Contextualising Ghani’s maiden visit to India

Ashraf-Ghani__2938933bDue for the first time in Delhi on April 27, may have to tend to a few ruffled feathers in the Indian diplomatic and military establishment.

What makes India less welcoming than usual, are the overtures Ghani has been making towards Pakistan, which analysts believe is inching closer to achieving its stated foreign policy goal of achieving strategic depth in Afghanistan.

Several Afghan leaders including former President Hamid Karzai have expressed concern over ‘unthinkable concessions’ offered to Pakistan that is causing the country to ‘slide under Pakistan’s thumb’.

President Ghani is said to be cultivating the benefactions of Pakistan in order to use Pakistan’s influence over the Taliban to broker a peace deal. Pakistan Prime Minister heralded a new phase of Af-Pak relations in March, calling his country’s ties as having undergone a “qualitative change”.

Since September’s presidential election, ties between the two nations have improved ostensibly.
Pakistan Army chief Raheel Sharif has visited Kabul at least three times since Ghani’s inauguration, and twice since a devastating Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar in December that killed 150 people. Reportedly, Afghanistan has helped Pakistan arrest some members of the Taliban cell that carried out this attack. In what points to further cooperation in a critical area (of counter insurgency operations), Operation Zarb-e-azb launched against the ‘Pakistan Taliban’ (short hand for Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan ) by the Pakistan army in North Waziristan has disrupted the terrorist infrastructure and logistics, used for attacks in Afghanistan.

In March, the two countries decided that in order to monitor the implementation of decisions taken during inter-ministerial meetings between the two countries on a day to day basis, both countries will appoint two persons of repute solely for this purpose.

Ghani’s visit will therefore, have to be assessed in the backdrop of the apparent warming of Af-Pak ties but also through the lens of an rapidly developing geo-political dynamics in South Asia, that see India concerned and on the defensive.

Chinese efforts to revive Pakistan’s economic fortunes by pumping in billions of dollars through energy and infrastructure projects such as the China Pakistan economic corridor, construction of the Gwadar port, construction of nuclear power plants and the Russian gas deal with Pakistan are construed as developments that are reducing India’s heft in the region. While Russia’s move can be seen as simply arising out of an economic calculus, China is most certainly engaging in a rebalancing of its own, given the successful visit of the US president to India and their reduced dole to Pakistan.

Therefore, India will seek some movement on the defence and connectivity related issues; if not for any tangible gains, but at least to send a message to its neighbours. India definitely can do better than the three helicopters it will providing Afghanistan.

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