Posts Tagged Afghanistan

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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What should be the US foreign policy in the new administration?

New US president will be elected on November 4th when American voters will elect their 44th president for next four years. Other than economic recession the challenge faced by the new administration will be realignment of foreign policy with war in Iraq at the center of the debate. US foreign policy is largely driven by three main interests. First, US believe that ideals of human liberty and freedom should be promoted around the world in the form of democracy and free markets. Second, US want to maintain the economic life style of its people by ensuring access to markets, supply of energy and natural resources from around the world. Third, US believe that the security of its people and homeland is important by engaging in preemptive actions around the world including non-state organizations like Al Qaida.

Ideals of human liberty and freedom are not political objectives but rather values that are promoted by all religions including Christianity and Islam. This means that these noble ideas are the basic premise of creation and makes it a mainstay of human society. This could mean that societies around the world should be eager to participate and join hands with USA. But this can only be achieved if US is able to attain the respect of a true leader without strong bias in its own favor or favorites. Accepting Palestinian right of return and abandoning the support of autocratic rulers would be two important steps in this direction. Similarly, bringing change within a society requires patience and perseverance rather than adoption quick fix through military intervention to introduce abrupt change by removing an autocratic regime at the cost of innocent lives as collateral damage. It would be wise for US to adopt the policy of engagement and negotiation to promote ideals and resolve issues. This will earn it the respect it deserves as bastion of liberty, freedom and equal rights.

The exponential rise of oil prices and its negative impact on the US society has driven the point home that energy security is extremely important for US economy. Sending militaries in Middle East to ensure steady supply of oil can not solve this issue in the long run especially when most of these countries are run by autocratic rulers. China and India with close proximity to Middle Eastern countries are as eager to out bid USA for this resource. On the other hand Russia is playing this card to its advantage by exerting influence on energy rich central Asian states. US should realize that they can solve their energy problem by adjusting their lives giving up on gas guzzling SUVs for smaller cars while at the same time making investment in research and development of alternate greener energy source.

The most important element of US foreign policy for the last eight years has been the security of American lives and property from the terrorist threats. US have natural barriers in the form of Atlantic and Pacific Ocean to prevent any direct military threat to its home land. To further augment this natural barrier US formed North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with its Western allies. This cold war era edifice could also become a new flash point with reemerging Russia if US is too eager to allow Soviet states of Ukraine and Georgia to become members. Russia which still feels insecure after its break up in 1991 needs a neutral buffer between its bounders and Western Europe with which it fought many wars over centuries. The expansion of NATO should be reconsidered by the new administration if they would want to avoid another cold war with Russia. This NATO expansion would force Russia to reinvigorate their long forgotten WARSAW pact with some new friends and allies.

The other important corner stone of the new US administration should be to reestablish credibility of international platforms like United Nations to resolve issues. It has become apparent that ignoring UN to pressure Saddam regime was a foreign policy mistake resulting in tremendous loss of goodwill, treasure and lives. US should redouble its efforts to help reform UN so that it becomes an effective organization in solving international issues. One such step would be reconstitution of the Security Council, to represent the new world realities, by awarding an observer status to Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and adding more permanent members to the council.

US also need to redefine its meaning of a terrorist by removing the emphasis that somehow Islamic faith has religious support for inhuman acts. A faith can not attain a global acceptance if it is not driven by truth and human values. A terrorist is a criminal with no real understanding of Islam or any other faith. The recent monk movement in Burma shows that it is not the religion but political injustice that forces peaceful people to take an extreme position. Redefining terrorist will not only help US regain its lost respect in the Muslim world but will also inspire governments around the world to cooperate in this fight without fearing a backlash from masses. By labeling terrorists as Islamic terrorist implicate the whole Muslim world as suspects until proven guilty. Any bomb going off anywhere in the world is immediately labeled as Islamic terrorism without carefully considering the evidence. This negative perception of a large innocent majority creates a moral dilemma for people which ultimately results in sympathizing with an underdog that is looking for a popular support. A terrorist in most situations is a product of poor governance and bad politics.

Resolution of Arab-Israel conflict, Kashmir struggle, Iraq war and removal of NATO forces from Afghanistan would help improve the US image and contribute towards world peace. US strategy to send military forces around the world creates an impression of imperialism that turns the popular opinion against them. US is probably the only country with military presence around the world including Germany, Korea, Japan, Iraq, Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. Use of soft power through economic, cultural and political relations would go a long way in ensuring security for US people.

If the prime reason for a governments existence is to provide a good life for its community then US government is failing miserably. The economic meltdown can be partly blamed on foreign policy. It is now apparent that US could have avoided invasion of Iraq as it took away valuable resources from the local economy. It will be a mistake for the new president to change the label of the war from Iraq to Afghanistan. Instead objectives of eradicating terrorist could be achieved by supporting local governments to fight through indigenous efforts.

US is the last best hope for humanity to achieve peace. The stakes are too high for the world. We can all hope that sensibility will overcome emotion and a new approach will be adopted. Comedian Jon Stewart said it all when he commented on one of his programs that America will always have 19 people, referring to 911 hijackers, who want to commit harm but in eradicating those 19 it can not have an unfavorable opinion among the rest of the world.

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