Those Forgotten Indians

by Joshua Foust on 4/2/2007

On Sunday the Taliban hanged three people. April Fools! Actually, that really happened. Their crime? “Spying” for NATO and the central government. The killings, which were disturbingly reminiscent of the Taliban’s brutal mutilation/murder of Mohamed Najibullah in 1996, centered around Musa Qala, the town the British recently surrendered to their clutches.

Of course, it’s impossible to see why the Taliban are so powerful if you don’t look at India. Didn’t you know? Pakistan still supports the Taliban holding its western provinces because they train terrorists to stir up trouble in Kashmir. And Pakistan is terrified of India establishing a foothold in Afghanistan.

Most people in the States don’t realize the Mughals (which, in Persian, means “Mongols”) once ruled not just Kabul but all of India as well. Indeed, India has a long history with the country, especially because until 1947 India stretched all the way to the Durand Line (that’s another thing most people forget: Pakistan is an invented country, at least as much as Afghanistan is).

After a long official absence, Indian consulates have begun to spring up all over the place, causing worry from Pakistan that they’re inciting ethnic hatreds. Barnett Rubin takes this all at face value, claiming it to be a legitimate concern. In one sense, he could be right, as Pakistan wouldn’t like having an active India on both sides. But in another, he should know that Pakistan will seize on any excuse to keep the training camps open, tacitly if not explicitly approving their use and expansion from Islamabad.

It is, alas, a tragic example of interconnectedness. Afghanistan cannot be solved without solving Kashmir, which cannot be solved with the current leadership in both countries. The U.S. hasn’t helped much, either—alternatively propping up either side depending on the external geopolitical concern of the moment. The U.S. suffers from a lack of strategic vision in the area, a problem shared by neither India nor Pakistan. They know they can keep churning between each other so long as the U.S. remains so aloof, never really forcing or demanding adult behavior from either country.

And, as usual, Afghanistan is stuck in the middle, the chessboard of the latest grand struggle to sweep through its valleys.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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