October 25, 2004


India's irons in the Afghan fire: India couldn't be happier as Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai cruises toward victory, despite allegations of voter fraud. New Delhi has much at stake in the war-torn country, in terms of both security and economics. After all, the road to Central Asia leads right through Afghanistan. (Ramtanu Maitra, 10/25/04, Asia Times)

Four days after the Afghan presidential election was held, amid charges of voter fraud and irregularities by 15 of the 18 candidates, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarma called the polls a "historic milestone" in the country's "journey towards peace, stability and prosperity". Using phrases otherwise heard only in Washington, Sarma said: "The people of Afghanistan defied the threat of terrorism and came out in strength to exercise their right to vote." [...]

To begin with, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is destined to be the first president of Afghanistan - his main rival conceded defeat even before election workers began counting the final votes - spent years in India during his student days. As a result, not only does Karzai have many friends in India, but he himself has a strong affinity toward India. Since 2001, when the United States entrusted him with the power of running a highly fractious Afghanistan, formalizing the process through an international consensus called the Bonn Agreement, India has stayed in close touch with Karzai and provided him with some much-needed infrastructural support. Karzai's relationship with India remains vastly more cordial than his relationship with Pakistan.

Indians point out that under the previous Taliban regime Afghanistan had become a breeding ground for terrorists and Islamic jihadis, many of whom found their way to the Indian side of the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir, intensifying the violent campaign against New Delhi. It was also widely acknowledged that the Taliban government was working closely with Islamabad, creating the potential for Pakistan to exert influence in Central Asia. The Taliban-Pakistan nexus was wholly unacceptable to India, and the US invasion of Afghanistan to oust the Taliban in the winter of 2001 was most cordially welcomed by New Delhi. India also welcomed the United States' efforts to break the Taliban-Pakistan alliance and install a non-fundamentalist Karzai, who belongs to the Pushtun-Afghan community.

Karzai's visit to India in 2003 and his interaction with New Delhi over the last three years are indicators that he trusts India. Recently, a few weeks before the presidential election, Karzai made it a point to meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. According to New Delhi, the election of Karzai as the Afghan president would help not only to consolidate growing bilateral ties, but would also provide New Delhi an opportunity to broaden its vista in that part of Asia.

The interests of India and America coincide almost completely.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 25, 2004 9:35 AM

India has always seen Afghanistan as a counterweight to that anagram masquerading as a country called Pakistan. It was one of the things that pushed them closer to the Soviets in the 70s and 80s.

America reacted to the utterly brain-dead, semi-educated, British toff wanna-be, Nehru by cozying up to Pakistan. India in its turn became closer to the Soviets which served many of the Fabian crowd that Nehru hung around with in India and England perfectly well. Now, that the American policy of cozying up to thuggish Muslims and India's anti-American, sanctimonious, Fabian Socialist policy have both proved to be nearly complete failure of Chamberlainesque proportions, we are both seeing the interest in cooperating, that our similarities outweigh the differences.

Posted by: Bart at October 25, 2004 11:14 AM

Pakistan is a key US ally in the war against terrorism. What do they leaders think about the close relationship between Karzai and their arch-rival, India?

Posted by: César Álvarez at October 25, 2004 11:30 AM

Mr. Alvarez:

That they'd better behave because they're surrounded.

Posted by: oj at October 25, 2004 11:33 AM

Bart, I'd say we are "cozying up to the less thuggish Muslims."

Posted by: PapayaSF at October 25, 2004 12:19 PM


Which can also be said to be slowly happening to the Saudis, no?

Posted by: Bartman at October 25, 2004 1:38 PM

Road to India but not pipeline, eh?

India's only interest in this regard is in keeping its Moslems quiet.

That's it.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 25, 2004 1:59 PM



Posted by: oj at October 25, 2004 3:18 PM