Representatives from Monitor 360, a US-based consultancy firm executing a project for the US Department of Defence and engaged in research and study of global strategic and analytical challenges, visited VIF on Feb 14, 2012. Their visit ostensibly aimed at exploring perceptions among India’s strategic elite regarding the US and Indian Roles in Afghanistan as a result of the US drawdown. The Monitor 360 team held an exhaustive interaction with Mr. Ajit Doval KC, Director and other eminent security experts and scholars at VIF on a wide array of subjects including Afghanistan’s uncertain future, India’s fears and aspirations from Afghanistan, and how do these fears and aspirations shape India’s engagement with that country.
It was fairly evident from the interaction that the US drawdown could significantly impact India’s interests in three vital areas: (a) domestic security (b) energy and economy, and (c) the regional dynamics. In so far as India’s domestic security is concerned, there is a real possibility of India witnessing a relative upsurge in terrorist violence; there could be instability in Kashmir, and a further rise in radicalization of the immediate neighbourhood. Such a situation would also give a major fillip to domestic radicalization in India. On the economic front, while India’s energy and other commercial interests in Central Asia could be undermined, she will be hard-pressed to protect her investments and economic opportunities in Afghanistan. With Taliban’s prospective return to power in Afghanistan - a scenario extensively discussed during the interaction, there would be a significant increase in Pakistan’s influence in the region. India at the same time will need to protect her status as a regional power. However, with Pakistan’s stability in question, there will be a big question mark over the safety of her nuclear arsenal.
India however is more worried about Pakistan falling into the hands radical groups than she is about Afghanistan. Pakistan’s vulnerabilities, especially the growing radicalization within her military, were examined in the broader Afghan context. The VIF Director opined that the new leadership of Pakistan’s military will be far more radicalized than the existing or the previous ones. The Indian discussants also underscored the need to review Taliban’s capacity and capabilities to regroup themselves. The talks which are being held in Qatar in not a very transparent manner for the rehabilitation of the Taliban in Afghanistan’s central government are fraught with serious risks. It is regrettable that Afghanistan’s sensibilities are being overlooked while those of Pakistan are being taken into account.
The interaction also focused on different scenarios which could emerge in Afghanistan as a result of the drawdown. The Director underlined that the real test of diplomacy will be that drawdown should not lead to a civil war in Afghanistan. However, trends so far in Afghanistan do not indicate a positive outcome in the short term. The developments in Afghanistan however could also impact the US larger Asia-Pacific strategy.
Report prepared by Mr. Sanjay Kumar