For India, the principal danger comes from the spread of extremist religious ideology which, whether it is anti-West or not, is seen as destabilizing for the region as a whole. A political solution in Afghanistan that accommodates those espousing Sharia is particularly disquieting for a secular country like India, the main country in the region, with a billion strong population, and over 150 Muslims already under pressure from extremist forces in the neighborhood.
At a pinch, it may be possible to conceive of Taliban like elements that may not be anti-West, but that they will not be anti-India, especially under the influence of Pakistan, is hard to imagine. The conduct of the Taliban in the case of the hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane to Kabul is a reminder. The protection given to the reprehensible Taliban leadership in Pakistan all these years, the US reluctance to act against it even when its whereabouts are known, and the availability of arms and ammunition to its cadres raises many questions.
India aspires to be a permanent member of the Security Council, and although it has the declared support of France, the UK and Russia (Chinas opposition is understandable given the adversial undercurrents in the relationship), US support is not forthcoming. Again, while US allies like France and the UK support Indias inclusion in the G-8, the US is silent.
India’s problem with the US’ Afghanistan policy is that it relies on the very force in Pakistan to help find a solution that has manifest responsibility for the steady deterioration of the situation there, as well as unrelenting confrontation with India. Making the Pakistan military the lynchpin of the Afghanistan strategy is also inconsistent with the stated objective of promoting democracy in Pakistan and peace with India. The hand of the Pakistan military has been greatly strengthened by the large scale military aid already given to Pakistan, with more in the offing.
Political voices in the US have already complained that a large part of compensatory funds earlier given to Pakistan has been used for strengthening its offensive capability against India rather than in bolstering its counter-insurgency capacities, a charge General Musharraf has publicly confirmed. In a sense this is a false debate because even counter-insurgency capabilities such as attack helicopters, night vision devices, signaling equipment, etc strengthen the Pakistan militarily against India.
The US’ unwillingness to make its military assistance conditional on Pakistan credibly dismantling the infrastructure of terrorism on its soil directed at India, on the ground that it would stiffen Pakistan’s reluctance to cooperate with it in dealing with the Afghanistan situation or accelerating Pakistan’s slide towards a failed state, opens a serious gap in the interests of the US and India in the region. India cannot be comfortable with a hostile Pakistan armed by both the US and China. The attachment of a “no terrorism” rider and a monitoring requirement to the latest $7.5 billion aid package for Pakistan approved by the US Congress is, however, a step in the right direction.