Afghanistan -- will US support Russia-Iran-India vs Sino-Pak vision for Afghanistan?

Discussion in 'Subcontinent & Central Asia' started by ejazr, Nov 19, 2010.

  1. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Afghanistan is the common ground for regional rivals - The National - UAE English Language Daily

    Last month an extraordinary diplomatic development occurred in Rome with the potential to seed a long-term solution for Afghanistan's security and stability. For the first time, the government of Iran sent a special representative to a multinational forum on transition of power to the Afghan government, ahead of the impending drawdown of Nato troops starting in mid-2011.

    Given the long chill in US-Iranian relations, the welcome for the Iranian representative from the US and Europeans grabbed attention. The American delegate declared ambivalently that he had "no problem with their presence so far", while the German chairperson remarked that having Iran at the table is "good news" and "proves that we are on the right track".

    For interested regional parties like Iran, India and Russia, the challenge is to forge common ground to ensure that the fledgling Afghan state does not fall back into internal chaos or become a playground for machinations of neighbouring states with a pedigree of weaponising Islamist fundamentalism.

    By virtue of geographical location - as well as historical, cultural and political influence - Iran is an indispensable power for securing an Afghanistan that remains free from domination of any single regional power such as Pakistan. Iran has a fervent anti-Taliban and anti-al Qa'eda posture because these two movements appeal to Sunni zealotry and threaten Iran's control over its southeastern Sunni majority province, Sistan-e-Balochistan.

    The haze around Iran's nuclear programme and its tussle with the US has somewhat clouded memories of Tehran's pragmatic cooperation with Washington in 2001 to unseat the Taliban after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Notwithstanding Iran's subsequent decrying of the US military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, Tehran found the American-initiated removal of Saddam Hussein on its western frontier and of the Taliban on its eastern frontier strategically advantageous.

    India's involvement in Afghanistan is similar in logic to that of Iran. Although India and Afghanistan are non-contiguous and separated by the breadth of Pakistan, the relationships among Pakistan's military intelligence complex, Kashmir-oriented Punjabi terrorist organisations and the Afghan Taliban have meant that the war in Afghanistan has had a direct effect on New Delhi.

    India is the second largest development aid donor in Afghanistan after the US, a reflection of New Delhi's conviction that strengthening the current Afghan state apparatus through capacity building is a step towards weakening the chances of a full-fledged Taliban comeback in Kabul.

    Western anxiety that an American withdrawal from Afghanistan, starting next year, will leave the country to the whims of the Taliban and al Qa'eda is an existential threat not only to Iran and India but also to Russia because of its proximity to the war zone and its own history of confronting Islamist separatism in the Caucasus.

    Over the years, Moscow has found that Islamist guerrillas in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan have depended on men and materials from the ranks of the Taliban and al Qa'eda. Sensing this nexus, Russia has set aside its characteristic suspicion of Nato encroachment and permitted land transit through its territory for food and fuel supplies reaching western troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

    Theoretically speaking, Pakistan should be in the same boat as Iran, India and Russia in wanting a neutral Afghanistan where influences of all regional actors are roughly balanced so that cross-border jihadi furies do not tear apart Pakistan's already-frayed security. But the military establishment in Rawalpindi has pursued a scenario of Pakistan's monopoly over Afghanistan's fate after the American military footprint is downsized.

    China is a potential regional problem-solver which should, on paper, prefer a concordat with Iran, India and Russia to guarantee a safe transition to the Afghan state and society. But the strategic alliance between Beijing and Islamabad suggests close coordination of their policies on Afghanistan's eventual political makeup.

    Since Pakistani and Chinese interests lie in the restoration of Taliban rule, it's up to Iran, India and Russia - states with convergent interests about a peaceful, unified Afghanistan - to brainstorm as a smaller group about converting their visions into reality. A Moscow-Delhi-Tehran axis to prevent Afghanistan's capture by a single neighbour could materialise - if the US visualises that such a formation can provide a safe and dignified exit from its longest overseas war commitment.

