New Delhi worried over Kashmir lockdown effect on Afghans
As the Indian government has completed the century of lockdown in held Valley and the world opinion has strongly turned against its drastic actions to make the people of the Valley hostage, the South Block is seriously considering the long-term implications of its actions on ordinary Afghans and the relationship with the war-torn country in future.
Earlier, New Delhi had been running a duplicitous policy towards the country, which included bolstering the Afghan armed forces against the winning Taliban, massive investment in some sectors to show its other soft side, and running anti-Pakistan forces like the TTP, BLA, BLF and Daesh to attack Pakistan armed forces and civilians alike from the western border.
Now as the US-Taliban talks resume again and chances of Taliban sharing the power with the Afghan government grow, so do the worries of Indian External Affairs ministry. The Chabahar policy has apparently failed for all purposes as China makes inroads into Iran while India openly courts its arch-enemy i.e. Washington. No funds have been allocated to the Chahbahar project this fiscal year by the Indian government as it seems that CPEC and Pakistan-China duo have eclipsed the project, which seems not to have future in the changing regional dynamics.
At the same time, the possible US-Taliban rapprochement has put the ambitious Indian plans for Afghanistan in doldrums. There is a realization that relationship with Kabul will not be the same once the US forces withdraw from the country.
Then on August 5, 2019, the Indian forces annexed Kashmir brazenly, without taking care of the world opinion or that of the people of the Valley. The lockdown continues and the reputation of India among ordinary Afghans, who had built a strong relationship with New Delhi over the years, suffers. The Ashraf Ghani government, already facing crisis after crisis with Abdullah Abdullah waiting in his wings to take over after controversial presidential elections, is in a dilemma. It cannot oppose the Indian lockdown openly nor it cannot agreeably support it. This is worrying for the Indian government as it can feel the ordinary Afghans’ growing unease and subtle, and sometimes open hostility, towards its extreme actions in the Valley. It is more worrisome as ordinary Afghans are highly emotional and expressive towards the issues of the Muslim Ummah. For example, burning of the holy book anywhere in the world led to spontaneous and angry reactions in Kabul and other Afghan cities over the years. Same was the case with other issues. Now with the revoking of the special status to the Valley by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party, who had been opposing the special status given to the Indian-occupied Kashmir for long, New Delhi believes the chances of maintaining goodwill among the ordinary Afghans over the years and its influence over the Afghan government are gradually ebbing. The Indian investment on major infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, including the Afghan parliament in Kabul, the India-Afghan friendship dam in Herat province, work on proposed Shatoot dam in Kabul and 116 high impact community development projects in all the 34 provinces of Afghanistan now remains under question.
At the same time, the Indian media is stating that Afghanistan could extradite 13 Indian nationals who were among more than 600 Islamic State terrorists who surrendered to the Afghan National Army in the past few weeks. Kabul and New Delhi have formalised the operation of their bilateral extradition treaty. Pakistan’s security apparatus, among others, is wondering how many hundreds of Indian nationals are working for Daesh and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan as more and more Indians are found to be radicalised around the world.