- GS-2: India and its neighborhood- relations.
- GS-2: Policies and politics of developed and developing countries
The fall of Kabul, the future of regional geopolitics
In news: The fall of Kabul in the wake of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan will prove to be a defining moment for the region and the future shape of its geopolitics.
Regional Geopolitics after the fall of Kabul
- Power Vacuum leading to rise of anti-America axis
- An axis of regional powers such as China, Pakistan, Russia, and the Taliban have started filling the power vacuum, created by the haphazard manner of US withdrawal.
- Iran might also jump on this opportunistic bandwagon under the Chinese leadership.
- This axis of powers has anti-US feeling in various degrees which might further shrink American influence in Eurasian Heartland. India’s interest may be impacted as it has moved closer to US than ever before.
- As a result, US may explore new ways of working with them to stabilise region that might result in softening of US rhetoric on China.
Impact on India: While a healthy conversation among the great powers — the U.S., China and Russia — on global and regional challenges is a good sign, India is neither a great power nor present at the table.
- China milking the opportunity to its advantage
- The post-American power vacuum in the region will be used by Beijing to further strengthen its efforts to bring every country in the region, except India, on the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative thereby altering the geopolitical and geoeconomic foundations of the region
- Beijing is likely to become less accommodative towards India including on the Line of Actual Control.
- Even in trade, given the sorry state of the post-COVID-19 Indian economy, India needs trade with China more than the other way round.
- Unless India can find ways of ensuring a rapprochement with China, it must expect China to challenge India on occasion, and be prepared for it.
- Extremism will the real problem for India
- The real worry is the inspiration that disgruntled elements in the region will draw from the Taliban’s victory against the world’s sole superpower.
- It is unlikely that the Taliban will proactively export terror to other countries unless of course for tactical purposes by, say for instance, Pakistan against India.
- While other neighbouring countries are worried about terrorism emanating from Afghanistan, the reality is that they are busy making their own private deals with the Taliban to not host terror organisations targeting them
- The bigger challenge for India, therefore, would be a near-certain increase in terrorism and extremism in the region.
- Impact on regional interests
- The return of the Taliban to Kabul has effectively laid India’s ‘mission Central Asia’ to rest.
- If India could not find its way to Central Asia with encouraging partners such as Iran and the Hamid Karzai/Ashraf Ghani governments, the possibility of India doing so now will be very low.
- Had India, cultivated deeper relations (does not mean recognition) with the Taliban, Indian interests would have been more secure in a post-American Afghanistan.
The fall of Kabul and the consequent knock-on effects in the region will have several potential implications for India’s foreign policy
- For one, given the little physical access India has to its north-western landmass, its focus is bound to shift more to the Indo-Pacific
- Second, New Delhi might also seek to shed the arrogance it displayed towards its smaller neighbours during Modi 1.0 and cultivate friendly relations with them. Ex: Myanmar.
- Third, the developments in Afghanistan could nudge New Delhi to seek stability, if not peace, with Pakistan.
The lesson for India in the wake of these developments is clear: It will have to fight its own battles. So it must make enemies wisely, choose friends carefully, rekindle flickering friendships, and make peace while it can.
Connecting the dots:
- March 2020: Donald Trump’s Doha Agreement