Afghanistan is experiencing a gunfire democracy, literally. Days before the presidential election, the country has been subjected to suicide bombings and shootings by the Taliban. India should be concerned, for it has invested political capital in Afghanistan.
The pattern of violence is revealing, politically. In the normal course, terrorist violence in the country has a predictable pattern: attacks against foreign troops in the restive southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar and the occasional attack in Kabul. Paktiya, Paktika and Kunar, the eastern provinces bordering Pakistan, are in the grip of violence, too. What is being witnessed for the past one week across the country is meant to scare and deter voters.
The violence is a measure of the Taliban’s desperation that they want to deter Afghans from voting. If a new Afghan president is elected, the process will enhance the legitimacy of the government. This will be an ideological defeat for the Taliban who have tried hard to keep the country destabilized.
If the democratic transition is derailed, it will not only hurt Afghanistan, but India too. A Wall Street Journal report on Wednesday highlighted India’s developmental initiatives in that country. India, the report noted, ranks No. 5, behind the US, UK, Japan and Canada in terms of pledged aid to that country. Pakistan does not figure in the list of top 10 donors despite being an alleged well-wisher of Afghanistan.
India has increased its presence in Afghanistan to help rebuild it. The success of such ventures will be the surest way of keeping the Taliban at bay and ensuring that Pakistan stops its misguided search for “strategic depth” against India in that country. Whenever that happens, it will go some way in enhancing our security. That will also deter Pakistan from linking Afghanistan with Kashmir and saying that a solution to the Afghan problem can only be found along with that for Kashmir.
If only for its self-interest, it is important that India contribute more. As and when a new Afghan president is elected, we should increase our aid and also explore the possibility of helping Afghanistan militarily to tackle the Taliban. If Western efforts flag, India should take up the challenge.
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