Conflict & Justice

India likely to be drawn further into Afghan conflict: Former CIA officer


Indian Congress President and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi (L) talks with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai in New Delhi on November 11,2012. The Afgan President is on a five day state visit to India till November 13.



India is likely to be drawn further into the Afghan conflict during President Barack Obama's second term, career CIA officer Bruce Riedel warns.

"Obama's re-election ensures that fighting terrorism will remain the top priority of American foreign policy," Riedel writes for India Today. "Obama will continue the drone wars in Pakistan and Yemen, and perhaps take on new battlefields in North Africa. Pakistan will remain the most difficult bilateral relationship Obama must manage; he will probably move more toward containment. US-India relations will become closer with greater cooperation on Afghanistan."

Meanwhile, the evolving US-Pakistan relationship and the transition from NATO to Afghan leadership in 2014 could have big implications for India.

"If Pakistan encourages the Taliban to step up the pressure on the Kabul government and they recover territory hard won by NATO forces in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, it will be a sign that Pakistan is determined to push America out of South Asia," Riedel argues. And that will sour US-Pakistan relations even further.

In any case, "India is likely to be drawn deeper into the Afghan conflict," Riedel argues.

"Already [New Delhi] is a major supporter of Kabul having disbursed over $2 billion in aid since 2001. India is likely to become the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance's major regional ally. An American-Pakistan proxy war could become an Indo-American-Pakistan proxy war as well. Obama was reluctant in his first term to ask for Indian help in Afghanistan. That will probably change in the second term," Riedel says.

While that would put more muscle behind the Indo-US "strategic partnership," it could be the type of relationship-strengthener that New Delhi would rather avoid.