What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

India's role in Afghanistan

The Weekly Great Game - Special Issue #4 (April 15)
Afghan defence minister Abdul Rahim Wardak visited India last week, and returned home with, among other things, an offer of counterinsurgency training to be provided to Afghan officers in India in the future.
And then on last Saturday, April 12, there was a suicide attack on a convoy of the Indian Border Road Organisation (BRO). BRO came under attack in Nimroz province, where it (with a staff of about 400) is working on the Zaranj-Delaram highway project (a 218 km long road) - probably this was no mere coincidence with Wardak's visit. Two engineers died and another five of BRO's staff were wounded.
Security is provided to BRO and some other Indian companies by a detachment of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) - Indian army troops officially are not going to be deployed to Afghanistan in the foreseeable future, and it probably wouldn't be a good idea to deploy any, either. But ITBP is a capable force,* which shouldn't be discounted as just the sort of security that was affordable as second-best under the circumstances. (They have already lost two of their men in Afghanistan earlier this year, in another attack, by the way.)
Pic: An ITBP soldier-policeman doing things I probably wouldn't try to do myself
A timely CSIS newsletter by Raja Karthikeya Gundu and Teresita C. Schaffer nicely outlines the issues affecting India's pariticipation in Afghanistan's development, so I don't have to - those are basically all the issues between India and Pakistan. Pakistan sees India's role in Afghanistan as part of a gigantic pincer movement (especially with East PakistanBangladesh gone, of course, and with the incongruence of Pakistan's space with places like Baluchistan and Pashtunistan), and India has fears of the connection between radical Islamism's possible foothold in Afghanistan and the situation in Kashmir.
The CSIS paper even deals with how, even while its role in Afghanistan has to be limited, India is looking to establish a foothold in Central Asia, too, more and more, and mention is made of the Farkhor air base in Tajikistan, of which you may read some relevant thoughts here. India's presence in Tajikistan is an issue that might get increasing attention in the future not just in terms of Indo-Pakistani, but also Sino-Indian relations as well, with even the interesting twist of its being a case of Indo-Russian(-Tajik) cooperation negatively affecting China's strategic calculus. India so far had plans to keep a squadron of Mi-17 helicopters at the Farkhor/Ayni base - no fighter aircraft for example - and compatibly with that it says it needs the base for rapid reaction capabilities in possible future scenarios, such as the instance of a hijacking in Afghanistan (there is precedent of that). But it's still the sort of presence that inevitably makes many wonder.
But getting back to the little details of India's activities in Afghanistan, Animesh Roul at the Counterterrorism Blog neatly enumerates many of those for a non-comprehensive but revealing overview:
• Around 400 BRO personnel involved in Zaranj-Delaram highway
• Afghanistan's Parliament Building
• Power transmission line from Pul-e-Khumri to Kabul
• Reconstruction of Salma Dam power project, Herat
• Telephone exchanges in 11 provinces
• Televison network uplink from Kabul, downlinks in all provincial capitals
• CII project for training 3,000 Afghans in vocations ranging from carpentry, plumbing to masonry and tailoring
This is actually less than what India could do and what it would probably be willing to do, but potential political counterproductivity has to be taken into account by them. And so this all could rather be looked at as something more like a minimum of what India is looking to do. The Taliban are therefore not likely to be able to make India scale back its efforts with these attacks.
All the more so, since India has economic interests, too, in building the Zaranj-Delaram highway. Through Zaranj India could have access from the Iranian port of Chabahar to the Afghan ringroad - Chabahar port is partly being developed by India, and it would serve as a gateway for Indian products traded with Afghanistan and Central Asia, goods that have to by-pass Pakistan now, since Pakistan doesn't allow their transit (and Chabahar is also a possible regional competitor with the Pakistani port of Gwadar which is being built by China).
* I didn't know this: an ITBP detachment was even deployed as part of the UN's CIVPOL (civilian police) mission in Kosovo.


Anonymous said...




Péter MARTON said...

Well, I'm not sure when it will be finished, but here it is hinted that construction is underway of the last 30 km section.