Sushant K Singh
A significant Indian military presence in Afghanistan will alter the geo-strategic landscape in the extended neighbourhood, by expanding India’s power projection in Central Asia. India has historically had a friendly relationship with both Iran and Russia. With Iran, India can also ride on the goodwill created by Zaranj-Delaram highway, which has provided a road link between Afghanistan and Iran. These nations could well be more amenable to an Indian military presence than they have been to the United States and its NATO allies in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani state will be denied the strategic depth it seeks by installing a favourable dispensation in Afghanistan. The Pakistani establishment will be compelled to divert its energies from their eastern to their northern borders. Loud protests can be anticipated from Pakistan against India’s active military involvement in the region, but the involvement of the United States will restrict Pakistani antipathy to voluble complaints. US officials have, moreover, long been frustrated at what they view as Pakistan’s failure to do enough to combat militants along its border with Afghanistan.
An Indian military involvement in Afghanistan will shift the battleground away from Kashmir and the Indian mainland. Targeting the jihadi base will be a huge boost for India’s anti-terrorist operations, especially in Kashmir, both militarily and psychologically.
Till the time Islamic fundamentalist forces are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, India’s battle to contain terrorism in Kashmir will always be a defensive one. This is because ISI and other jihadist forces across the border have the ability to calibrate the level of terrorism in India. India can counter this effectively only if it has the capacity to strategically ratchet up pressure either of Pakistan’s fronts.