Saturday, February 06, 2010

Afghanistan and India

Indrani Bagchi in the Times of India
India has refrained from using hard power in Afghanistan, and, in many ways, the Indian presence is guaranteed by the US' security role. As soft-power author, Harvard University's Joseph Nye says, "Achieving transformational objectives may require a combination of both hard and soft power.'' Soft power is only credible when it is matched by or surpassed by hard power. India is paying the price, because, beyond a point, roads and dams don't help buy influence. As one top-level Afghan official said, wryly, "We love India, but we fear Pakistan. That is a stronger emotion.'' India's power projection in Afghanistan has been primarily by showing its "goodness'' . Pakistan, on the other hand, negotiates with the world with a gun held to its own head. That, as India has discovered several times in its history, is far more persuasive.

For the moment, Pakistan has the upper hand, because both the UK and US need it more than ever. Pakistan is playing an adroit diplomatic game of chicken with the US - and winning. Islamabad may be hopelessly dependent on Washington's
money, but that doesn't stop it from refusing to give visas to US officials, refusing money that comes with 'conditions'. Pakistan has made it clear it will not stop supporting the Afghan Taliban; there is absolutely no attempt to tackle al Qaida; and Mullah Omar's Quetta Shura functions unimpeded. In short, it holds veto power over whether the Obama surge succeeds in Afghanistan. Washington, said an Indian official scornfully, is "kowtowing to Pakistan just like they did to China."

Harsh perhaps, but this view is prevalent in the upper reaches of the Indian government - to the extent that even the PM is believed to have remarked that if India and Pakistan have another fracas, Washington may not weigh in on India's side.

A. India doesn't have much hard power it can project directly to Afghanistan. Any actions it takes will have to be on the eastern border of Pakistan.

B. The Monkey in the Monkey trap holds a gun to its own head?

PS: One has to admire Pakistan's chutzpah to make demands with the weaker hand:
The Pakistani demand has been succinctly laid out by Munir Akram, one of its top diplomats: "Pakistan's cooperation should be offered only in exchange for tangible and immediate US support for Pakistan's national objectives: an end to Indian-Afghan interference in Baluchistan and FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas); a Kashmir solution; a military balance between Pakistan and India; parity with India on nuclear issues; transfer of equipment and technology for counter-terrorism ; unconditional defense and economic assistance; free trade access.''

(a) After the Gujral doctrine, I wonder if India is still messing about in Baluchistan. It would be stupid not to, as the above shows, you need all the bargaining chips you can find to deal with Pakistan.

As to Afghan interference in FATA - I really wonder what they're talking about.

(b) The Kashmir solution that is acceptable to India (formalize the Line of Control) is not acceptable to Pakistan. The US lacks any stick or carrot sufficient to make India budge. Indians do fear a sell-out by their leaders, as has happened a few times in history.

(c) After Pakistan's record of "Proliferation'R'Us" there is unlikely to be any support for bringing Pakistan upto parity with India; instead the attempt may be made to downgrade relations with India. But, IMO, India must become a massive coal-burner unless it has safe and guaranteed (i.e., not subject to international sanction) nuclear power.

(d) Military balance between Pakistan and India: a natural balance might be possible if Pakistan economically was Germany to India's Russia. But Pakistan's recent economic performance has been dismal. A balance might mean, military aid to Pakistan in the form of hi-tech weapons and a concommitant effort to strangle military supplies and technology to India. It will also require a permanent annual transfusion of money to Pakistan. As it is, Pakistan has now surpassed Israel as a recipient of aid from the US.

The counter-terrorism and unconditional defense aid are a part of this demand.

(e) Unconditional economic assistance: it means US taxpayers must give money to the government of Pakistan with no accounting. When US taxpayers are leary of their own government, I wonder how much they'll trust the government of Pakistan.

(f) Free trade access: this is perhaps something that can be addressed. As this World Bank brief states:
With Market Access TTRI (including preferences) rank near the worst at 117th (out of 125), Pakistan’s exports faces much greater barriers than other South Asian economies.

PPS: for the latest. Look at External Environment MA-TTRI (applied tariff incl. prefs.) - All Goods which means: Market Access -Trade Tariff Restrictiveness Index (applied tariff incl. prefs.) - All Goods - This index reflects the equivalent uniform tariff of trading partners facing the exporter country, that would maintain the imports of the trading partners constant, including preferential tariffs.