What does the US's departure from Afghanistan mean for India?

Conflicts May 19, 2021

As the last of US troops left Afghanistan and the US turned away from the Middle East to the Indo Pacific, there is a lot to redo in the foreign relations in the region.

How the US shaped the politics in South Asia.

Since the US replaced Britain as the major external power in the Middle East half a century ago, the US has been a pivot around which regional politics has been played out. Many regions sought an alliance with the US to secure themselves against terrorist and troublesome neighbours. Israel’s security, oil supplies, competing with other powers, making regional peace, promoting democracy, and stamping out terrorism are no longer factors demanding the US military for its political and diplomatic investments in the region.

How to live with the new neighbours.

As the US steps back from the Middle East, most regions will have to make sure to reduce tensions with their neighbours. Although Russia and China have regional ambitions, neither of them brings a working strategy as the US brought to the Middle East decades ago.

Turkey has figured that its troubled economy cannot sustain these ambitious regional policies.

After years of intense mutual hostility, Saudi Arabia and Iran are now exploring new means to reduce tensions in the area and moderate proxy wars in the region.

Saudi Arabia is also trying to heal the rift within the Gulf by ending the earlier efforts to isolate Qatar. These changes come in the wake of the big moves last year by some Arab states like UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan to normalise ties with Israel.

Effect on Indo-Pak relations.

The regional reset in the Middle East has coincided with efforts by Delhi and Islamabad to cool their tensions in the region and bring peace. The cease-fire on the LOC (Line Of Control) in Kashmir announced at the end of February appears to be on hold. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan poses major challenges to the Sub-continent. India and Pakistan, for different reasons, would have hoped for US troops to live in Afghanistan.

For India, the US military presence would have kept a check on extremist forces and terrorist activities in the area and would have created conducive conditions for an Indian role in Afghanistan

For Pakistan, the US military presence in Afghanistan keeps the US utterly dependent on Pakistan for geographical access and operational support, therefore, strengthening the bonds between both nations

Challenge of terrorism.

The trans-border links between the Taliban and other extremist groups in the region is a challenge for the South Asian countries as they will have to confront them sooner or later. Soaring levels of violence in Afghanistan and attack on former President of Maldives underlines new challenges that terrorist groups might bring to South Asia. Unless South Asian countries collaborate on countering extremism and terrorism every one of them will be weakened.

The region needs to focus on the peace and harmony in the region while resolving the bilateral issues through dialogue. But with inter-state conflicts to solve it’s hard to see when these issues resolve.

This article has been written by Siddhesh Patil for The Paradigm

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