The relationship between Afghanistan and India is at its strongest in recent years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visits to the country and his bonding with the Afghan top leadership has helped India make its presence integral to Afghanistan both for strategic and economic reasons.
There was a time that the relationship between Kabul and New Delhi was so strong that one of them actually suggested the elimination of a mutual enemy.
That mutual enemy was, and still is, Pakistan.
Pakistan has been a perennial pain in the arse for India. But this pain could have been alleviated permanently if things had gone right for Afghanistan and India had a different leadership.
It was the late 1970s and Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the External Affairs Minister in the Morarji Desai government. Hafizullah Amin was then the Prime Minister of Afghanistan.
It was the time when Afghanistan was not what it is today. Women in Kabul wore western clothing and had a very modern outlook of life. The Soviet Union was a great friend of both Afghanistan and India. So both had the backing of a powerful country.
In September of 1978, Atal Bihari Vajpayee travelled to Afghanistan. There he met, among other leaders, Prime Minister Amin.
Now, according to legendary journalist Kuldip Nayar, Amin made a proposal that took Vajpayee by surprise.
In his autobiography, ‘Beyond the Lines’, Nayar wrote that Amin suggested Vajpayee that India and Afghanistan should attack Pakistan and divide the country between themselves.
That was indeed a very bold statement. To Vajpayee, it was certainly unexpected. Nothing of that sort happened.
By December 1979, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan as the country descended into a political quagmire. Amin was assassinated by Soviet troops, who he foolishly believed to be on his side till the last moment.
On the other hand, India’s reins were in the hands of a Prime Minister who so deeply hated his own intelligence agencies that he actually betrayed them into the hands of Pakistanis. So even if the Soviet invasion hadn’t happened, Morarji Desai would never have let that happen to his ‘friend’ Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s military chief turned President.
Pakistan’s good luck kept it safe despite having hostiles on either side.
Today Afghanistan is nowhere close to its pre-Soviet invasion days. It has its own problems at home – the Taliban and a whole host of terrorists. India, on the other hand, has become stronger but is plagued by problems such as lack of political unity, intellectuals who sympathise with terrorists, and terrorists sponsored by ISI.