Cold war alliance restored in Afghanistan

Pakistan as a loyal friend of the Saudis has promised arms for Syrian rebels in support of a pro-Sunni, anti-Shia (Alawaite) cause. Hafez Assad will not be pleased (he himself gets support from Iran/Hezbollah).

Now it is the turn of Afghanistan to request India to supply arms presumably with US funding. The only problem is how to get tanks across Pakistan. The solution is to have Russia supply weapons for which there is now a green signal. It is unlikely that the Chinese who have considerable mining assets in Afghanistan and who are also suffering from Islamist attacks are going to take the side of the Taliban (and Pakistan).

With Czar Putin ready to play patron, the situation is similar to the decades spanning the 1950-1970s when Afghanistan under Mohammed Daoud Khan pulled closer to Moscow (and away from Islamabad). When the communists seized power in April 1978, the Americans launched a counter-offensive and backed the Islamist resistance (with Pakistan in the lead). The key difference this time may well be Iran on the Indo-Russian side.

Thus the rival alliance formations are complete: Russia-India-Iran (with USA and China in soft support mode) vs. Saudia-GCC-Pakistan. Whatever happens after 2014, it is clear that lot of misery is left in store for beautiful Afghanistan (and the equally beautiful Syria, Ahmed Rashid please note) in the future.
India has signed an agreement under which it will pay Russia
to supply arms and equipment to the Afghan military as foreign combat
troops prepare to leave the country, in a move that risks infuriating

Under the deal, smaller arms such as light
artillery and mortars will be sourced from Russia and moved to
Afghanistan. But it could eventually involve the transfer of heavy
artillery, tanks and even combat helicopters that the Afghans have been
asking India for since last year.

India has already been training
military officers from Afghanistan, hosted a 60-member Special Forces
group last year in the deserts of Rajasthan and supplied equipment such
as combat vehicles and field medical support facilities.

But the
decision to meet some of Afghanistan’s military hardware demands —
albeit sourcing them from Russia — points to a deepening role in
Afghanistan aimed at preventing it from slipping back into the hands of
the Taliban and other groups that are hostile to India.

It comes
as China, another big player in the region which borders Afghanistan via
a small, remote strip of land, is preparing for a more robust role in
Afghanistan, also concerned that the withdrawal of Nato troops will
leave a hotbed of militancy on its doorstep.

Like China, India is
unlikely to put boots on the ground to reinforce its strategy in
Afghanistan. “We can’t commit troops on the ground, we can’t give them
the military equipment that they have been asking us for, for all sorts
of reasons including the lack of surplus stocks,” said an Indian foreign
ministry official.

“Involving a third party is the next best
option,” the official said, referring to plans to source military
supplies from Russia for Afghan forces. The lack of direct access to Afghanistan poses additional hurdles to arms transfers.

An Indian team visited Moscow in February to firm up the deal, the official said. “We’ll work with India directly as well as trilaterally involving Russia,” said an Afghan official in New Delhi. “Most of India’s weapons are made in Russia or co-produced with Russia, so it makes sense.”

Pakistan is likely to be angered by any move to help arm Afghan forces, even if indirectly.

Rashid, an author and expert on the region, said the deal could
aggravate relations between India and Pakistan if the arms supplied were
heavy enough to be deemed “offensive”.

“Diplomacy and political dialogue are what will bring peace to Afghanistan,” he said.
“What is not going to bring peace is more weapons.”

Brown Pundits