong, resilient and independent to carry out its policies without external interference or coercion.
India since 2001, has invested USD $3 Billion in Afghanistan and has earned lot of goodwill owing to it. It has focussed on projects and tasks that impact the life on a day-to-day basis of an ordinary Afghan citizen. This has been in stark contrast to Western Aid which is huge and has no transparency regarding efficacy of spending or accountability.
This does highlight that India has been involved passively for the past 20years in Afghanistan. Now, Should India involve Military? The answer this question, the following things need to be understood:
- What is India’s Objective/Motivation behind a military involvement?
- Will it add in anyway to the existing India-Afghan equation?
- Will it benefit anyone?
Let’s go step-by-step,
There is no objective for India to get involved militarily. The reason being – India does not have territorial ambitions regarding any country, India does not want to have strategic depth nor turn any country into Client state
Absolutely not. India-Afghan equation through historic times has stood its test. India wants the best for their friends and all neighbours
Absolutely not. It will lead to further humanitarian crisis. The best it can benefit is arms-dealers and terrorist groups looking to gather new recruits
Having said this, India has always maintained, Peace or the Process towards it should be – ‘Afghan owned, Afghan led and Afghan dictated’. This is only way ahead.