Why in News?
C Raja Mohan writes: The quiet satisfaction in Moscow, Beijing, Tehran and Rawalpindi is tinged by worries about the longer-term implications of Washington’s retreat from Afganistan. If India is patient, opportunities could open up.
Syllabus—GS2: India & Its Neighbourhood
- Afghanistan has been witnessing the speedy withdrawal of US troops & matching swift advance of the Taliban across the nation.
- The Taliban currently has been gaining military ground very quickly.
- These two developments have moved Afghan into the court of regional powers that now have the burden of managing the US retreat-induced military vacuum.
- The regional solution ideas to Afghan had always political appeal & divergent regional interests limit the prospect for a sustainable consensus on Afghanistan.
The role of Shanghai Cooperation Organization in this regard:
- The SCO was launched 20 years ago by China & Russia to promote inner Asia stability.
- Both nations are also driven by fears about US power in the post-Cold war era & the US’s ambition to promote human rights & democracy in the region.
- Current members of SCO: China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan & India.
- 4 observer nations: Iran, Afghanistan, Mongolia & Belarus.
- In the upcoming days, the regional conclave of foreign ministers under the SCO banner is taking place that should give a sense of the unfolding regional dynamic on Afghan.
- Geography, membership & capabilities make the SCO an important forum to address the post-American challenges in Afghan.
History of SCO & its members in this regard:
- SCO was set up around the time when the world witness 2001 terror attacks on the US by Al Qaeda which was sheltered in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
- The US marched in quickly to oust the Taliban from power & launched the Great War on Terror.
- This propelled Afghan to the center stage of international politics & became the top agenda of the SCO.
- US intervention in Afghan during 2001, was unopposed by China & Russia.
- Though they had no issue with USAs ousting terror outfits in Afghan, however, they were deeply apprehensive about the implications of extended US military presence in Afghan.
The current situation among SCO members:
- Today, both China & Russia having a good laugh at the USAs Afghan mission failure.
- Because Russia has not forgotten its 1980s humiliating military retreat from Afghan due to US-backed jihadi insurgency.
- For China, the US withdrawal from Afghan also reinforces its strongly held conviction that the US s in terminal decline.
- At a time when China is offering an alternative to the Western model of domestic & international governance, the US retreat will be seen as a great ideological victory for China.
- Iran has been locked in a confrontation with the US longer than any other nation, has even more reason to see the US retreat by a peg to two in its neighbourhood.
Implications of retreat & Actions by the SCO members:
- Today all four nations are quite satisfied with the US retreat, however, they also worry about the long-term implications of the USA’s retreat.
- Neither China nor Russia would want to see Afghan becoming a nursery of international terror again under the Taliban.
- For China, potential Taliban support to the Xinjiang separatist group is a major concern.
- Iran can’t ignore the Sunni extremism of the Taliban & its oppressive record against the vulnerable.
- Pakistan worries about the danger of the conflict spilling over the Durand line & hostile groups gaining sanctuaries in Afghan.
- The alliance between Pakistan & China starts with some advantages in Afghan.
- Pak’s deep connections to the Taliban Combine with China’s massive economic resources could contribute to the Afghanistan transformation.
- But many imponderables complicate the picture such as:
- Taliban itself remains a major variable.
- Taliban’s unwillingness to accommodate the Afghan’s interest would set the stage for civil war in Afghanistan.
- However, the Taliban leaders have been saying all the right things to key regional actors & are eager for regional & international economic cooperation.
- The Taliban also stressing it won’t be a proxy for anyone else & it will pursue independent policies.
- However, there is much lacking clarity in the Taliban’s words & actions because its ground actions on its territories & the ties to terrorist organizations seem to be revival ground for Taliban 2.0.
Implications of retreat on India:
- For India, the prolonged peace era in Afghan secured by the US came to an end.
- Now India has new constraints on its ability to operate inside Afghanistan.
- There is also a danger of nurturing anti-India terror groups under the Taliban in Afghan.
Factors that shape India’s new Afghan Policy:
- India has to remain active & patient to utilize many cropping up opportunities in the new Afghan phase.
- India’s lack of direct physical access to Afghanistan, which underlines the importance of India having effective regional partners.
- Geography has given Pak the capability to destabilize any Afghan govt.
- However, it does not have the power to reconstruct a stable & legitimate order in Afghan.
- The only hope for Pak is that Partnership with China & the extension of CPEC into Afghan can address its power deficit.
- Finally, the contradiction between Afghan & Pak is an enduring one.
- Because many in Pak wants to turn Afghan into a protectorate while Afghans deeply value their independence.
- This will push Afghans including the Taliban inevitably look for partners to balance Pak.
Way Forward: –
The need of the hour for India is to actively contribute to the SCO deliberations on Afghan while tempering its hopes for a collective regional solution. It is high time for India to focus on intensifying its engagement with various Afghan groups & finding effective regional partners to secure its interests in a changing Afghanistan.
Pakistan has long been a critic of US policies in Afghan, the retreat is a moment of geopolitical vindication because its army has heavily invested in the Taliban. Discuss.