November 16, 2012

ALONG THE ANGLOSPHERE:

India stepping up to the challenge of post-2014 Afghanistan (Sanjeev Miglani, NOVEMBER 12, 2012, Reuters)

To be an Indian in Kabul is to be greeted warmly wherever you go, whether it is negotiating a security barrier or seeking a meeting with a government official. There is an easing of tensions (in Afghanistan, the fear uppermost in the mind is that the stranger at the door could be an attacker and you don't have too long to judge), Bollywood is almost immediately mentioned, and your hosts will go out of their way to help.

To be a Pakistani is a bit more fraught. The body search is rigorous, the questioning hostile, and, more often than not, you have to be rescued by a Western colleague especially if you are entering one of those heavily guarded, unmarked restaurants frequented by foreigners.

To the ordinary Afghan, India and Pakistan have followed two different paths in the country beginning from the ouster of the Taliban in 2001 when there was hope in the air and you could walk in the streets of Kabul (instead of trying to escape it) to the current time when the Taliban have fought back and hold the momentum as the West withdraws after a long and ultimately, unsuccessful engagement.

While the Indians have been applauded for helping build roads, getting power lines into the capital, running hospitals and arranging for hundreds of students to pursue higher education in India, the Pakistanis are accused of the violence that Afghans see all around them, from the attacks in the capital to the fighting on the border and the export of militant Islam.  It's become  reflexive: minutes into an attack, the blame shifts to Pakistan. "They must have done it."

A Rand study into the differing strategies adopted by the rivals in Afghanistan quotes a 2009 BBC/ABC News/ARD poll which showed that 86 percent of Afghans thought Pakistan had a negative influence in Afghanistan, with only 5 percent saying it had made a positive contribution. India's impact, by contrast, was seen as positive by 41 percent of Afghans and negative by only 10 percent. Overall, 74 percent of Afghans held a favourable view of India against 8 percent of those who had a positive impression about Pakistan.

Quite a stunning reversal from the time when Afghanistan under King Zahir Shah supported Pakistan in the 1965 and 1971 wars against India.

Since that opinion poll, things have only gotten worse for Pakistan, with the breakdown in its ties with the United States, principally over the sanctuaries that American officials say militants enjoy in Pakistan's northwest, adding to its sense of isolation.

With America leaving while the fires still burn in Afghanistan, India may well be the country best positioned to pick up some of the slack, the authors of the Rand study, Larry Hanauer and Peter Chalk, argue.
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Posted by at November 16, 2012 7:25 PM
  
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