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We failed Afghanistan
By Rizwan Ullah

One need not dig deep into the history to ascertain that Afghanistan has always been our tested friend. The people of Afghanistan poor and backward as they are, tied down by traditions and beliefs, and surrounded by high mountains, have always seen India with equanimity. They kept their doors and arms open for Indian fugitives during our freedom struggle undaunted by the British might. Kabul played host to the Indian government in exile under the president-ship of Raja Mahendar Pratap with Maulawi Barkatullah Bhopali as prime minister. Afghanistan provided safe passage to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose in his flight from India to Europe during the second world war. This tradition of friendship continued right up to the day when Afghanistan helped us in getting Indian hostages freed from the captivity of Pakistani hijakers while we had no diplomatic relations with the regime in Kabul which still reigns the country. They showered every courtesy in their extremely difficult circumstances. But we have failed them. What sort of morality or political sagacity do we have?

Afghanistan being a small landlocked poor country was victim of Soviet invasion while India was at the best of terms with the invaders. India claiming itself to be the standard bearer of peace did not stand up and said: Hark! India did not pull the fouling friends. It should have been done for the sake of those friends themselves to disengage them from an infructuous war killing lakhs of poor Afghans, destroying their hearth and home, raining bombs, sowing mines and finally reaping the crop they had sown, that is, their own dismemberment and losing the power they had been enjoying vis-a-vis other world powers.

We too got our share of the curse- apparently an interminable spate of terrorism. Five million of poor Afghans were rendered refugees by the continued Soviet invasion for almost a decade. Three million of them crossed over to Pakistan where mountains were the only acquaintances in an otherwise inhospitable surroundings. They swapped the social fabrics of the Frontier Province and shook its economy badly. Many of the Afghan refugees found falling in line with the Mujahedin a sort of employment and a source of living. Others took to small and odd jobs that the host country could offer. Lakhs of them must have taken to felling trees for firewood and trade. Such an activity by a large number of people for a decade or so must have made mountains bare, devoid of plantation affecting the ecology of this whole region adversely. This could be one explanation for the widespread drought in the western region including parts of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

However, after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan that ill fated country did not return to normalcy which would have encouraged the refugees to return to their homeland. About two millions of them are said to be still prowling in Pakistan with no future in view neither with a sustainable source of living. Some of them must have lined up with the Taliban. Some of the free radicals roaming on our parameters must have been hired by the perpetrators of cross border terrorism, for those job hunters had nothing to lose but their hunger.

History is witness to the fact that India and Afghanistan are tied together in a unique relationship through a string of timelessness. It sounds reasonable to say that the Aryans of Central Asia moved eastward in search of greener pastures at some point of time in history but continued to hold the end of the string that linked them to the land they belonged to and had left behind. Another explanation could be that after having embraced Buddhism Ashoka’s spiritual urge to propagate that faith prompted him to send messengers and armies in all directions including the areas on the other side of the mountains. This explains the discovery of Buddhist relics in Afghanistan and beyond that.

Anyway, none of these probabilities could be regarded as invasion or infiltration as we understand it today. There was a constant flow of people on both sides undeterred and undaunted by the mountains. There never was a communal divide of any sort from the days of Aryans to that of Ashoka, Aurangzeb, during the British rule and even after the unfortunate partition of the country. Despite Afghans having a common faith with the Pakistanis they did not budge from their traditional affinity with India. Anti-Muslim riots in India in the wake of partition, and afterwards, hardly affected that Afghan stance.

In view of this background we should have some heart searching. Should we not have pulled the Russian invaders who rendered the proud Afghans to a state of beggary living at the mercy of those who demand the pound of flesh for the aid they promise? There is still time for us to extend recognition to those who occupy about 90 percent of the country’s territory and let the warring racial groups settle their affairs among themselves. It is in our interest too. Once the situation stabilizes in Afghanistan many of the gun-totters and drug traffickers marauding on our western fringes are likely to return to their country.

Does it not look funny that we are knocking at the doors of those who had committed the original sin and beseeching them to write a prescription for treating the malignant terrorism?
How piquantly Mir Taqi Mir said: 
    Mir Kya sadah hain
    bimar huay jiskey sabab,
    Usi attar ke betay se
    dawa letay hain
What an ignoramus Mir must be!
Seeking cure from the laddre!
Son of the medic although, he
caused him the malady.  

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