ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Instability and Possibilities in South Asia

The continued dominance of Pakistan-supported Taliban poses threats to stability in northern India, especially Kashmir. Pakistan's attempts to wage a proxy war with India over Kashmir by using Afghan trained militiamen can be effectively countered by India actively wooing and offering assistance to Taliban-opposed nations like Iran, Russia and several central Asian nations.

At the beginning of the 21st century the entire Indian subcontinent is systemically unstable. India, the once sovereign, cohesive, secular and pluralistic looking nation state has been undermined by communal and sectarian politics, corruption and bourgeois greed. In Pakistan the return of military dictatorship symbolises a failed nation state based on the discredited two-nation theory and a pseudo-Islamic feudal society. In Sri Lanka and Bangladesh things are no better. In the whole region the anti-colonial project seems to have failed. The ruling elites everywhere have ‘globalised’ and ‘liberalised’ the regimes in a desperate attempt to find new ways of extracting economic surpluses from the moribund economies of these regions. As a consequence WTO, disinvestment of the profit-making public sector enterprises and general privatisation of the economy have become the new mantras. Welfare and socialism have been conveniently jettisoned. But despite all the king’s men and horses reports indicate that recession continues to deepen, unemployment is rising and a wave of discontent and despondency is sweeping across the masses everywhere. Questions of diplomacy and national strategy cannot be considered outside this socio-economic context. It is clear that declining human development, imbalanced economic growth and weakening national sovereignty will not let peace prevail in the subcontinent. While the general condition of the subcontinent is bad, certain areas like Afghanistan present glaring examples of how worse matters can become if timely remedial measures are not taken.

State and society have come apart in war ravaged countries like Afghanistan. The reasons for this are easy to perceive. Having suffered about two million casualties in the war against the USSR (1979-89) the Afghan people are currently experiencing an equally devastating civil war which shows no sign of ending. The contemporary military crisis in central Asia centred on Afghanistan, where the Pakistan sponsored Taliban was set to make new inroads into territories still held by the so-called northern alliance last year, can be traced to the geopolitical realities of this region. These realities coupled with the vast oil and gas reserves of central Asia made Afghanistan the lynchpin of American strategy in this region in the 1980s. The fact that Afghanistan is hostage to the fundamentalist Sunni Taliban today is a result of the role allocated to Pakistan in the US strategy. The primary aim of this strategy was to contain the USSR during the last years of the cold war. The Taliban and its northern opponents both are ideologically divided descendants of the erstwhile Afghan ‘mujahideen’ who were trained and supplied by the US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to fight the Russians. These fighters, it is well known, were armed through Islamabad in their successful attempt to rid Afghanistan of Soviet occupation by means of protracted guerrilla war – a form of warfare at which the Afghans have always been good. In 1989, after a decade of non-stop destructive war in Afghanistan, the humiliated Russians left. But soon the peculiarities of Afghan history took over once again. This left the critics of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan the world over disappointed because the naive among them had always believed, rather like some Americans, that life would become normal and peaceful after the Russian withdrawal.

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