Afghanistan has got several names in international politics. It is sometimes called a” Black hole” because it has demonstrated the ability to engulf countries and ideologies. It has rearranged the map of the world by serving as graveyard of empires and divided the super powers of its time. It has also shown the ability to limit the space for one school of thought at the expense of another.
Currently the sole super power with all its might is trying to avert the repeat of history. The invaders known to history by the names of Sultan Mahmud and Muhammad Ghori during the medieval period were from the same deserted land but we’re able to plunder and conquer the sub-continent.
Afghanistan was and is the playing field and a Buffer state in the great game between capitalists and communists. The current name of the game which was started by the US in 2001 is the Global War on Terror. The GWOT is still ravaging the devastated and barren land. Afghanistan can be termed as the most unfortunate land on the map of the world and a laboratory for war games not for its own sake but for alien powers.
Some Facts about Afghanistan
Tajikistan -1206 km
Uzbekistan -137 km
Pashtuns -42 %
Pakistan shares the longest border with Afghanistan with respect to other neighbours of Afghanistan. The ethnic and religious distribution shows that Pashtuns and the followers of Sunni sect of Islam are in majority in Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani though belong to Pashtun ethnicity, thy never had full control over Pashtun dominated areas. They were, thus, described as puppets of America. Due representation was not provided to the Pashtuns whether Taliban or not and it was the source of trouble for the US and coalition forces.
The US needs an access to the energy resources of central Asia because Afghanistan is a potential land bridge for oil and gas pipelines to and from central Asia. By containing China and Russia through empowering India the US can increase its hegemony in South Asia and Eurasian region.
It also wishes to counter the Russian influence in the region and to closely monitor the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. US also needs a share in the narcotics trade in the same fashion Great Britain did with sub-continent tea and Silk during its rule. America also needs a friendly government in Afghanistan which is able to provide space to India at the expense of Pakistan.
Russia is again reasserting itself in the region and avenging its defeat in the Cold War. Russia has started to develop diplomatic relations with Pakistan and has accepted Pakistan’s leverage inside Afghanistan. Russia also wants to benefit from the One Belt One Road project and to prevent spread of religious extremism to Chechnya. To counter US regional designs and to have influence over the central Asian states for energy resources is at the core of Russian policy towards Afghanistan.
China has the shortest border with Afghanistan and fears the spill over effects of Jihad. The unrest in Xinjiang province where there lies 60 % of mineral resources of China can gain further momentum if there is no peace in Afghanistan. The presence of US in the region also increases the doubts of Chinese government as US can support the East Turkistan Islamic movement for de stabilising the rising China and harming the energy interests of ever expanding Chinese industry.
The Indian and US marriage of convenience in Afghanistan is mainly due to the fact that their interests converge there. The recent visit of Modi to US and the declaration of Masood Azhar as a terrorist further unpacks their designs in the region. India with the help of US wants to create friction between Afghanistan and Pakistan to keep Pakistan under Pressure. The activities of foreign intelligence networks, allegedly India, in Afghanistan and Balochistan are meant to destabilise Pakistan to an extent where it stops supporting the Kashmir Cause.
India is also weary of the CPEC Project and safeguards its geostrategic interests by empowering Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras of Afghanistan. India also provides material support to the Northern Alliance for using them against Pakistan. As a policy matter India wants to keep busy Pakistan with the conflict coming from both eastern and Western borders and to overburden the Pak Army. Indian consulates inside Afghanistan and its support to Baloch insurgents and Taliban are the facts still ignored by the International Actors.
Iran is playing a dubious game. It wants to develop diplomatic relations with Pakistan to decrease its international isolation and to have market for its gas and other resources but at the same time supports Shias community that is Northern Alliance in Afghanistan against Pakistan’s interests. Iran also supports Indian access to its Chabahar port to decrease the volume of trade through Gawadar. Afghanistan occupies a central place in the foreign policy of Pakistan. The geographic contiguity, ethnic sharing and religious resemblance makes Pakistan a natural player and a permanent stakeholder in Afghanistan.
The war on terror is affecting Pakistan on every front and setting the terror situation makes Pakistan a major regional player of the great game. Pakistan cannot practice its democratic values unless there is peace in Afghanistan. The safe havens inside Afghanistan, the export of fundamentalism, extremism, drugs and weapons into Pakistan from the land of Afghanistan further increases the significance of Afghanistan in Pakistan’s foreign policy.
To mitigate the defeat in Afghanistan, the US is working overtime to shift the blame of every wrong to Pakistan. To consolidate towards this end, America has involved India militarily in Afghanistan to secure hegemony for India as the leading power in Asia and to exclude Pakistan from any possible facilitating role in any future setup of Afghanistan.
Muhammad Haroon Barakzai Lecturer IMS UST Bannu.