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India and its strategic interests: Insurmountable

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Afghanistan is one of the toughest areas to control and to subjugate. At least, the history tells us so. There were no foreign power who had been able to subdue Afghanistan or its borders. The British failed despite three Anglo-Afghan Wars and the Soviets tried in 1979 but had to leave in 1988 in disastrous conditions. The reasons are very simple:

(a) intractable geographic conditions with mountainous, crisscrossed with deep ravines and the porous Afghanistan-Pakistan border defined by the Durand Line which provides 100 per cent perfect conditions to fight and sustain guerilla warfare;

(b) the complex tribalcomposition is enough to destroy any political strategy or equation to bring a long-drawn solutions;

(c) the role of narcotics in Afghani economy has also adversely affected the modernization of economy and infrastructure.

Today, all the three reasons are affecting the NATO operations and relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Even Russia has admitted "the Afghan and Pakistani situations show how important it is for Russia and India to stand together against terror". In fact the relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan directly affect peace of the region and it has become prime concern for Indian security. Pakistan has always wanted to control the Afghanistani political regime. In this process, the terrorist groups have been sponsored and protected by Pakistan. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Saudi Arabia and Iran are fighting a proxy war in Pakistan and Afghanistan. While Saudi Arabia has backed the Taliban and Wahhabioriented groups such as the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in Pakistan, Iran responded by aiding the Shia minority and other anti-Taliban groups along its borders with Afghanistan and sectarian Shia groups in Pakistan.

India has a deep strategic interest in the region. All the pipeline projects to ensure energy security in India have failed due to the ongoing tension in the region. Besides that, an estimated four million Indians now live in the six Arab Gulf kingdoms - Oman, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi  Arabia. India gets around 75 per cent of its oil supplies from these countries. The bulk of the $55 million overseas remittances that India gets its from Indians living in these countries. Apart
from India's increasing dependence on the Gulf Arab states for its oil supplies, there is now a growing demand for natural gas, for which an agreement was signed with Qatar. It is important to note that India's vote at IAEA against Iran has further complicated the situation. Considering the negative approach of Pakistan for India, a peaceful Afghanistan seems to be at the top of agenda for the Indian diplomacy. Indian neighbourhood clash between Persian and Arab cultures, superimposed on a sectarian, Shia-Sunni divide, has certainly challenged Indian strategy in the region.