Sun, Feb 26, 2017 | updated 03:25 PM IST

An Afghan's view of India-Pakistan-Afghanistan relations

Updated: Jul 09, 2016 08:48 IST

By I. Ramamohan Rao

New Delhi, July 9 (ANI): Many books have been written on developments in Afghanistan, in the recent past by scholars, particularly after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the developments in the subcontinent thereafter.

But very few of them gave the reader the point of view of the people of Afghanistan. The latest book authored by Afghanistan's Ambassador to India, Dr Shaida Mohammad Abadali, gives the reader the views of the people of Afghanistan on developments.

The book gives us an overview of Afghanistan's relations with India and Pakistan, and how the relations between India and Afghanistan affect developments in his country.

India has had close relations with Afghanistan for centuries. We remember the 3000 -km long Grand Trunk Road built by Sher Shah Suri, in the 16th century, which linked present day India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Hamid Karzai, the former President of Afghanistan has pointed out in his foreword in the book that it provides a viewpoint of a senior Afghan diplomat who has inter-weaved his own experiences and observations based on the past incidents and diplomatic relations with these countries.

Afghanistan has been going through troubled times since the Soviet invasion of the country in 1979. The proxy war waged with the help of United States saw the emergence of forces like the Taliban. The ISI, headed by late Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul of Pakistan, played a major role in evicting the Soviets from Afghanistan but saw the beginnings of terrorism in the region. Pakistan provided food and shelter to millions of Afghan refugees, but sought a major role for itself in Afghanistan itself.

Initially, Pakistan supported forces like the Taliban and hoped to have a po-Pakistan government in Afghanistan, but changed its policies following September 11, 2001 terror attack on New York by the Afghanistan based Al Qaida. As the author has pointed out that "Even though reluctant, Musharraf joined the US in the 'War on Terror'".

The US-led coalition, working with the Northern Alliance, toppled the Taliban regime, which fled across the Pakistan border with its al-Qaeda allies.

During the effort to evict Soviet forces from Pakistan, the author has pointed out that Western countries, led by the United States, turned a blind eye to Pakistan's efforts in making a nuclear bomb.

In the chapter on India -Afghanistan relations, the author has pointed out how Afghan leaders were close to India during the freedom struggle. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan was known as the 'Frontier Gandhi'', and Pushtuns actively participated in the Indian freedom movement, though the North West Frontier Province became a part of Pakistan.

India wanted to help Afghanistan build itself, particularly after a democratic government assumed power. But Pakistan has been considering Afghanistan as its backyard, and there has hardly been a year when the Indians have not been targeted in Afghanistan by forces based in Pakistan. From 2008, the biggest attack was on the Indian Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, which left 58 people dead and 141 injured. In 2009, a second attack on the embassy killed 17 people.

India continued to give assistance to Afghanistan. The recent landmark has been the inauguration of the Salma Dam, and the inauguration of the Parliament building constructed by India at a cost of Rs. 710 crores in Kabul by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India has also agreed to construct the highway in Afghanistan and its access to the Arabian sea by constructing a port after getting the cooperation of Iran, to construct the Chabahar port and enable Afghanistan have a direct access to the sea.

The author has quoted former President Karzai on the project Indian assistance to the country:"The Western countries and the United States of American came to Afghanistan for their personal goals. There are also countries that, without having personal agendas, are here for honest cooperation with Afghanistan government. One example is India."

The author has pointed out that given the situation of a troop pull-out by Western nations, India has been urged by Afghanistan to assume a more active role in the country, particularly of the military kind, to strengthen the Afghan forces

However, in his assessment of India-Pakistan relations, the author has pointed out that on any given day, New Delhi would opt for normalisation of ties with Pakistan. The commonalities between Afghanistan, Pakistan and India could become the basis of their relationship; they can go a long way to reshape the current contentious relationship into a cooperative and peaceful one. The three share the same history, culture and traditions.

The book gives us a useful insight into Afghanistan's approach to its relations with India and Pakistan, and also the relations between these countries. It is a useful addition to efforts to promote better relations between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan..

Book Review:Afghanistan-Pakistan-India :A Paradigm Shift by Dr Shaida Mohammad Abdali; Publisher Pentagon Press. Pages 105. Published by Pentagon Press; price Rs995.

Mr. I. Ramamohan Rao is a former Principal Information Officer with the Government of India. He can be reached at his e-mail raoramamohan@hotmail.com (ANI)

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