Pakistan Couldn’t Possibly Have a Problem with This

by Joshua Foust on 5/20/2008

Much as I shy away from the “everything is related” meme, sometimes it’s just hard to avoid:

Kabul, May 19 (IANS) India has pledged to help Afghanistan set up local government institutions by deputing Indian experts here as well as by attaching Afghan local representatives with Indian local governance bodies. This was decided during Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar’s four-day visit beginning Saturday.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed on the first day of the visit, envisaging the setting up of an India-Afghanistan Joint Working Group (JWG) on Local Governance.

A year ago, I noted the challenge that India’s enormous diplomatic surge in Afghanistan posed for the country. In isolation, Afghanistan would do better to learn from India than Pakistan how to be a coherent, multi-ethic state.

Afghanistan is not well-considered in isolation, however. For much of the 1990’s, it was a proxy battlefield between various countries: Pakistan and Iran as the main ones, but India and China all dipped their toes in as well. At the time, Pakistan, under Bhutto and Sharif, was using the dread southern madrassas to train up holy warriors not for Afghanistan, but Kashmir, to battle against India. Pakistan is borderline neurotic in its obsession in India, and it views Afghanistan as its backyard to be at least marginally under its influence.

Building out a bunch of consulates was a questionable move, at least before relations aren’t more settled. Coupled with some Indian airbases in nearby areas like Tajikistan, however, tips the scales even further. While India should of course have the right to build its relations however it wants, at the same time it cannot ignore the effect these relations will have on Afghanistan, and thus for the moment American, interests.

It is almost a given Pakistan’s new civilian government will respond to this somehow. I just hope it isn’t through ceding too much more control over the FATA. Going too far would be a seriously bad move.


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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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