Pakistan has the last laugh?

Pakistan has the last laugh?

  0 comments   |     by Kamran Yousaf

The Indian commentators conceded that Pakistan’s reading of the Afghan situation was correct

Here are some of the reactions by former Indian diplomats, retired generals and security analysts after Kabul fell to the Afghan Taliban.

“All we did in Afghanistan for 20 years is in jeopardy. Wish we had publicly expressed our deep reservations and opposition to the US withdrawal. Plus been more energetic about building a strategy of opposition to what we are seeing as a sickening supplication to the Taliban. But we climbed on the bus — a bus without wheels. How will history judge us? And Pakistan has the last laugh,” commented Nirupama Menon Rao, former Indian foreign secretary.

“India backed the wrong horse in Afghanistan, and has gone into a strategic sulk now,” wrote retired Indian Lt Gen H S Panag.

Indian defence and security analyst Pravin Sawhney summed up the India strategy in his following tweet: “I say what I said before, India has no role in Afghanistan without peace with Pak & cooperation with China. Russia cannot help us beyond a point. Worse, Pak geopolitical stature has risen with the coming of Taliban — this will result in hardening of its position on Kashmir.”

clip of Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is widely being shared on social media. In that clip the architect of Indian security policy was questioning the perspective of Pakistani generals that the Afghan National Army would not be able to survive once the US and foreign forces leave the war-torn country. He went on to add that he never believed the Pakistani generals.

But now the Indian commentators conceded that Pakistan’s reading of the Afghan situation was correct. India on the other hand was relying on the US while ignoring the other players inside Afghanistan. Although of late India did try to reach out to the Afghan Taliban, but perhaps that was too late. India over the last 20 years made huge investment in Afghanistan, hoping to advance its strategic interests. But all that investment has now gone down the drain with the imminent rule of Afghan Taliban in Kabul.

Facing intense criticism, the Modi government tried to placate the domestic critics. At a briefing for the parliamentary leaders, Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said New Delhi was following a policy of “wait and watch” on Afghanistan.

The question is: what are the options left for India in Afghanistan? One option is to recognise the Afghan Taliban and accept the new realities. But that would be a daunting task given the historic stance India has taken against the Afghan Taliban. There is one suggestion that India along with the US and other countries should support the non-Pashtun elements such as Ahmed Masood, the son of Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Mehsud, and Amrullah Saleh. But this time that option may not work since countries like Iran and Russia, which in the past backed the Northern Alliance, are inclined towards working with the Afghan Taliban.

Perhaps, the more practical approach is to make peace with Pakistan. It was because of the imminent uncertainty in Afghanistan that Pakistan and India had earlier this year opened a channel of communications. The discreet discussions led to renewal of ceasefire understanding along LoC on February 25. The process could not move forward. One explanation was that Pakistan was preoccupied in dealing with the Afghan situation. Once the dust settles down in the neighboring country, the two nuclear-armed neighbours can resume that process. But for now it seems India has to deal with the fallout of its flawed Afghan strategy.

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