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Founding Editor view on Homeland Security

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The Indo-Afghan Strategic Agreement is one of the most significant national security developments in the last decade. In its scope it is on par with the Indo-US Nuclear Agreement, but in its impact it is more immediate as far as national security is concerned. The potential of the agreement is such that it could directly influence developments across three regions of Asia - West, Central and South. For it is in Afghanistan that these three regions meet, making the country unique in its history, as well as its future role. The significance of the Indo-Afghan Strategic Agreement is well understood in Tehran, Tashkent, as well as in Dushanbe. For the moment though it is misunderstood in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. And that is where the rub lies.

It was only after 1947 that Afghanistan and India ceased to be immediate neighbours, although they remained in terms of bonding. It is not surprising that Indian interests in Afghanistan have remained consistent with those prevailing before 1947, despite dramatic changes in the nature of governance in both countries. An India under the rule of Imperial Britain and now a democratic one, has virtually similar interests in and with, Afghanistan. And it doesn’t take rocket science to realise that it is simply a question of geography and history that determines the formulation of these interests. So the signing of the agreement is only a culmination of a logical process taken to its rational end.

The signing of this agreement follows upon those signed with Mongolia and South Korea in the recent past. And coupled with the historically close relationship with Vietnam, there is a pattern developing in terms of India’s footprint across the Asian landmass. Lest anyone take it amiss, this is not a heavy boot print, stamping on sovereignty or on other valid interests any country may have. This is a lesson for India as much as it is for the naysayers. For if India was to become overbearing, that would nullify all the positives that the country has to offer to its immediate and continental neighbours. And overbearing is certainly not an Indian national trait, or an ambition. Which is also why the race to be a super power of the future is a non-starter for that is not where India is headed. India is happy being itselfand doesn’t want interference in its internal matters, just as it doesn’t want others do that, to neighbours or otherwise.

The Indo-Afghan Strategic Agreement took its time coming owing to the misgivings that Pakistan has about intentions, of New Delhi and some other countries. It was only after a series of tragic assassination incidents that President Karzai’s hand was forced. He may have wanted to pen this agreement all along, but hedged because of explicit Pakistan’s misgivings. But the intrusive nature of Pakistani intelligence activities spilled a lot of Afghan blood and convinced him that the future lies with the neighbour of the past. The ball is now in India’s court and there is no reason for it to underplay its strokes. The Afghan people deserve a better future and India must be a partner in that process.



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