India should keep away from Afghan affairs

India should keep away from Afghan affairs

Recently there was an article in the Hindu where in Indian diplomat posted at Tajik capital Dushanbe one Mr Muthu Kumar was recounting how between...

Recently there was an article in the Hindu where in Indian diplomat posted at Tajik capital Dushanbe one Mr Muthu Kumar was recounting how between 1996 and 2000 India was providing military and medical assistance to Masood and his forces in their ongoing fight with Taliban.

Whether such a vivid description of sensitive secret mission by a former diplomat calls for action against him I am sure the External Affairs ministry would take care of.

I felt after reading the article there was no need for him to have divulged such sensitive information to warn Government of India against any misadventure of placing Indian boots on Afghan soil - a misadventure I am sure Government of India is not contemplating at all.

India has consistently played an important role as part of peacekeeping mission under the UN umbrella . It is part of almost all 50 peacekeeping missions with two lakh personnel deployed right from Korea to Rwanda and South Sudan.

Indian forces by and large got excellent appreciation as part of these peacekeeping missions and the Wall Street journal has the following to say about the reputation of the Indian forces as part of UN peace keeping force.

"Indians have "won hearts and minds" as well.

Indian troops have dug wells, constructed schools and mosques, run mobile dispensaries and relief camps. In Rwanda, they helped build refugee camps; in Angola, they built an airstrip and led the de-mining of an arterial road. Indian troops have policed in the Balkans and in Latin America."

While the reputation they gained as part of the UN peacekeeping mission was remarkable but when they were deployed in Sri Lanka as part of a bilateral agreement between India and Sri Lanka the experience was different.

Though their mandate was not to get involved in significant combat they got embroiled in a battle with LTTE to enforce peace. Sri Lanka became India's Vietnam.

Another close brush with disaster came calling in 2003 when after deposing Saddam Husain USA was very keen that India should get involved by sending forces to Iraq to restore peace.

There were strong forces urging India to get involved including the then home minister Advani. There were a number of paid articles I am sure paid by USA in some of the leading newspapers and magazines urging India to get involved by sending an army contingent to Iraq.

It goes to the credit of Vajpayee to have built up a consensus against it and saved the nation from getting involved in a conflict which has no end.

Further given the fact that USA is a very unreliable partner in these issues and has a knack of starting a war when it suits them and pulling out without anything being achieved leaving the people to their fate not of their making , the decision of Vajpayee in those days was statesmanly.

Today again USA is keen that India should get involved in the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is much more complicated and nobody who entered into a conflict in that country came unscathed.

Whether it was the British when they fought the Anglo Afghan wars or the Russians who got involved in the country for about a decade from 1979-89 and finally had to withdrawal bleeding and now the Americans.

True a Taliban government is not in the interests of India. But it is also not in the interests of world peace either.

External support to factions who are sympathetic to Indian cause would be the right way of protecting our interest in Afghanistan. But a direct boots on involvement is only an invitation for disaster.

(Writer is former Chief Secretary, Government of Andhra Pradesh)

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