As the dust settles and policy makers in the United States get a chance to reflect upon the fiasco associated with the American exit from Afghanistan, one of the key factors that needs to be thoroughly vetted is the Indian role as a peace spoiler in Afghanistan, as well as Indian influence in Washington DC policy circles that may have resulted in US policy missteps in Afghanistan. US media has already begun questioning American officials on how the most sophisticated intelligence network in the world found itself unprepared for the rapid Taliban takeover of Kabul. Congressional hearings are also expected to grill civil and military officials of the US administration on the panic-stricken evacuations of US personnel from Kabul Airport, and whether the Afghan fiasco could be termed as a massive policy failure, a great intelligence failure or both by the sole superpower of the world.
It is an established fact that on the one hand, the United States’ Indian policy over the years has been to offer India as the “net security provider for the region,” while on the other, the Indian state has repeatedly been rebuffing US requests to assist allied operations in Afghanistan with boots on the ground. At the same time, India has been lobbying influence in Washington DC to push for the continuation of “America’s forever war in Afghanistan.” These contradictory and duplicitous policy lines throughout the two decade long western military engagement in Afghanistan ought to shine a spotlight on a clear double game that Indian policymakers pursued in Afghanistan, as discussed in detailed in two research papers authored by Harsh Pant, one titled: India as a Regional Security Provider, and the other as India’s changing Afghanistan Policy: regional and global implications. Acknowledgement of this Indian double game by western leaders was reflected by one of the statements by former US President Trump, where he derided the Indian prime minister for refusing to help the US military effort in Afghanistan while showcasing libraries that India built in the war torn country of Afghanistan.
Moving forward, after the disastrous images associated with US evacuations from Kabul, this key issue needs to be addressed by US policy makers concerning India’s malign influence as a spoiler for peace in Afghanistan, as well as the enormous lobbying efforts in Washington DC’s power circles by successive Indian governments that, clearly worked against the vital national interests of the United States.
In April 2020 Canadian Security and Intelligence Service busted a foreign intelligence operation by two Indian intelligence agencies the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) covertly working in Canada since 2009 using money and disinformation to “covertly influence” Canadian politicians, to sway politicians in Canada into supporting Indian government interests instead of Canadian interests. Canada Public Safety Minister Bill Blair’s office issued a statement saying “the government was concerned when any country shows destabilising behavior, including interference in other countries’ democratic systems.” The threat disturbed Canadian policy makers to such an extent that in April, 2021, Private Member’s Bill C-282 (titled “An Act to establish the Foreign Influence Registry”) was introduced in the Canadian House of Commons “to deter malign influence campaigns by hostile states on Canadian soil and lobbying-like foreign influence activities.” Similar Indian lobbying like foreign influence operations in the United States also need to be looked at, to determine how far could the Indian national security establishment have gone, to influence US policy away from a smooth peaceful resolution of the Afghan imbroglio in order to maintain Indian relevance and influence in Afghanistan.
Similarly, in 2020 German security agencies also busted not one but four covert operations, and the German courts passed sentences against individuals in Germany for working as agents for the Indian intelligence services. But one of the most shocking cases of Indian malign influence upon global policy making regarding the region has been uncovered by the Brussels based EU Disinfo Labs in two consecutive annual reports in 2019 and 2020. Following their preliminary investigative report published in 2019, the EU DisinfoLab published a detailed report in 2020 titled “Indian Chronicles” that uncovered a massive 15-year long ongoing influence operation by shadowy organizations linked to the Indian intelligence linked Srivastava Group; involving more than 10 UN Human Rights Council accredited NGOs, several Europe based think tanks, 750 media outlets, over 550 websites in over 119 countries all working to serve Indian global interests using disinformation, fake identities, planted fake news and manufactured news stories. In January 2021, European Parliament’s Special Committee on Foreign Interference chaired by Member of European Parliament (MEP) Raphaël Glucksmann held hearings into possible threats of interference from third countries in a geopolitical context, and publicly deliberated upon the involvement of Indian government in these lobbying like malign influence operations.
Similar questions need to be raised by US lawmakers on the clear and obvious conflict of interest by Dhruva Jaishankar, the son of Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar heading the Washington DC office of the Observer’s Research Foundation-ORF think tank and actively lobbying US policy makers in pursuit of Indian national interests without having registered under the US Foreign Agents Registration Act-FARA as required by US law. Similarly, Hussain Haqqani the director for South and Central Asia at Hudson Institute think tank in Washington DC, a self-described critic of the US-Taliban Doha agreement has been lobbying for India’s national security interests in the USA without being registered under FARA, as a proponent of continued US military engagement in Afghanistan, undermining a smooth evacuation of US troops from Afghanistan, and using his public influence to hamper US peace efforts in Afghanistan. Especially, due to Hussain Haqqani being directly linked with a shady Indian sponsored Europe based think tank called European Foundation for South Asian Studies-EFSAS, and EFSAS being exposed in the EU Disfo Labs report for links 15-year long, still ongoing malign influence operation, engaged in pushing Indian national security interests across the world.
These lobbying efforts by influencers with access to US policy makers in Washington DC have served as a key source of Indian influence on policy making by the US government. Hence, U.S and its western allies deserve a thorough and public debate on how India, despite being a US ally, has been pursuing a double game that served the national security interest of India by keeping the United Stated mired in a two decade long pointless war effort, at a cost of around trillions of dollars, at the cost of economic development in the United States economy, at the cost of peace in Afghanistan and at the cost of stability in the region, just to allow the Indian republic to be able to project its power in the region.