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Thursday, December 10, 2009

To Deploy Or Not To In Afghanistan

There is a surprising revival of the idea of deploying Indian troops into Afghanistan to apparently help Afghans fight Islamic terrorists along side with US (and NATO) troops. It's a revival because former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee considered the issue when US was planning to invade Afghanistan, then under Taliban and al Qaeda control, post-9/11, and thought otherwise.

So what changed to make the revival possible with the situation in Afghanistan actually deteriorating, not improving. The only change seems to be change in US leadership, from Bush to Obama. It's strange that we would consider deployment of troops in Afghanistan to help Obama, even as Obama himself hasn't done much to improve relationship between US and India. Obama's Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, ignored coming to India during her Asia trip. Obama has again provided aid and comfort to Pakistan despite India's misgivings. There were no significant agreements during recent PM Manmohan Singh visit to US - no finalization of Nuclear Agreement, no anti-terror cooperation agreement, or no hi-tech transfer agreement. Beyond Obama having first state dinner of US for Manmohan, nothing of substance happened between the countries, since the change of guard in US. So the reconsideration of deployment of Indian troops to Afghanistan is surprising.

We commented on Nitin's Acorn blog as to why the idea of troop deployment in land locked Afghanistan is not a great idea unless the deployment on a semi-permanent, meaning on 10-20 year, basis. (Nitin twitted recently that there is wide agreement in India's strategic circle that India needs to deploy troops in Afghanistan!)

And then we will be dependent on US and more importantly, Iran, for deployment. What if one pulls out or other vetoes – do we still stay there or did we waste blood and treasure for nothing?

Given the state of our economic development, our people will simply not fund a semi-permanent force...

Unless Pakistan cleans up its own act, India’s best options are (a) covert ops in Afghanistan (and in Pakistan), and (b) hope for the state of Pakistan to collapse enabling US to it clean up, with our active help. But the latter won’t happen as long as US keeps providing the state of Pakistan with aid and comfort.
We are better off fighting the Islamic terrorists in Pakistan, by going from the eastern border of Pakistan, with US deployment in Afghanistan guarding the eastern Afghan border and Iran guarding its eastern border. That's the only way to squeeze the terrorists, and their infrastructure, in Pakistan. Any other action will be a fight of attrition and will take a long time - one or two decades - and will end in a stalemate, unless Pakistan acts to clean up its act.

The more fascinating question to us is why is there a revival of the debate about troop deployment in Afghanistan. Who started it and why, when nothing changed in India itself?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Proletariat Communists No More!

Dogs of Beijing, China - For protection from Swine Flu after two dogs were found to have flu

No wonder various avatars of commies in India are actually supporting India in its border dispute with namesake commie China!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

As Much An Anti-Indian as Anti-Taliban?

US latest iteration of war in Afghanistan effort is being unrolled with lot of confusion as to what the goal will be, how many more troops will be sent, and how quickly US will leave Afghan. Manmohan Singh was just in DC with nothing to show for publicly for his long travel - no deals were signed, no promises about next steps made - nothing was achieved. B. Raman explains the lack of substance of this trip dismantling Manmohan Singh's media spin maestros on trip - nothing on counter terror partnership, nothing on wrapping up the nuclear deal, and nothing on economic issues. One wonder if Manmohan traveled half way across the globe just to attend the first state dinner of Obama - apparently the prawns served during dinner are an indication of the strong and stable strategic relationship.

How this relationship between US and India can be strategic partnership is a mystery. One hopes there were substantial talks on China and Pakistan. But there is no indication that Manmohan Singh pressed Obama on any issues related to China that we identified in our earlier post. On Pakistan, US seem to be sliding backwards from seriously understanding issues impacting us - sliding back to 80s, in fact, when Pakistan made demands and US obliged with serious implication to India's and world's security decades later.

Soon after Manmohan left D.C., reports of a secret offer by Obama to Pakistan, given about a month ago, to expand US patronage of Pakistan came to light. Obama offers more military and economic aid and support, meaning bribe, to apparently make Pakistan fight terrorists, with an 'or else' warning that US may take matters into its own hands.

President Obama has offered Pakistan an expanded strategic partnership, including additional military and economic cooperation, while warning with unusual bluntness that its use of insurgent groups to pursue policy goals "cannot continue."

The offer, including an effort to help reduce tensions between Pakistan and India, was contained in a two-page letter delivered to President Asif Ali Zardari this month by Obama national security adviser James L. Jones. It was accompanied by assurances from Jones that the United States will increase its military and civilian efforts in Afghanistan and that it plans no early withdrawal.
It is like watching a really bad movie being repeated again, but with real consequences to the security and well being of India (and Afghanistan.) Pakistan is very good at playing this game. It just got $6.5billion in aid with conditions that don't amount to much. Pakistan's president was reported to have to formally given the power over nuclear weapons to its prime minister, who is backed by Pakistan military, meaning, the president's formal powers are diminished significantly.

As if this bad movie repeating was not enough, Obama's Afghanistan plan seems to specifically aim to assuage Pakistan interests rather than actually fighting terrorists in Afghanistan. Obama's plan includes a surge of troops, followed by withdrawal of most troops, but continued long term presence in Afghanistan. The plan to stay in Afghanistan on a long term basis, it seems, has nothing to do with fighting the Taliban but to guarantee Pakistan's rite over Afghanistan policy to the determent of India.
Officials of one allied nation who have been extensively briefed on the president’s plan said, however, that Mr. Obama would describe how the American presence would be ratcheted back after the buildup, while making clear that a significant American presence in Afghanistan would remain for a long while. That is designed in part to signal to Pakistan that the United States will not abandon the region and to allay Pakistani fears that India will fill the vacuum created as America pulls back.
Did Obama brief Manmohan Singh on this specific issue? Did Obama provide contours of his Afghanistan war plans to Manmohan Singh during the his "first state dinner" visit? If so, what was Manmohan's response to the plans? If not, what is the nature of US-India relationship? It surely is not a strategic relationship - it doesn't even seem to be a rather friendly relationship.

Obama's Afghanistan war strategy seems to as much an anti-India strategy as an anti-Taliban strategy. India's military and intelligence better plan ahead of this US strategy to strengthen itself in Afghanistan and prepare for the blow back a decade or two from this rather recycled fallacious US policy, learning from American previous missteps.