Spreading Chaos in Times of Corona – Indian Perspective
This week, when the news cycles of all of the major global news outlets were only reporting on global pandemic caused by the novel Coronavirus, the story of suicide bombers and gunmen attacking a Sikh Gurdwara in the heart of Kabul was also able to create a space on headlines. The attack lasted for several hours and resulted in the death of 25 Sikh worshippers. After the attack ISIS accepted responsibility while the Afghan Taliban condemned it. Although ISIS has been known to attack religious minorities around the world, however its recent activities in Afghanistan have given rise to speculation of foreign meddling in Afghan affairs by its neighbor India.
Before the Corona pandemic, the anti- Indian emotions were already on the rise in the South-Indian region, from Bangladesh to Iran and Afghanistan, due to the controversial anti-Muslim citizenship law of the Modi’s BJP government. Anti-Muslim riots in Delhi and India’s atrocities in IOK gave rise to big demonstrations against India in Afghanistan. Big rallies in Kabul, Kapisa, and Herat were seen where thousands of protesters demanded justice for Muslims in India. These protests were significant as they indicated the decline of pro-Indian sentiments that India claimed to have matured by investing $3 billion as an aid.
Also Read: Gangotri of Misinformation and Injustice
The incidents of Indian flag burnings in these protests that went under-reported and overlooked demonstrated that the local Afghan community perceives India as part of the problem instead of the solution to Afghanistan’s convulsive dynamics. Now, feeling betrayed and hurt by not being included in Afghan peace talks, sidelined India was expected to push back in a new and non-traditional way.
India in Afghanistan
Indian interest in Afghanistan has an underlying plan to safeguard the future of its proxies and investment, and to propel its geopolitical strategy in the post peace deal Afghanistan. To make this goal a reality, India has recently employed a two-tier kinetic approach. The first approach is to use ISIS to destabilize the Afghan peace process. One may wonder how India, who has no direct contact with ISIS in Syria and Iraq, can establish contact with the group in Afghanistan.
It was all a theory until recently when ISIS fighters surrendered in large groups to Afghan security officials. Upon interrogating the surrendered ISIS commanders, the Afghan security officials learned their deep ties with India. India has been sending local radicals to join ISIS in Afghanistan to attack its enemies – mainly Pakistan and the Taliban. There are also reports that the Afghan government has also extradited, under a recently signed agreement, many Indian nationals who surrendered as ISIS fighters.
Kabul Gurdwara Attack
Recent Kabul Gurdwara attack is also being linked to Abu Khalid al Hindi whose real name is Muhammad Sajid and he is an Indian citizen hailing from Kerala. Muhammad Sajid joined ISIS four years ago. These developments are in line with the approach of “paying more to buy terrorist” outlined by the Indian national security advisor Ajit Doval at the time of his appointment.
The second aspect of India’s approach is to prepare for a post-peace deal Afghanistan. When the US leaves Afghanistan, India will not sit idle to let its proxies get rooted out by the expected future unity government. Therefore, India is laying the groundwork to create an anti-Taliban coalition to raise insurgency in the post peace deal Afghanistan. This coalition, with the base of operation in Tajikistan, will have discontent Tajik warlords in the North and the splintered Taliban groups that India has created over the years for influence.
On the non-Kinetic front, India is working on diplomatic overtures to American lawmakers, state department officials and other influential American leaders to help convince President Trump to overturn the peace deal signed with the Taliban. To aid this approach, India has also launched a social media campaign to attack the Taliban and their deal with the US.
COVID-19 and India
COVID-19 is causing havoc around the world. India is the world’s second-largest populated country with more than 1.2 billion people as its citizens. Experts around the world are raising alarms about India’s unpreparedness to fight this pandemic. WHO has warned that if COVID-19 spreads in India it could break the global order as we know due to the sheer population density of the country.
So far, Indian authorities have seemed to be focusing on causing chaos in the region instead of fighting the pandemic. PM Modi, without any warning, has announced the 21 days lockdown. With most of India’s population living below the poverty line, this sudden shut down is causing immense problems. Videos have emerged where thousands of people can be seen stranded on the state borders unable to return to their jobs or back to homes. India also has one of the lowest testing rates in the world for the detection of Cocid-19.
Undoubtedly, India is facing a severe domestic crisis with reports that the coronavirus outbreak is spreading at a much faster rate in the country than being reported. Therefore, in this situation, India should stop following its disastrous zero-sum foreign policy direction vis-à-vis Afghanistan and instead focus all of its resources towards fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
About the Author: Miss. Sidra Insar is a graduate from Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad and is currently working as an educationist in the Government of Pakistan. Her area of interest is Political Dynamics of States and International Relations.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Reader’s Review.