Archive for December, 2008

After math of Mumbai attacks?

Foreign policy is an imperfect social science with as many views and opinions as there are writers. But formulation of different scenarios helps in devising strategies for the long term and channeling the public opinion to enable policy makers to take actions. Any foreign policy expert that does not include the history and culture of the region can not come up with a realistic scenario. Today’s volatile diplomatic environment is an aftermath of the events of 911 that destroyed the balance of power achieved after Second World War. US policy makers decided to use that incident to ignore long established state relationships and create a new world order with itself at the center as the sole super power. The first victim of this approach was United Nations which was made totally irrelevant when USA made it clear that they will take unilateral action if the world body did not agree to its wishes. The second victim was its relationship with Europe which realized that they can not tag along with US foreign policy if they want to protect their interest. Since then they have been making efforts to create their own foreign policy institution. The third victim was South Asia which experienced deployment of foreign forces by NATO and USA without any resistance offered by regional powers India, Russia and China.

During this time US decided that India can play a significant role as an equal partner in the region. A look at India’s foreign policy since independence shows that India has relied on major powers to gain influence in the region. After its independence from British rule in 1947, the ruling Congress party with its socialist leader Jawahar Lal Nehru aligned itself with communist USSR. The break-up of USSR in early 1990s forced India to rethink its strategy to either become a power in its own right or align itself with USA or China. China, a neighboring country, was a difficult option considering their conflicting interest in access to energy resources, regional dominance and economic competition. USA on the other hand was a better option because it had a large Indian immigrant community that could influence the policy makers; it was market for outsourcing of Indian skilled labor and it was located far off so would always rely on the local power for the protection of its interest.

The key question to ask in this equation is where the interest of these two countries meets to form a common strategy for the region. The answer probably is that India feels insecure from the presence of a nuclear Pakistan at its borders. The writings of their intellectuals suggest they would prefer Pakistan divided into smaller pieces that would rely on India for their economic and security needs. USA on the hand is nervous about a Muslim nuclear power that could be a threat to its strongest ally Israel as well as the possibility of Islamic extremist laying their hands on the nuclear weapons. USA also needs a foothold in the region to keep its check on rising Russia and China.

If this theory of Indo-USA interest in the division of Pakistan is considered to be real then how would the region look like? One scenario was published by the New York Times in which Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) region of Pakistan was merged with Afghanistan, Balochistan was converted into an independent state including some parts of Iran as well and the remaining provinces of Punjab & Sindh forming the new Pakistan.

India seems to forget the 1000 year history of the region. Enlargement of Afhganistan would mean that there will be a nation of 65 million on its borders that has been the source of attacks on its land throughout history. The establishment of 750 years of Mughal rule emerged from the lands of Afghanistan. Afghanistan with no natural, agricultural and industrial resources of its own would be a nation of starving, battle hardened and ambitious people. These Aghfan’s will resume their attacks on rich lands of India for wealth and establishment of another Muslim rule on India. Recreation of this force would be much more dangerous for India to contain than the multiethnic country of the present Pakistan.

The other unknown in this emerging scenario is the apparent complacency of China and Russia who have substantial strategic interest in the region. It is surprising to note that Russia makes a big diplomatic noise whenever America signs any kind of security deal with a nation in Europe but it remains mute when US announces a large force deployment in South Asia.. The presence of US army is a direct threat to the interest of China and Russia but they have not made any diplomatic efforts to object to it.

There could be many explanations for Russia and China’s complacent behavior. One could be that the lesson learned by Russia in Afghanistan was that it is a place where an army dies from thousand small wounds inflicted by the people who have a long history of gorilla fights. It is also possible that China and Russia both feels US involvement in Afghanistan strains its capability to respond to aggression anywhere else. This scenario was played out recently during Russo-Georgian conflict when US could not provide any support to its ally Georgia despite past promises. The third explanation could be that both Russia and China understands that the real source of American influence is their economic might and consumer markets. A major military operation would require substantial financial commitment from USA which could further undermine the already ailing economy. This will result in higher fiscal deficit that has been traditionally funded by Japan, China and other Asian countries.

This will create an opportunity for these two powers to promote a new multi polar world order. The incidents in India points to the continuing emerging scenario where Russia and China could be playing a silent hand to punish India for its alignment with USA and strike at its economy to prevent it to become a regional power. It will be naïve to believe that India’s close association with USA through nuclear, security and economic deals is unnoticed in Moscow and Beijing.

The balance between the nations can not be achieved until all members of the global community decide that only diplomatic channels will be used to resolved conflicts. Presence of foreign forces in South Asia will continue to result in insurgencies, terrorist attacks and extremism. Russia and China should come forward to pressure USA to rely on international platforms to solve their homeland security concerns. USA should focus more on improving the lives of their people by creating new job opportunities and improving their economic depth. India should understand that living in peace with its neighbors is the only long term solution for a stable economy and unity of the country. Muslim countries should liberalize their societies to be more open with equal opportunity for all and freedom of speech without apprehension.


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