India's Role in the Afghanistan War

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Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in Washington yesterday to meet with President Obama. Singh will be the guest at Obama's first official state dinner of his presidency, a sign of how highly the White House values U.S.-India relations. Of the subjects to be discussed, the war in Afghanistan ranks near the top. What is India's role in the Afghanistan conflict, for which Obama is set to announce a troop increase next week?

  • India More Important than Afghanistan  Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria warns that Obama shouldn't alienate India, which he says is a key long-term ally, just for the sake of short-term gain in Afghanistan. "Since Washington desperately needs Pakistan's cooperation in that conflict, it is tending to adopt Pakistan's concerns as its own, which is producing a perverse view of the region," he writes. "Obama must keep in mind that South Asia is a tar pit filled with failed and dysfunctional states, save for one long-established democracy of 1.2 billion people that is the second-fastest-growing major economy in the world, a check on China's rising ambitions, and a natural ally of the United States. The prize is the relationship with India. The booby prize is governing Afghanistan."
  • India Should Lead Afghan Development  Forbes's Marshall M. Bouton and Alyssa Ayres call India "the country best positioned to increase civilian assistance." India, like the U.S., has been victim to Afghanistan-based terrorism and badly wants the Taliban out. India, they write, could provide key financial and cultural support while the U.S. and NATO do the military work. Obama should urge India to "take on a more committed leadership role in Afghanistan's future and emerge a more willing supporter of regional efforts to ensure a peaceful outcome." They advocate for a "very long-term" Indian role in building Afghan civil society.
  • Don't Abuse India  The Boston Globe's Nicholas Burns frames the challenge as "how to balance a short-term need for progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan without losing sight of our equally important long-term ambitions with India." He writes, "Influential Indians complain the Obama administration is diminishing America’s prior strategic priority on India to avoid antagonizing regional rivals Pakistan and China." He suggests leading an India-Pakistan detente. "India must be more sensitive to Pakistani concerns over its involvement in Afghanistan while Islamabad should finally prosecute the terrorists responsible for last November’s reprehensible Mumbai attacks."
  • India Wants U.S. Presence in Afghanistan  Juan Cole reports that India wants us to stay in Afghanistan. He says Singh "pressured" Obama "not to execute a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan." Singh reportedly said, "I have no doubt in my mind that if Taliban and Al Qaeda group of people succeed in Afghanistan that would have catastrophic results for the security and stability not only of Pakistan but also for the security and stability of whole South Asia."
  • Pakistan Wants India Detente  The Washington Post's Ahmed Rashid argues that we can alleviate the slacking but totally necessary Pakistani support for our mission in Afghanistan by leading talking between Pakistan and India. "The Pakistan military's primary interest in a regional strategy was that the Americans would help restart Indo-Pakistan talks on Kashmir and other disputes that ceased after the terrorist attack on Mumbai last year, and negotiating a reduction of India's influence in Kabul, which Pakistan now blames for a host of ills (some imagined, some real)."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.