The geopolitical significance of Delhi Regional Security Conference on Afghanistan that took place on November 10-11 2021 lies in the fact that Russia broke ranks with China and joined India, Iran and the five Central Asian Republics—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to an India-convened Regional Dialogue to discuss shared security concerns over the emergence of Afghanistan under Taliban control.
Notably, more significant geopolitically, is the fact that with the exception of Communist China and Pakistan, the entire Member Nations of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation participated in an India-sponsored Regional Security Conference on Afghanistan.
Russia would continue to partake in dialogues on Afghanistan sponsored by Communist China and Pakistan for reasons that CommunistChina and Pakistan have immediate geographical contiguity with Afghanistan and that for the tie being the China-Pakistan Axis has manoeuvred to obtain control of Talibanised Afghanistan with their long-standing support of Afghan Taliban for decades.
That Russia chose to deviate from what my writings were highlighting for last few years of the emergence of China-Pakistan-Russia Trilateral on Afghanistan is significant for regional postures on security of Afghanistan and also for India’s geopolitical weightage in global affairs under PM Narendra Modi that has evolved in last seven years. It thus merits a bit more analysis.
Russia ‘s strategic motives underlying this shift can be attributed to two major geopolitical developments and that could also apply to decision of Iran and the CAR Republics which form Russia’s ‘Near Abroad’.
Geopolitically, the exit of US Military Forces from Afghanistan in August 2021 and with United States strategic gaze having shifted away from Afghanistan to China’s menacing threats in Western Pacific, has removed Russia’s military concerns on its Southern peripheries. Russia so freed now feels it has more leg-room strategically in making moves on Afghanistan independent of China and Pakistan.
Russia’s shifts on its stances on Afghanistan can also be attributed to Russian concerns over China muscling into Russia’s traditional Area of Influence over its erstwhile territories which now constitute the five CAR Republics. Russia seems to have been muted so far because of geopolitical China-centric compulsions.
Iran which has signed a 25 Year China-Iran Comprehensive Strategic Partnership was expected to side with Communist China on Afghanistan, if for nothing else, but that Communist China was likely to ease Iran’s economic woes arising from US economic sanctions.
Iran agreeing to attend an India-sponsored Security Conference on Afghanistan is geopolitically significant in that it revives the likelihood of what was being highlighted in my writings of mid-2000s that strategic convergences of Russia-Iran-India on Afghanistan should impel them to work more jointly to offset Pakistan’s disruptive role in Afghanistan.
The Central Asian Republics too have exhibited a change of attitudinal policy changes on Afghanistan. While Communist China may have been able to carve a big economic niche in CAR Region by virtue of its ‘cheque-book diplomacy’ Communist China has not been able to establish a major security presence in the CAR Region.
The Central Asia Republics are all Moslem States sharing near virtual ethnicity with their Uighur Muslims co-religionists under brutal genocide and State suppression in Communist China Occupied Sinkiang. Communist China may have won over CARS economically but has certainly impacted the Islamist psyche of these Moslem Republics.
Analytically, with Russia having now becoming more assertive in its traditional role in CAR Region, and with Russian cultural influence stronger than that of Communist China in CAR Region, it seems that on critical geopolitical issues and security issues, the Central Asian Republics would opt to take Russia’s lead rather than that of Communist China.
India therefore has gained geopolitically in the Afghanistan context by virtue of Russia, Iran and the five Central Asian Republics participating in the Delhi Regional Security Conference o Afghanistan. India may have no direct geographical contiguity with Afghanistan but it has legitimate security interests in the security and stability of Afghanistan supplemented by its civilsational ties with Afghanistan, which pre-date the emergence of Pakistan or Communist China.
The Joint Delhi Declaration on Afghanistan after the NSAs Meet has highlighted and endorsed India’s consistent policy principles on Afghanistan namely that Afghanistan’s political governance should be Afghan-owned & all-inclusive, that Afghan territory should not be allowed by Afghan Taliban to be used for terrorism by Islamic Jihad terrorist outfits as happened in the past in Taliban Afghaistan1.0 under Pakistan’s control and influence. The third most convergence arising from Delhi Declaration was that Humanitarian Aid by all countries should be allowed “unfettered access” implicitly pointing that such humanitarian aid should not be subject to Pakistan Amy intelligence ISI control.
Concluding, the geopolitical significance of Delhi Declaration on Afghanistan India has been able to get participation and endorsement of Regional Powers and countries with exception of Pakistan and Communist China, of its principled stands on Afghanistan’s future and Afghanistan’s security and stability,
What is even more geopolitically significant is that with the exception of Communist China and Pakistan, the entire Member Nations of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation participated in the India-sponsored Delhi Regional Security Conference on Afghanistan.