'Indian presence in Afghanistan and US rhetoric exacerbate Pak fears of encirclement'

'Indian presence in Afghanistan and US rhetoric exacerbate Pak fears of encirclement'

India’‘s diplomatic and commercial presence in Afghanistan, along with the US’'s rhetorical support to it, exacerbates Pakistani fears of encirclement, a Congressional report has said.

The security establishment of Pakistan, which has long-running and ethnically-tinged dispute over their shared 1,600-mile border with Afghanistan, is fearful of strategic encirclement by India.

As such Pakistan continues to view the Afghan Taliban as a relatively friendly and reliably anti-India element in Afghanistan, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) said in its latest report.

The CRS is an independent research wing of the US Congress. It prepares periodic reports in issues of importance for lawmakers, helping them take informed decisions.

It’'s reports are not considered the official view of the Congress.

“India’‘s diplomatic and commercial presence in Afghanistan-- and the US’'s rhetorical support for it – exacerbates Pakistani fears of encirclement,” the CRS said in its latest report.

“Indian interest in Afghanistan stems largely from India’'s broader regional rivalry with Pakistan, which impedes Indian efforts to establish stronger and more direct commercial and political relations with Central Asia,” the CRS said.

India has been the largest regional contributor to Afghan reconstruction, but New Delhi has not shown an inclination to pursue a deeper defense relationship with Kabul, it added.

According to the report – slate 2018, the Trump administration has been seeking Islamabad’'s assistance in facilitating the US talks with the Taliban.

One important action taken by Pakistan was the October 2018 release of Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was captured in Karachi in a joint US- Pakistani operation in 2010.

According to the report, Pakistan’'s security agencies maintain ties with Afghan insurgent groups, most notably the Haqqani network.

Afghan leaders, along with the US military commanders, attribute much of the insurgency’'s power and longevity either directly or indirectly to Pakistani support.

US President Donald Trump has accused Pakistan of “housing the very terrorists that we are fighting.”

US officials have long identified militant safe havens in Pakistan as a threat to security in Afghanistan, though some Pakistani officials dispute that charge and note the Taliban’'s increased territorial control within Afghanistan itself, the CRS said.

“Pakistan may view a weak and destabilised Afghanistan as preferable to a strong, unified Afghan state (particularly one led by an ethnic Pashtun-dominated government in Kabul; Pakistan has a large and restive Pashtun minority),” the CRS said.

“However, instability in Afghanistan could rebound to Pakistan’'s detriment; Pakistan has struggled with indigenous Islamist militants of its own. Afghanistan-Pakistan relations are further complicated by the presence of over a million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, as well a long-running and ethnically tinged dispute over their shared 1,600-mile border,” the report said.

By: Outlook India