By B. Raman
The following are my answers to E-mailed questions on the above-mentioned subject received from a UK-based analyst:
1) In your view, what is Pakistan’s goal in Afghanistan? Do they want their interests to be respected in any peace settlement or do they want their interests to be the settlement? What is the view of the Indian government, officially and unofficially?
Pakistan’s goal in Afghanistan is a government which would not create problems for Islamabad in the Pashtun belt, which would not take sides with India in any Indo-Pakistan military conflict, which would protect Pakistan’s economic links with the central Asian republics and which would keep India at a distance. Pakistan regards Afghanistan as within its sphere of influence and wants a government in Kabul which would keep Afghanistan that way.
2) In your view, what are India’s strategic objectives in Afghanistan? How does it differ from its stated policy, if at all?
India’s strategic objectives in Afghanistan are a multi-ethnic, pluralistic, modern, democratic Afghanistan which would play its due role in the south Asian region without coming under the malign influence of the Pakistani army and its ISI and which would remain immunised from Pakistan’s jihadi virus. India would also have a key interest in contributing to a prevention of a re-talibanisation of Afghanistan and the return of Al Qaeda to its old sanctuaries in the afghan territory. The stated policy and the genuine objectives are identical.
3) How do you rate the MI6-ISI intelligence relationship? What is the view of the Indian government? Is there a similarly strong relationship with RAW?
I don’t know the views of the Indian government. Based on open source information, my assessment is that the ISI’s co-operation with the mi-5 and the mi-6 has been as unsatisfactory as its co-operation with the CIA and the FBI. we saw a good example of ISI foot-dragging in the case of Rashid Rauf, a Mirpuri from Birmingham who was wanted in a criminal case in the UK and who had links with the Jaish-e-Mohammad and suspected links with al Qaeda.
4) Given David Cameron wants to build a “special relationship” with India, what would the UK need to do vis-a-vis Afghanistan and Pakistan to help build such a relationship?
Both India and the UK have a common interest in ensuring that Pakistan winds up the jihadi terrorist infrastructure in its territory and acts against the leaders of the terrorist organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the JEM which pose a threat to the nationals and interests of India and the UK. In Afghanistan, they have a common interest in preventing the return of the taliban to power in Kabul and of al Qaeda to its sanctuaries in afghan territory. India and the UK should work jointly for promoting these common interests.
5) What could India offer the UK to make such a relationship reciprocal? Could RAW fill the vacuum of an ISI break from MI6?
The relationship is progressing. There is now a greater appreciation in London of the role of Pakistan in fomenting terrorism in Indian territory. Similarly, there is a greater appreciation in London of India’s legitimate interests in Afghanistan. But the progress has not been as satisfactory as India would have wished because the UK is not prepared to use the stick against Pakistan despite its unhappiness over Pakistan’s foot-dragging against terrorism originating from its territory. The convergence of Indian and British interests in relation to Pakistan continues to have limits. This comes in the way of a stronger relationship between the UK and India on strategic issues.
6) What is your view of Cameron’s remarks last year about Pakistan “exporting terror”?
Totally justified and factually correct.
7) How do you rate the idea of a UK-India “special relationship”?
The idea is good, but the problem is in implementation. Any special relationship, to be worthwhile, has to be based on a quid pro quo. There is no quid pro quo in the relationship between India and the UK.