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Afghan stability in India’s interest

Afghan stability in India’s interest
Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s visit to India comes at a time when dark clouds hover over his country. A host of factors cause uncertainty for Afghanistan and make the prospects of peace illusory  not the least of which is the approaching 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of foreign troops from it that have so far propped up Karzai’s regime, though the United States plans to retain some bases.  A source of worry for Karzai is the heightened activity of the Taliban which has regrouped and has escalated attacks in order to gain power and influence ahead of next year’s presidential election that Karzai will not contest, limited to two terms by a constitutional bar. The Taliban hope to profit by the withdrawal of the NATO-led foreign troops, seeking to replace the elected Afghan government through violence and to promote their harsh version of Islamic law. With the failure of the recent US-led efforts to reconcile the Taliban to the present government, the prospect of civil war looms large for which Afghanistan is not prepared, plagued as it is by factionalism and internal crisis. Karzai’s rule has only been a mixed blessing for Afghanistan as corruption has flourished and the narcotics trade has boomed even as most people live in grinding poverty, with this breeding internal tensions.

Karzai’s India visit also comes at a time of heightened tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the relationship between these two countries having been challenged in the large several weeks because of flare-ups, clashes and skirmishes between their troops along the Durand line, which is the border. Indeed, Pakistan, which is close to the Taliban, has a long history of fomenting trouble and interfering in the internal affairs of Afghanistan which it would like to control. The withdrawal of foreign troops will once open up Afghanistan to further Pakistani interference in support of the Taliban and militant
jihadi
elements. This can only be bad for Afghanistan as the ascendancy of such forces will undo the progress made in recent years, particularly in women’s rights, with women having been the worst victims of their previous rule. It will also turn Afghanistan into the breeding ground and sanctuary of international terrorism once again. Karzai has handed India a wish-list seeking greater military and civilian support to fill the vacuum created by the withdrawal of foreign troops. It is as much in India’s interests as in Afghanistan’s for it to support and cooperate with Afghanistan at this difficult juncture in this country’s history in order to ensure regional peace and security.     
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