“For us (officials of the previous regime), we don’t have any complaints against other countries, as we had no expectations, but we have a complaint with our friends. [After15th August 2021], even those who were friends of India, and those who had diplomatic passports and visas, [were turned away], and India revoked visas.” These were the words of former Afghan spymaster Rahmatullah Nabil during Herat Security Dialogue in Tajikistan on 29th November 2022.
This was not the first time India deceived the Afghans when they were looking toward India for help. Keeping Indian statecraft aligned with Kautaliya’s teachings in Arthashastra, Indian policymakers and strategic thinkers never hesitate to dispose of people after using them for their interests.
History, in fact, is full of incidents where India betrayed the Afghans. In 1973, when Zahir Shah was forced out through a coup by his cousin Daud Khan, the latter started chanting pro-Pushtunistan and anti-Pakistan slogans. India welcomed Daud and hailed him as a “fine” leader who would enhance the “sovereignty and “independence” of the Afghan people because of his anti-Pakistan rhetoric. Daud suggested that New Delhi engage Pakistan militarily in the east while Afghanistan fought in the west and that they could “sandwich” Pakistan by working together. Afghan forces had begun building a colossal military force along the Pakistan border by November 1974, with the promise of additional Soviet military assistance. Meanwhile, Indira Gandhi visited Kabul in 1976 to strengthen ties and offer more economic assistance. Nonetheless, their plans were foiled by the bloody coup d’etat, which took place in 1978 and was led by militants of the Afghan Communist Party (PDPA) in collaboration with the KGB; the Soviets invaded Afghanistan within a year. India was the only major non-communist country not to condemn this invasion on a sovereign country.
Later, during the Afghan war, the Indian security establishment openly supported Dr. Najibullah, a KGB operative working under the code name of POCOMO. Nevertheless, in the early 1990s when Najib sought help from the New Delhi government, the then government of Prime Minister Narasimha Rao did not exfiltrate Najibullah from Kabul, despite Boutros-Ghali’s request during an unscheduled visit to India.
Moreover, during the US invasion of Afghanistan, India collaborated with Amrullah Saleh and Rahmatullah Nabil to launch cross-border terrorism from eastern Afghanistan into the FATA region. And, when these erstwhile Afghan officials were seeking Indian assistance to hightail from Afghanistan, India denied them visas.
In 2021, the Anti-Corruption Commission uncovered fake education degrees that had been awarded to 3,000 Afghan students by a private Indian educational institute, the Indian Institute of Business Management and Administration (ISBM). And about 2,500 Afghan students who are yearning to return to India to finish their higher education are barred from doing; this from is from the 14,000 who are now enrolled in 73 Indian universities.
Notably, India was one of the nations that were most willing to close their missions in Afghanistan, discontinue flights between New Delhi and Kabul, and stop bank transfers to the Afghan government after the regime changeover last year.
Presently, the strategic thinking in the ranks and files of Modi-led India obeys ‘Realism’ religiously. For instance, the Indian Minister of External Affairs, Dr. S. Jaishankar, penned his book, ‘The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World’ in 2020. In this book, he says there are no permanent friends and foes in international relations but ‘frenemies’. He also asserts that it is necessary to exploit conflicts; this is to say that war serves the Indians, not peace. With this in view, one could easily gauge that India has manipulated the perpetual wars of Afghanistan for its interests. For India, the war in Afghanistan was a cash cow. India mothered BLA and TTP in the last two decades using Afghan soil.
Ironically, it is also noteworthy that, on the one hand, Indian intellectuals and historians link India to Afghans, while on the other they portray Afghan leaders negatively. The film ‘Panipat: The Great Betrayal’, which has been playing in Indian theatres since December 2019, is the most recent Bollywood film to portray Afghans as arch-villains. In this film, Ahmad Shah Durrani, often referred to as the father of the current Afghan state is portrayed a flimsy travesty that has no basis in historical fact. This Ahmad Shah behaves like an ill-tempered aggressor, a terrifying foe, or a monster of cunning throughout the movie.
Now, it is the right time for the Afghans to recognize their real enemy and ally with true sympathizers who have stood next to the Afghan brethren in every uphill situation. A peaceful Afghanistan is not favourable for India, but a war-torn Afghanistan is, as Indian strategic thinkers believe in exploiting conflicts and wars.