By Tahir Nazir
The rapidly evolving security environment in Afghanistan and the overall in South Asian region are creating complex problems for regional and extra regional players. At the same time, it is also creating opportunities for primary and secondary players to re-adjust their strategic priorities according to the changing security situation.
The Afghan end game is closer to another conundrum. In this complex situation, key players are trying to secure their interest by pushing their proxies. In this way they will be able to hold a better position at the negotiating table.
As U.S and NATO troops are preparing to leave Afghanistan, key players are trying to secure their interests in the country and the region. Countries such as India, Iran and Pakistan are attempting to align supporters to bolster their positions inside Afghanistan, allowing them to gain trade, political and economic advantages after NATO withdraws in 2014.
After going through deep crisis and marginalisation Pakistan has managed to emerge as a leading player in the Afghan end game. The killing of twenty four Pakistani soldiers by the NATO forces, OBL Operation and initiation of Afghanistan peace process without taking Pakistan into confidence. Furthermore continuous U.S and Afghanistan blame game pushed Pakistan into a corner.
The recent developments i.e. the release of Taliban prisoners by Pakistan including Taliban’s ex-justice minister, Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, Ankara trilateral meeting, and Paris Talks and now U.S President Obama’s announcement for opening up a Taliban’s political office at Qatar.
These developments are showing that International consensus has emerged that the ultimate solution lies in the negotiation with Taliban.
Does that mean India’s defeat? Because many Indian analysts believe that a victory by pro-Pakistan Pashtun groups, Taliban or Sunni groups, in Afghanistan would be catastrophic for India’s regional interest.
According to Indian perspective, Afghanistan is a test case for India as a security provider in its own neighbourhood. But unfortunately, In future India won’t be able to hold its ground in Afghanistan. Furthermore India would fail to respond to strategic environment shaped by the U.S, NATO’ and other actors in the region
The aforementioned premise is based upon two reasons. Firstly India does not enjoy good relations with the Pashtun Taliban. After coming into power, Taliban won’t let Indian to roam free in Afghanistan. Secondly Pakistan will enjoy a greater influence in Afghanistan after 2014.And keeping in mind the Pakistan-India rivalry. It will be very difficult for Indian to sustain their footprints in Afghanistan and expand their sphere of influence in Afghanistan.
This has led U.S policy makers to a catch 22 situation. On one hand U.S wants India to take a leading role in Afghanistan but it annoys Pakistan. Because Pakistan thinks that it will be counterproductive for Pakistan’s legitimate interests. In this scenario Pakistan will not play its due role in stabilizing Afghanistan moreover it will diminish the chances of U.S dignified exit from Afghanistan. And if U.S comes closer with Pakistan to reach a political settlement with the Taliban then India says that ‘US is scarifying Indian interests’. Therefore the situation is very murky for U.S.
India policy makers know from their heart that the India cannot become a primary actor in Afghanistan. India almost spent $2 billion in Afghanistan. But after U.S and NATO troops withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014. It would be difficult for India to sustain their broader footprints in Afghanistan.
The million dollar question is what choices Indian foreign policy has left? Either to forge an alliance with the Russia and Iran to curtail the Sunni Taliban’s ‘March towards Kabul’ or to convince the U.S and NATO to revisit their terms of engagement with the Taliban?