A two-day national seminar on ‘Emerging security scenario in Af-Pak (Afghanistan-Pakistan) region: Implications for India’ commenced at Panjab University on Wednesday, with GOC-in-C, Western Command, Chandimandir, Lt Gen K J Singh presiding over as the chief guest.
Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain, PU Vice-Chancellor professor Arun Kumar Grover, PU Registrar Col G S Chadha (Retd), serving and retired army officers, foreign diplomats, defence experts, research scholars and students of PU were also present on the occasion. The seminar is being organised by the Department of Defence and National Studies, PU, and is being sponsored by ICSSR-North Western Regional Centre.
Calling Afghanistan a theological flash point, Lt Gen KJ Singh stressed on India’s long-term engagement with Afghanistan. “We should aim at managing Islamic extremism by application of smart power,” he added. He also talked about the political transformation of Afghanistan from a part of the heartland to a trouble spot.
Referring to USSR, USA and other forays in the Af-Pak region, Lt Gen KJ Singh added, “The history of the region is that anyone who wanted to play the great game in the Af-Pak region came out with a bloody nose. The only exception was Maharaja Ranjit Singh who was successful in ruling the region for more than 40 years.”
Lt Gen Syed Atah Hasnain added, “With the approach of outflanking Pakistan, India needs to look into the economics of the TAPI gas pipeline project.”
He said that the strategic centre of gravity of the ‘new great game’ is Pamir Knot. He added that India’s role in Afghanistan was non-military and India would exert soft power in that country. He said that Iran held the cards in this game and Pakistan, in the centre of four civilizations, namely Chinese, Indian, Central Asian and Persian, would not let itself implode.
PU Vice-Chancellor Arun Kumar Grover spoke about the impact of natural disasters due to environmental pollution on the human population. “Even though Maharaja Ranjit Singh was only a minority ruler of Punjab, he still successfully managed to rule the sensitive region. With the advancement of technology, information is power and is available to everyone.”
The inaugural session was followed by a special lecture and three technical sessions in which 15 research papers were presented. In the special lecture, Col DRS Allard Wagemaker (MA), Netherlands Defence Attache in South and Central Asia, working from New Delhi, talked about the Af-Pak region characterised by hard alliances.
He said, “If we don’t make wise decisions, we will end up making wrong choices. Energy dependency is one of the major features of South Asia which includes China, India and Pakistan.” Concluding the lecture, Col Wagemaker said that Afghanistan could only be stable when the four key players – China, India, USA and Russia – of the new great game were stable.