    The possibility of this axis being thwarted by a countervailing Beijing-Rawalpindi axis exists, and it's here that Washington must weigh in strongly through post-withdrawal oversight to prevent geopolitical wrangling that can yet again sunder Afghanistan through proxy wars.

    An informal alliance of Russia, Iran and India could also be scuppered by the domestic anti-Iranian lobby in the US, which muddies the waters with scare stories of alleged plots and funds from Tehran aimed at weakening the American hold in Afghanistan. Should the Obama administration overcome these confounding voices and unequivocally endorse Iran's role in a final settlement of Afghanistan, Moscow and Delhi can take cues and start planning the regional endgame of the war.

    Sreeram Chaulia is vice dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs in Sonipat, India
     
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  3. anoop_mig25

    anoop_mig25 Senior Member Senior Member

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    i do not think us would prefer indo-russia -iran over Pakistan because by keeping tab on pakistan they can keep tan terrorist attacking western soil and america would turn away his eye away from terrorist acting against India (read LeT)
     
  4. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    We may hope for concurrence in the positions of the USA and Russia, but Iran and USA are like oil and water. They just cannot mix and it simply won't work out.

    Whatever be the case, the equations will be further complicated if PRC and Iran get into some kind of covert 'understanding', which is not unlikely, because Iran has never hesitated from doing deals with Pakistan that is seemed good for it.

    This isn't something that would cause me to lose heart, since, in international geopolitics, there are no permanent friends or foes. It's just a cavalcade of alliances that broken and rebuilt.
     
  5. RPK

    RPK Indyakudimahan Senior Member

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    India invited to be engaged in transition in Afghan: US

    http://www.indianexpress.com/news/india-invited-to-be-engaged-in-transition-in-afghan-us/713375/0

    Aware of India's "genuine national security interest" in Afghanistan, the Obama Administration has said it has invited both New Delhi and Islamabad to be engaged and support the transition process in the war-torn nation; where US intends to transfer the security to Afghan forces by 2014.


    "Our strategy is a regional strategy and we have invited, countries from Pakistan to India to be engaged in and support this transition in Afghanistan," State Department spokesman, P J Crowley, said in response to a question.


    "That is perhaps the most significant change that we've put into effect over the last 18 months, almost two years, is to take it from being just about Afghanistan to being about the region as a whole," he said.


    While the Obama Administration has been very appreciative of India's role in Afghanistan, this is possibly for the first time that a senior US official has said that India has been invited for the process in Afghanistan.


    "India is significantly invested in Afghanistan, and we continue to encourage the role that India is playing to help Afghanistan develop its economy and improve its security.


    But primarily just like we saw this week, where Canada announced that it's going to transition its existing military effort from a combat role to a training role, there are many other countries, some within NATO, some outside of NATO, who have provided military forces. We've asked if they can increase the number of trainers that they have committed to this effort," Crowley said in response to a question.


    The US envision 2011 as the beginning of a transition where Afghanistan will take greater responsibility for its own security, culminating in Afghanistan leadership in its own security matters by 2014, he said, adding that this is important to Afghanistan, it's important to the region.


    "The process between now and then is focused on helping to strengthen Afghanistan's government both at the national level and at the local level, building up critical institutions that include, you know, both military capabilities and police capabilities," Crowley said.


    "This has the ability to help continue the transformation of this region. So it has benefits for Afghanistan, but as Afghanistan stabilizes, it has obviously, you know, benefits that accrue to other countries, including Pakistan, including India and others.


    "As you build up institutions and they perform, you can expect to see improvements in the Afghan economy and the export of Afghan goods to other countries in the region," Crowley said.
     
  6. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    The US has worked with Iran informally in the past. For example the removal of Taliban in Afghanistan and stablising southern Iraq.

    So there is no reason why US can do that again keeping realpolitik in mind. India can play an important role as a go between and honest broker between US and Iran.

    Eventually, US has to be shown that there is another way out of the Afghan quagmire without depending too much on Pakistan/China to help US extricate itself out of Afghanistan.
     
    SADAKHUSH likes this.

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