…as a basis for EU-India engagement (and in India’s national interest).
In the lead up to the EU-India summit that commenced in Marseille today, Richard Gowan, in an op-ed at the European Voice, makes a strong but unusual case for engagement between EU and India.
It may be better for the EU to base a partnership with the world’s largest democracy not on values, but on a joint effort to deal with the crisis in Afghanistan.
…The present crisis[in Afghanistan and Pakistan] should inject the EU’s strategic dialogue with India with a new sense of urgency – and might be the basis for closer co-operation in future.
Indeed, this period of turmoil may offer a better opportunity to cement a lasting relationship with India than discussions of shared principles and interests in quieter times.[EV]
This is probably the only instance where a Western analyst has made a case that India has legitimate interests in Afghanistan. Moreover it is very bold for any western analyst to articulate that India’s interests in the region coincide with that of the EU and the US. Incidentally, a fair share of these arguments for an Indian military presence in Afghanistan have been enunciated in the August issue of Pragati.
But for now, Europe, the U.S and India share immediate common interests in stemming the growing crisis in Afghanistan and Pakistan – if that spirals beyond control, dreams of a Global NATO can be confined to the dustbin as the real NATO goes into retreat.
Europe remains a marginal player in the region with little influence in Pakistan or Afghanistan; a fact which even Richard alludes to – European NATO members would play second fiddle to the U.S., but their continued presence in Afghanistan. It is mainly about India and US in resolving, and at worst containing, the crisis in the region. If this thought of US-India-EU’s common concerns in stemming the growing crisis gains currency in international fora, it is likely to raise many eyebrows in Islamabad, Beijing and even in Moscow.
Conventional wisdom among the US security analysts actually forbids India from a military role in Afghanistan. This is to address Pakistani concerns of being surrounded strategically by India on its eastern and northern borders. It is here that Richard falters in making a case, proposed by Rahul Chandran, for backing an US-EU guaranteed undertaking by India of no military move against Pakistan, before Indian troops move into Afghanistan.
Nitin Pai at The Acorn chews on the arguments forwarded by Rahul (and backed by Richard) and demolishes their rationale for an Indian promise to Pakistan.
Because Mr Chandran ignores the fundamental reason for India to even consider launching ‘a future war’, the whole idea becomes absurd. The tension along the India-Pakistan border is linked to Pakistan’s extant policy of using cross-border terrorism to push its anti-India agenda. The threat of war, therefore, is the way in which India escalates Pakistan’s costs of using terrorism as a policy instrument. So unless the US and NATO can underwrite a Pakistani guarantee that it will stop cross-border terrorism, it is absurd for India to promise anything.
Richard garnishes his piece with unflattering remarks about India’s approach to sovereign rights of developing countries, UN/ EU position on human rights and its status as a de facto nuclear power. While such sanctimony can be justified from an European perspective, it is contradictory to the grand idea proposed by Richard himself.
The crisis in central Asia may be a better basis for strategic dialogue with India than theoretical commitments to multilateralism and democracy.
There can be no two views about Richard’s concept of shared tripartite interests in the region and his advocacy of a stronger Indian role in Afghanistan. It is a strong endorsement of India’s national interests in the region. The mechanics of his proposal and its manner of implementation, however, leave a lot to be desired.
It leaves me intrigued with another unanswered query. Why are Indian strategic analysts and commentators afraid of making a similar case about Indian military presence in Afghanistan?…”not now, later” may turn out to be “too late and never”!