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Troops in Afghanistan: India faces new options

Praveen Swami wrote in an article that Afghanistan’s National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib, during his recent visit to Delhi for the Raisina dialogue, had asked for the positioning of Indian peace-keeping troops in Afghanistan.

Harsh Pant also referred to much the same in his commentary for the Observer Research Foundation. It is not clear whether the two are from a singular source, with domestic compulsions in mind, or whether this is a foretaste of what Trump would talk about when he comes to Delhi next week. This news was, however, promptly denounced as “fake news” by the spokesman of the Afghanistan’s National Security Council on Twitter.

This discussion over positioning of Indian troops in Afghanistan is more than a decade-old. The rationale being that an Indian military involvement in Afghanistan will shift the battleground away from Kashmir and make the Pakistani military-jihadi complex divert its resources towards the Durand Line. However, this argument has not been able to find much traction.

A number of strategic, logistical, and historical reasons have been put forward over the years in opposition to this bold idea. The renewed request, attributed to Mohib, means we have come a full circle. So, should India revise its approach given a significant context shift?

We think so, but not by putting Indian troops in Afghanistan. With the US withdrawal after an agreement with the Taliban on the cards, bolstering anti-insurgency institutions should take primacy over economic development projects from the Indian side. Here’s how.

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  1. Getting involved militarily in Afghanistan would be a monumental mistake.

    It is true that the goodwill India has earned over the past decade in Afghanistan will be at the risk of gradually decaying. At the same time, getting involved in order to retain that would be a far worse proposition.

    India must focus on reclaiming the PoK and getting a land route to AFG, which will help both Afghanistan and India in unimaginable ways.

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