Follow @southasiaanalys

India’s Foreign Policy Radar: Imperatives to Delete Pakistan and Afghanistan

Paper No. 5885                               Dated 04-Mar-2015

By Dr Subhash Kapila

Pakistan for decades and now Afghanistan lately are strategic dead-weights and non-performing assets in terms of Indian foreign policy and Indian security interests.

Pakistan and Afghanistan may be strategic assets for United States national interests in South West Asia and that by itself is no reason for India to adopt American foster children in the region.

Pakistan has never shed its visceral hatred for India for over six decades now and four unprovoked and unsuccessful wars against India. There is something sinister in Pakistan’s DNA and especially that of the Pakistan Army generals. No amount of Indian antibiotics in terms of olive branches, Track II toTrack IV processes and use of Indian Special Envoys can treat Pakistan’s insecurities vis-à-vis India.

Successive Indian Governments of different political dispensations, including the present one, stood and stand distracted, from wider successes in Indian foreign policy initiatives because of the disproportionate attention bestowed on Pakistan.

The above chiefly arises from Indian subservience to American security interests in the region and Indian governments’ propensity to outsource their Pakistan foreign policy to Washington.

In the last fifteen years of the so-called US-India Strategic Partnership, can any authoritative source, quote one instance in relation to Pakistan where the United States gave priority to Indian security interests?

The same pattern is visible in Afghanistan where the United States through the newly US-installed Afghan President is engaged in applying salve to Pakistan Army’ sensitivities by weaning away Afghanistan from its decade old proximity to India. The new Afghan President as reported in the media has cancelled a number of military contracts to India and commenced training of Afghan Army officers in Pakistani training establishments. This, notwithstanding the billions of dollars pumped by India in reconstruction projects in war-ravaged Afghanistan which in itself was complimenting US interests in Afghanistan.

The Indian foreign policy establishment contextually needs to answer a number of crucial questions in relation to its Pakistan policy. Who needs peace and reconciliation in South Asia, India or Pakistan? Can a hostile Pakistan arrest India’s ascendant power trajectory? Would the global community not engage a rising India because of Pakistan’s hostility?

Obviously, it is Pakistan that needs peace and stability, both within and without, to ensure its continued survival as a viable nation-state.

A hostile Pakistan despite its nuclear weapons arsenal is in no position to impede a rising India. The global community, including United States and China, have by now already demonstrated that it is in their strategic interests to engage and cultivate India.

The next question that India foreign policy establishment needs to answer is that if by some magic wand the Indian Special Envoys or the Foreign Secretary succeeds in making Pakistan reasonable, would such a born-again Pakistan be a strategic asset to India? The answer is a big NO. Its latent hostility would resurface again because of strategic compulsions of the Pakistan Army.

Afghanistan is condemned to violence and turbulence at the hands of the Pakistan Army and the United States misconceived assessment that Pakistan Army is a US strategic asset. With a pliable Afghanistan President susceptible and responsive to US and Pakistan Army pressures, Afghanistan ceases to be a strategic asset to India even existentially.

India would have to recast and revive its older policy of cultivating and supporting the Northern Alliance. United States seems to have forgotten that it was on the shoulders of the Northern Alliance that US Forces rode into Kabul.

The above course may be viewed by the United States as contradictory to its strategic formulations, so what? India’s national security imperatives dictate such a policy.

There will be a howl of Indian protests from the Indian Pakistani-apologists that dialogue, engagement and peaceful resolution of disputes are an inescapable imperative for India. The utter poverty of such thinking is exposed by Pakistan’s regrettable approaches to Indian peace moves of the last over six decades.

Can India create a new and alternative strategic asset for itself in the region on its Western Flank?

Yes, it can, if it only chooses to stop being distracted by its endless and fruitless strategic attention on Pakistan and Afghanistan and divert its strategic attention, time and focus on Iran with which it has a Strategic Partnership.

Iran, like India, and unlike Pakistan and Afghanistan, is a regional power and shares a civilizational heritage with India. Iran’s geographical contiguity with Pakistan and Afghanistan confer mutual strategic advantages. Both India and Iran enjoy strategic convergences in the region. It was regrettable that in the middle of the last decade India under Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh buckled under (once again) US pressure to downgrade its strategic ties with Iran.

India and Iran can be strategic assets for each other and it was this reality that had impelled Iran even under the Shah regime to reverse gears from its US- induced fixations on Pakistan, and make moves for strategic proximity to India.

Concluding, one would like to assert that Indian foreign policy radar can afford to delete the Pakistan and Afghanistan blips without serious setbacks to its strategic interests. However, to do so India would have to stop outsourcing its Western Flanks security interests to Washington.

(Dr Subhash Kapila is a graduate of the Royal British Army Staff College, Camberley and combines a rich experience of Indian Army, Cabinet Secretariat, and diplomatic assignments in Bhutan, Japan, South Korea and USA. Currently, Consultant International Relations & Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group. He can be reached at