Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Comments posted on The Times of India website over Edit Page Article: Shared stakes in safety by Deepak Kapoor - By Ghulam Muhammed

Comments posted on The Times of India website over Edit Page Article: Shared stakes in safety by Deepak Kapoor :

The contention that "The battle for India's defence has to be fought beyond its border" is a direct lift from US army's strategic doctrines and is most dangerous for India, if it revamps its own defence strategies to such an aggressive posturing. India should not get pumped up to feel that it is a super-power in the hidden meaning of the term that West is advancing to trap India into becoming a 'qurbani ka bakra' to fight its own wars. India should concentrate in safeguarding its own borders, militarily as well as politically. Hot-heads in the armed forces should be made to understand that it is historically beyond the consensus of Indian people to move out and conquer other territories, just to make India subservient to world economic compulsions. Our human resources are our most valuable asset and it is not cannon fodder to shed blood in causes that remotely concern us, if we are fully aware of what India stands for. We are billions but each of us Indian is as valuable to us as a billion. India need not have to side with the West, in the manner, when British colonials could boast of fighting their wars till the 'last Indian'. India must revisit its colonial history and learn to defend India from foreign machinations.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai



Shared stakes in safety

Deepak Kapoor | Feb 7, 2012, 12.00AM IST
Afghanistan is in a perpetual time warp. The British, while ruling India, left it mostly alone keeping their acti-vities confined east of the Khyber Pass. Russian attempts at establishing hegemony in the 1970s and 1980s met with dismal failure, thanks to clandestine US and Pakistani support in establishing and propping the mujahideen against the Russian bear.

Post Russia's departure, this underdeveloped region became a perfect haven for Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida and their fundamentalist doctrines. The events of 9/11 and the US's subsequent declaration of a 'war on terror' brought the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) into Afghanistan. With the announcement of a timeframe for the ISAF's withdrawal, Afghanistan is once again at a crossroads.

All this while Pakistan, led by its military establishment, has treated Afghanistan as its backyard. It perceives Afghanistan providing depth to it in case of an Indian attack. During Russian presence in Afghanistan, it used US monetary assistance to create levers in the country with which it could control events. With Russia's departure, its creation - the Taliban - occupied centre-stage. From then on, its attempt has always been to so control events in Afghanistan that, while it remains on the boil to suit Pakistani interests, a spillover is avoided and Afghanistan is managed through agencies like the ISI.

Pakistan's contribution to the US-led war on terror in Afghanistan has been selective, conditional and orchestrated with the above policy in mind. While, on one hand, it professes to be a frontline state in the fight against terror, thereby garnering massive US monetary and military assistance, on the other it provided a safe house to bin Laden and sanctuaries to Afghan Taliban leaders, hobnobbing with the Haqqani network and coordinating the activities of the Pakistani Taliban.

With the drawdown of US forces scheduled to commence this year, the US has made detailed plans to expand and empower the Afghan army and police so that they can take over the security responsibility of Afghanistan from the ISAF and be self-sustaining. Sadly, both realise that the time schedule of 2014 is too tight for this transition to be complete. This, in fact, is a major source of worry for the present Afghan government.

It is natural for Afghanistan to look for friends in the region that would help it stabilise post the ISAF's departure. India and Afghanistan have enjoyed good relations traditionally. It is no wonder then that Afghanistan sees India as a friend that can be relied upon. This found expression in the signing of the strategic partnership agreement between the two during President Hamid Karzai's visit to India in October 2011. Implicit in this agreement is the recognition of India's ability to rebuild Afghan institutions, including the military, whose requirement would be overwhelming following ISAF's departure.

India has resisted sending military help to Afghanistan despite pressure from the West in the past. That policy has stood the test of time and needs to be continued. The next best that India can do is to assist in training the Afghan army to enable it to achieve self-sufficiency and stand on its own feet. Here again there are two choices. India could enhance the levels of training currently being imparted to Afghan officers and men in India, and increase the number of vacancies on all courses. This requires marginal additional effort, can be implemented quickly, ensures availability of all types of training in Indian training institutions and provides a secure and peaceful environment both for Afghan trainees as well as Indian trainers.

However, it would lead to only a marginal increase in the number of trainees and may not meet the requirements of a rapidly expanding Afghan army. The terrain and operating environment conditions would have to be simulated. That cannot match actual conditions and can at best approximate them. Additionally, almost all the equipment - on which training needs to be imparted - with the Afghan army is of western origin. India does not have most of this equipment in its inventory.

The second choice is to send training teams to Afghanistan to train their personnel and also assist the country in establishing its own training institutions. While this takes care of the limitations of the first option, it envisages a larger commitment of Indian trainers in Afghanistan whose security would be a major concern. Therefore, besides the US-Afghan general security umbrella, an Indian security component would have to be planned for their close security, thus enhancing overall Indian commitment.

However, having Afghanistan as a permanent friend in the long run in this turbulent region is important. It recognises India's credentials as a power coming to the assistance of its neighbours in times of crises. The attempt by elements in Pakistan to use this region as a jihadi fac-tory to continue the proxy war in Kashmir would also be curbed.

The battle for India's defence has to be fought beyond its borders. India's vulnerability to fundamentalism and terrorism is well known. This monster needs to be tackled before it raises its head within the country. Strategic partnership demands that we do something more for Afghanistan than is currently being done. Besides the training being imparted in India, our trainers should go to Afghanistan to make assistance meaningful. It would help curb turmoil and terrorism in the region, curtailing levels of the proxy war in Kashmir.

The writer is former army chief.

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