Indian Prime Minister says, “India is not America”
The India Afghanistan Joint Press Conference laid down significant and historical pointers to diplomatic relations between not only India and Afghanistan but also clearly stated India and Afghanistan’s expectations of Pakistan.
The Indian Prime Minister Mr Manmohan Singh was in Afghanistan meeting President Karzai there today, May 12, 2011.
Five important points that he made are:
1) Peace, security and stability are the most important factors of development and reconstruction.
2) “Peace and security requires all the countries in the region to think afresh in dealing with terrorism”
3) He said that Pakistan and Afghanistan would have to work together to end terrorism.
4) He declared Afghanistan as a “Special Friend” and said that India would stand by Afghanistan in rebuilding its infrastructure and announced fresh commitment of 500 million US dollars in aid to Afghanistan over the next few years. In fact, he committed to 2 billion US dollars in Aid progressively – the largest India has donated to any nation. Considering India has never been a big donor nation, this is hugely significant.
5) He also said that Afghanistan would have to take power in its own hands and start managing its own affairs, securing its sovereignity, containing its border and that the interference of the International Community should be minimum.
He did not say that International community should leave right away – but he said that it should reduce its presence in due course in Afghanistan.
He also mentioned that India would attempt to build a stronger economic relation with Afghanistan and India would attempt a people to people approach in building relations.
The Indian PM also said that insurgency operations and violent measures does not solve terror problems for anyone involved.
These are significant points that would govern India, Pakistan, Afghanistan relations in the next few years. An interesting point the Prime Minister made that made every Indian citizen and experts proud is when he answered a question by the foreign journalists that now that the US has done it, would India too undertake an American style operation to get the Indian fugitives there or the thousands of terrorists that are sheltered on Pakistani soil?
The Indian Prime Minister quietly said, “India is not America”.
What this means is that India made its stand clear about respecting law and order and international agreements.
India’s taking a firmer stand, increasing aid means there would be pressure on the International Community to contain its interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.
Sri Pranab Mukherjee the Indian Finance Minister who accompanied the PM to Afghanistan said, “I also flagged that Pakistan facilitate the trade which is now being carried out through ports, so that land connection with Afghanistan is reestablished.”
India also made it clear it would try and make an attempt to understand the Taliban’s position and stand by the Pathan or the Pashtuns who constitute over 50 percent of Afghanistani population.
It is to be noted in context that Pakistan was part of the Central Treaty Organization(CENTO Treaty/Baghdad Pact). It was dissolved in 1979, but this Treaty secured the United States of America permission to have bases in Pakistan and have thousands of CIA operatives stationed there and Pakistan has received nearly 20 billion US dollars in aid in the last twenty years from the US.
Link to the earlier meeting in Kabul between Krishna and Karzai for those who needsome background to the current committments and what India’s concern has been with regards to US position with regards to the Taliban.
India’s Connection With Afghanistan
Afghanistan was part of Indian North West Frontier Provinces for thousands of years till 1947. It was after the British left that they became an independent Sovereign nation.
There are over a hundred Indus Valley Civilization sites scattered along that region in our north west frontier indicating the common historical and cultural heritage, as most of the countries in the South of Asia, share.
The Afghani Pashtuns have been a part of Indian demographics since time immemorial. We wear Afghani pants to work, and in fact, Afghanis were the standard money lenders even during the seventies, in India.
The famous Silk Route – the Khyber Pass was used for trade with the Indian subcontinent.
After the Afghan occupation by Russia and later during the war there, Afghan refugees fled to India – that is, those that could – and live here. They have their own Pashtun schools in India too.
Afghani alu bukhara and clothes are dear to Indians and if you watch the way we live, there are lots of similarities in our sense of modesty, hospitality, religious practices, food, the way we raise children.
So, India’s giving aid to Afghanistan is not surprising given the history and geography of the two nations.
India doesnot have billions of US Dollars to throw about. In fact, we have huge debts as of now – and yet, if the Indian government is committing to 2 billion USD in aid to this war torn nation, it means something. Indian citizens understand the importance of this and look forward to having strong diplomatic relations with this neighbouring nation that was once an integral part of the Indian Province.
The United States’ support would be a key to the success of the peace keeping process.
There is a possibility that if Pakistan and India and Afghanistan managed to form friendly ties, the United States might perceive this coalition as a threat as that leaves the possibility of these three nations forging alliance with China at some point. Given the subcontinent’s history, it is unlikely but well, one cannot rule out any possibilities in politics.
However, if India manages to get Pakistan to come to an understanding and get involved in the peace keeping process and work towards social and economic development of this region, it would have far reaching positive consequences for all the countries in the near future.
Current Position of Pakistan vis-a-vis US: May 14, 2011