Deconstructing Modi Agenda, for Afghanistan


The intent behind Narendra Modi’s unprecedented ‘love’ for Afghanistan is no more a secret now. With an overt mission to destabilize Pakistan, Modi has poured in huge sums of money as ‘investments in Afghanistan’s future’ and has vowed that his country will extend cooperation to every part of war-torn Afghanistan despite facing barriers of politics, geography and terror attacks on its mission. He uttered these words after inaugurating the Afghan-India Friendship Dam, earlier known as Salma Dam. Afghanistan also tiptoeing India in its quest for becoming the hegemon in the South Asian region. Afghanistan has also rewarded Modi with its highest civilian honour, the Amir Amanullah Khan Award. India’s refusal to attend the Saarc summit in Islamabad and Afghanistan’s toeing the Indian line speaks volumes about India’s growing influence in Afghanistan and this all does not bode well for Pakistan. <div>

Ever since coming into power on May 26, 2014, Narendra Modi, the Machiavellian Prince of India, has put in all-out efforts to isolate Pakistan particularly in the South Asian region. His blatant confession that India has played a key role in the dismemberment of Pakistan, his unceasing efforts to portray Pakistan as the hotbed of terrorism and, more recently, the postponement of Saarc Summit amply elaborate his intentions of subduing Pakistan and creating Indian hegemony in the region. Unfortunately, the Ashraf Ghani-led government of Afghanistan has become only a puppet in Modi’s hands. This assertion is corroborated by the fact that besides making huge investments in various sectors of Afghanistan, Delhi’s has recently announced a $1 billion dollar assistance programme for the country. The pledge for this hefty programme came after President Ghani’s unexpected visit to India on the eve of Eid-ul Adha. This tightening of ties between the two countries, apparently, is aimed at investing in regional cooperation rather than relying solely on the so-called international community; but  cosying up to India at such a critical era at the expense of jeopardizing Afghanistan’s relations with Pakistan is not a wise policy decision and will have serious implications in the long  run. Modi is no messiah and his agenda for Afghanistan must be critically assessed and cautiously approached.

Modi’s India is in the mildest of economic progress and the steady growth of incomes to what might be called nationalists’ patriotic mobilization. Critics of Modi believe that in the last two and a half years, his stock of political capital has fallen considerably at home. It is increasingly becoming clear that his hyper-promises in the campaign are no longer attainable, as such an outright looking hawkish foreign policy can serve as a timely scapegoat for Modi and his party.

The critics argue that Modi-fied India has been revealed to be at a depressing stage on which the demons of religious bigotry and hyper-nationalism hover unsleepingly over the vital debates of a society in transition. In the view of Chandrahas Choudhury, Hindu nationalism, an organized political force, is actually the spiritual parent of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which Modi first joined as a teenager. Hindu nationalism holds that Hinduism is the real unifying thread of the Indian past, and the Hindu way of life should continue to be the motor that stabilizes and drives the present.

Being hammered at home by his opponents, Modi tries to gain on his foreign policy, thus, India’s pivot to East will redefine regional politics. Narendra Modi is thinking of “Act East” policy, replacing the previous government’s “Look East” policy.  According to Modi, “Rapidly developing India and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) can be great partners for each other.” Speaking in November 2014 at the annual summit of the ASEAN, he said, “We are both keen to enhance our cooperation in advancing balance peace, and stability in the region.” Given these stakes, he has chosen to manipulate Afghanistan as a podium to his own ends. For Modi, Afghanistan is an important part of ideological regional project against Pakistan, rooted in deeply-held beliefs. Therefore, in a calculated approach on three occasions over Afghanistan case he has tried to provoke Afghan’s anti-Pakistan sentiments.

On December 25, 2015, in his inauguration speech of the Afghan Parliament building donated by India, Modi said, “I stand here, on behalf of 1.25 billion friends in India, in admiration for your achievements, in gratitude for your friendship and in solidarity for your future.” He continued, “Over the mighty Hindu Kush and through the forbidden Khyber Pass, monks, merchants and monarchs have linked us through knowledge, culture, religion, commerce and kingdoms”. Later on at the Afghan Salma Dam inauguration in Herat, he promised Afghans in a speech televised live on major Afghan stations. “India will not forget you or turn away. Your friendship is our honour; your dreams are our duty.”

Modi went so far as to talk for Afghanistan in Washington and reminded the US Congress that Afghans are appreciative of the US support. “Afghans naturally recognize that the sacrifices of American have helped create a better life,” he said. He added in his speech that India too has made an enormous contribution and sacrifices to support our friendship with Afghan people. A commitment to rebuild a peaceful, and stable and prosperous Afghanistan is our shared objective.”. By the same token, he indirectly attacked Pakistan saying “I commend the members of the US Congress for sending a clear message to those who preach and practice terrorism for political gains.”
From Modi’s rhetoric on Afghanistan, it is not difficult to read his overarching strategic nationalist agenda. The circumstances around the world, particularly in the region command on  Afghanistan  to make a wise choice between Modi’s rhetoric and realities on  the ground. India traditionally follows a progressive conservative approach towards Afghanistan. Historical experiences have shown that despite warm and usual rhetoric statements since its partition India always has tried to be a good friend in distance with Kabul, even during the 1980s when its rival Pakistan had substantive military engagement in Afghanistan.

Therefore, to locate itself in the Asian calculations, Afghanistan must not let India to use the plight and circumstances in the country to gain victory over its rival, but instead Afghanistan needs to work to balance its relations with both Pakistan and India for peace. Today, it is clearly visible that Afghanistan has reached the nadir of its destruction.  A peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan is an essential recipe to Asian growth. Kabul must certainly do its part. The first and foremost is to balance its relations with its neighbours as well as with the world and regional powers. It seems President Ashraf Ghani has realized this by making his first official visit to Beijing, not Washington. The narrative of the Afghan president is largely framed in an Asian future. Negotiating peace with Taliban with thorough Pakistani engagement was a smart choice and still remains the only viable option. The problem is that the government in Kabul is a direct product of the last 14 years of Western domination and close to India. The regime must win the trust of its neighbour states and India must not be the only neighbour especially an India under Narendra Modi.

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