New Delhi (Sputnik)-Indian experts reckon that stakes for New Delhi in Afghanistan are high, but rule out any direct military involvement in the country. More importantly, they say the role of Russia and the expanding Chinese presence cannot be ignored.
The US Senate Armed Services Committee says the US should leverage the capabilities of its allies and partners to more effectively secure regional stability and security. India, as a regional partner to Afghanistan and a major defense partner of the US, is "well-suited" to take part in the role and work on a "trilateral basis with the US and Afghanistan," says a committee report attached to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 2018.
"The committee also believes that timely actions by the Indian government to fill identified needs in Afghanistan would significantly benefit the short and long-term security and stability of the region. The committee believes that the US needs to recommit to the fight in Afghanistan and that India, as a major defense partner of the US and a contributor to regional security, has a critical role to play in this effort," the Senate Armed Services Committee said, as it passed the NDAA-2018.
Both the Pentagon and the Trump administration have praised India's efforts in Afghanistan. Gen John W. Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, testified before the committee praising India's development aid contribution and investments in helping rebuild Afghanistan. He also highlighted that India in particular is well placed to fill the short-term material and training gaps of the Afghan Air Force, a statement mentioned in the report.
The report notes that Indian assistance in Afghanistan can come in a variety of forms such as "logistical support; joint training; combined military planning; threat analysis; intelligence, material, and maintenance support for Afghan National Defense and Security Forces for humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, security assistance, and any other areas deemed appropriate."
Indian experts reckon that ensuring Afghanistan's security is important, but rule out a direct military presence on the ground. India should confine its efforts to rebuilding efforts and training and military supplies to the Afghan national government, but a combat role should be avoided.
"The Indian government won't commit troops on the ground and would stick to its present role of giving assistance, training, supplies and other forms to develop the capabilities of Afghanistan. India has acquired lot of goodwill within Afghanistan for its role in reconstruction efforts and our strategic goals include preventing the advancement of the Taliban or it getting any major role. [Prime Minister] Narendra Modi clearly highlighted at the recent G20 summit during his keynote address on terrorism… that we don't make any distinction between good or bad forms of terrorism. There is no segregation as good or bad Taliban," Ashok Sajjanhar, former ambassador of India to Kazakhstan, Sweden and Latvia, told Sputnik.
While India must cooperate with all like-minded countries, including the US, New Delhi must not forget the Russian stakes in Afghanistan and the rising role of China.
"The US is still the dominant power in Afghanistan with its troop presence and capabilities, but India cannot ignore the emerging picture where Russia is making efforts to push settlement, which includes Pakistan and its protégé Taliban as well. But this is the situation on the ground and we need to watch how things unravel," he said.