By Mrityunjoy Kumar Jha
New Delhi, Jun 19 (IANS): Pakistan is obsessed with India, and its ruling elite goes ballistic when the conversation shifts to New Delhi's role in Afghanistan. The outburst by Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is the latest edition when there has been a free flow of vitriol targeting India.
"At times we feel their (Indian) presence is larger than it ought to be, because, you know, they don't share a border with you," Qureshi told Lotfullah Najafizada of Afghan's TV channel Tolo News, in an interview to be telecast on Saturday.
In a video clip posted by the Tolo News on Twitter, when Qureshi was asked by the correspondent that how many consulates India has in Afghanistan? Qureshi replied, ""On paper, perhaps four," insinuating there were more unofficially. Qureshi added: "If they used your soil against us, it bothers me." When pressed further, Qureshi pulled out his trump card, "Yes. They are…..they are carrying out terrorist activities."
Given his experience in the foreign ministry and beyond, Qureshi should know well that the region from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) to Gilgit-Baltistan is an integral part of India, which is currently under the illegal occupation of Pakistan. The Wakhan Corridor in the Badakhshan province separates Afghanistan from Gilgit Baltistan in PoK. The corridor is approximately140 miles long and between 10-40 miles wide. Besides PoK, it shares border with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan, China and Tajikistan.
The nearly 2,600 km border demarcating the areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan is called the Durand Line - drawn by the British in 1893. Though Pakistan has accepted the Durand Line, the Afghan governments - whether run by the Taliban or democratically-elected - have never accepted this border alignment.
In a joint press conference with the then US special envoy Richard Olson last year, Qureshi had mentioned that India had set up 24 consulates in Afghanistan, some close to the Pakistani border.
Disagreeing with Pakistan's concerns that India was using its strong presence in Afghanistan to stir trouble in Balochistan, the US envoy said: "India has been a supportive partner for Afghanistan. It has provided a limited amount but important military assistance (to Afghanistan)."
Last year, Pakistan's foreign minister and the military released "details" of what they termed "India's state sponsorship of terrorism," alleging the Indian government and intelligence agencies were funding the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TPP) and ethnic Baloch armed separatist groups that conducted attacks on Pakistani soil and submitted to the UN as well. Expectedly, the world went into splits after listening to Pakistan's fake claims.
Back to the interview with Tolo News, the Pakistani foreign minister claimed that India has not been a constructive partner for peace in Afghanistan, but, instead a spoiler. But his selective amnesia prevented him from saying that that it was Pakistan, which was the crucible of the birth of Taliban, which then went on to occupy Afghanistan to establish the world's biggest hub of Global Jihad, which eventually led to the horrific 9/11 attacks. Instead, the honourable foreign minister went into a diatribe, accusing the present government of Afghanistan and other "spoilers" for present dire situation in Afghanistan.
"Violence by the Taliban... this is an exaggeration. Are not other elements over there who are playing the role of spoilers like Daesh and other ppl who are involved in war economy and people who are in power," thundered Qureshi.
Interestingly, a few days ago, former Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, and the incumbent President Ashraf Ghani have accused Pakistan for the volatile situation in their country.
India's pitch in Afghanistan has been queered by Pakistan and its "iron brother" China. Both have their vested interests in Kabul and a common goal to keep India out, in the hope of protecting Beijing-led China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
Numerous surveys show that most Afghan's view India as the "most cherished partner of Afghanistan," mirroring the potency of New Delhi's soft-power. Data shows that India has supported Afghans with roughly $3 billion in development assistance, far more than it has provided to any other nation. This assistance has taken the form of scholarships, much-needed infrastructure and transportation projects, medical treatment and heal Afghans, and building institutional capacities including a brand-new parliament building that stands proudly as a beacon of democracy in Kabul.