India’s military presence needed in Afghanistan

Non-alignment has crippled our foreign policy and practically ended India’s role in Afghanistan

Rajesh Dikshit |

Photo courtesy: Wikimedia

Former US president Donald Trump was emphatic about his country’s minimal involvement in global conflicts. The current incumbent, Joe Biden, seems to agree with his predecessor; this explains the exit of American forces from Afghanistan. Washington always wanted New Delhi to play a bigger, more active role in the war-torn nation; they wanted Indian boots on the ground, Indian military to be active so that they could help the Afghan forces fight the Taliban. We didn’t do that, so we are leaving Afghanistan.

“Look, India is right there [in the vicinity of Afghanistan]. They are not fighting it. We are fighting it. Pakistan is right next door. They are fighting it very little. Very, very little. It’s not fair. The United States is 7,000 miles away,” Trump said two years ago. He was absolutely right: the Americans were forced to do something that the nations in the region should have been doing on their own.

More importantly, from our perspective, by not deploying our troops in Afghanistan, we were ensuring that we would never have a say in the affairs of the landlocked, trouble-torn nation—the affairs that have a direct bearing on the Kashmir situation and India’s national security.

By the way, it was not the first time that Trump had grumbled about inaction on New Delhi’s part. In January 2019 too, he had ridiculed India for just being involved in Afghanistan’s reconstruction. He complained that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “constantly telling me he built a library in Afghanistan.” He added, “I don’t know who is using it in Afghanistan.”

He was spot on—on many counts. First, reconstruction is meaningless unless peace is secured, which the entire world, including India, believes that the Americans should do. Why? Taliban are thousands of miles away from the US; they don’t threaten the Americans, so why should they be bothered? Nobody has a clear answer. Everybody wants the Americans to do the dirty job of killing the most ferocious terrorists; and when they do that, the Americans are also lambasted and lampooned as having become the thanedars of the world!

Second, what’s the point of building libraries—and schools, roads, dams, even the parliament building—if eventually the Taliban take over the country, burn books, turn schools into madrassas (and produce more fundamentalists), blow up roads and dams, and use parliament to enforce the barbaric Wahhabi laws? First things first: peace and stability much precede reconstruction and development.

Third, India’s position in and on Afghanistan has been ludicrous: we spent majorly in terms of men, money, and materials, but when it came to determining the fate of the nation, we had no say. The parties involved in the negotiations for the future of Afghanistan are the US, Pakistan (which actually is the root cause of all trouble), Qatar, Russia, even China, but not India. We can have a say only if we are willing to fight in Afghanistan.

Since the US, indeed the entire West, wants to fight jihad, and so does India, we should be an American ally—at least in its war on terror. Washington has been urging India to be one; we have been refusing to do that. Only an India-US alliance will convince the Americans to force the Pakistanis to behave themselves; without solid cooperation from us, Americans would just keep uttering platitudes and clichés.

Our policy makers ought to realize that an alliance with America is in our national interest. This will check Pakistan’s evil designs; if Indian soldiers are stationed in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s worst nightmare will come true: it will be sandwiched between two hostile sides—Indian troops on its eastern border and Indian troops on its western border.

As we mentioned earlier (, non-alignment has crippled our foreign policy.

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