By An Editorial in Pioneer
28 May 2015
Ajit Doval’s remark brings focus on Afghanistan
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval's comment that India has a 106km long border with Afghanistan has, understandably, taken many by surprise. In these past few decades, it has become an almost uncontested fact that India has no land boundary with Afghanistan. The commentariat here has also devoted much time and space to how this cartographic reality limits the role that India can play in Afghanistan, allows an unfair advantage to Pakistan, and also hurts Afghanistan’s chances of an economic revival (as it is effectively held hostage to Pakistani whims for land access to Indian markets). In the midst of it all, it has been forgotten, and for quite some time now, that at least officially India still claims as its own the parts of Kashmir that border Afghanistan and are currently administered by Pakistan. Thankfully, Mr Doval has sought to make a course correction.
It is nobody's case that his one comment can change the realities on the ground, but it can modify the narrative about Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. At this point, for all practical purposes, India seems to have given up on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and accepted the Line of Control as the de facto border. There is no reason why India should make this concession given that the border question is still an open one. As and when border negotiations re-start, India should go in with a full deck of cards. Moreover, there is nothing to suggest that Pakistan has compromised on its claims and demands.
On the contrary, its aggressive tactics in the region, be it supporting the infiltration of armed irregulars into India, encouraging militancy and separatist activity in Kashmir, or engaging in outright military conflict, show that it still has its heart set on grabbing all of Kashmir. That it will never be successful in doing so, is a different matter. But ‘freeing' all of Kashmir from ‘Indian occupation' is a part of Pakistani state discourse. But India, takes no interest, for example, in the affairs of Shia-majority Gilgit Baltistan, where the Pakistani state machinery has sought to engineer a demographic shift by settling Sunni Muslims, especially Sunni priests. Human rights abuses in this region happen every day (as they do across Pakistan), but India remains unperturbed. Pakistan, in comparison, is forever whining about the supposed atrocities of the Indian Army in Kashmir.
Mr Doval made his comments while addressing the Border Security Force. It is possible that his focus on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is linked to recent Chinese forays in the region. These threaten India's already precarious strategic position. China has built the Karakoram Highway there and now plans to connect it to the multi-billion dollar economic corridor it will be constructing across Pakistan. Notably, after the plans were announced during Chinese President Xi Jinping's Pakistan visit, India officially opposed China's construction plans in the disputed area.