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There is one interesting blog focuses merely on South Asia politics and I recommend you to read it if you’re interested getting know the basis of political myriad of this region. There is also one blogger knows wide-and-in depth South Asia and therefore a must-follow, but it’s on Tumblr anyway. So check her out ! Most of the news this month covers on the Afghan security following the drone war. So here is the round-up lists coverage mostly emphasize on analysis of what’s happened around the region:-

1. India is pursuing its interest towards Central Asia. There has been a wider concern onIndia and its relations with Central Asia due to the energy concern. The pipeline project is mainly involved Europe and China has forged back India to strengthen its relations with Central Asia countries through the “Connect Central Asia Policy” . There are few important points summarily stated below:-

  • “The geostrategic importance of Central Asian Republic (CAR) for India is primarily borne from the economic and security ramifications of the region. The region, also called the underbelly of Eurasia, is a rich resource of hydrocarbons and lies on the old silk route – connecting China and South Asia to West Asia and Europe. However, Indian connectivity is severely hampered by absence of any means of rail and road connectivity to Afghanistan or CAR due to the ongoing war on terror and the American belligerent stand towards Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Together these two have virtually isolated India. India’s only hope now lies in a reconciliation between the West and Iran which would provide a North South corridor to India from Chahabar and Bandar Abbas ports in Iran to Hajigak/Bamiyan in Afghanistan and Bandar Anzali on the Caspian Sea. The sea and land connectivity thereafter provide multiple options. Till this dream is fulfilled there is no succor for India to operationaliseits foreign policy to Connect Central Asia meaningfully.”
  • China has seized the opportunity and is willing to bankroll pipeline projects for the CAR oil. Turkmen gas supplies to China reached over 20 billion cubic metres in January , more than two-thirds the target volume for the end of 2012. The China-Turkmenistan runs over 2,000 Kilometers from Turkmen via Uzbekistan and Kazakstan to China, where it links up with the domestic network. At the moment, it mostly carries Turkmen gas, although Uzbekistan has committed to providing 25 billion cubic metres a year. Another ten billion cu m annually will come from Kazakstan’s gas fields. In China, the Central Asian countries have an investor that is willing to bankroll large-scale infrastructure projects – and not just in the energy sector – and that has proved effective in implementing them.
  • Europe is also planning the Nabucco pipeline route through Turkey, linking up to Azerbaijan and the Caspian. Turkmenistan – along with Azerbaijan and Iraq – would be one of the main sources of gas for that route.
  • While the West and China may see this as an opportunity the basic problem with India is North South connectivity because of which the resource rich region can serve no meaningful purpose. The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) and Iran-Pakistan-India(IPI) pipelines are mere dreams as long as Pakistan and Afghanistan burn in violent fires of the War on Terror. Given the best and worst case scenarios emerging out of post 2014 Af Pak and the India Pak hostility there is little hope that these pipes and associated road and rail infrastructure would see light of the day any time soon.
  • Notwithstanding Parag Khanna’s oversimplification of geographical lines on maps being subservient to growth of economies, as is being proved by China, there is little evidence of the same happening to India’s advantage. His romanticism that the world stop playing great games in the region is at best utopian given the current geopolitical interests of NATO against the rest (SCO). In fact there are three grand strategies at work in CAR – American, Chinese and Russian, all at variance for meeting their own strategic goals. America has also unveiled its New Silk Road strategy excluding Iran from the network.
  • US also has long-term interests in collaborating with India to serve its post 2014 interests in the region to obviate vacuum created by the draw down. Whether US and India can cooperate in CAR is a big “if”.
  • Amidst such connectivity and geopolitical dogmas, India’s options in CAR get restricted to promoting limited commerce and soft power. The operative part of the 12 point “Connect Central Asia” policy thus is:-

” As for land connectivity, we have reactivated the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC). We need to join our efforts to discuss ways to bridge the missing links in the Corridor at the earliest and also work on other connecting spurs along the route. The full article can be read via here. 2. On Central Asian energy.Related to the first topic above, the trend of pipeline has been significantly influenced the energy politics among the competing nations in this region. The new energy sources, the Trans-Anatolian pipeline has weaken Russian monopoly pipeline in Europe. Here’s the important details on this energy news:-

  • In late-June, Turkey and Azerbaijan signed accords green-lighting the much-anticipated $7 billion Trans-Anatolian Pipeline(TANAP), which will ferry 16 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field through neighboring Georgia to Turkey and from there to European markets. While the deal has been described as a deathblow to the once highly touted European Union-backed Nabucco pipeline consortium, TANAP’s emergence alongside a host of other alternative and unconventional energy options is also endangering Russia’s near-monopoly in the European natural gas market.
  • Between TANAP, the prospect of Nabucco West, the viability of LNG and the promise of shale, Moscow’s grip on European energy markets appears poised to fade, along with its political influence in European capitals. With Russia’s economy still highly dependent on energy exports, reductions in price or volume could have severe economic consequences. For states looking to wean themselves off Russian pipelines, the rise of unconventional sources is welcome news. So far, Moscow has oscillated between ignoring and attacking unconventional energy. But as time goes on, it’s clear that Russia will have to adapt to the brave new world of unconventional energy or be left behind.

The full link of the article can be accessed here.

3. On Afghanistan :-

Picture: Afghan refugee little girls stands with others in an alley of a slum on the outskirts of Islamabad.

There are a few important news and reading about Afghanistan as listed below:-

i. On the progress of Afghan transition process

  • The signing in May of a strategic partnership agreement between the United States and Afghanistan came at a tense time in the Afghan war. As NATO and the International Security Assistance Force work to transfer security responsibility for much of the country to the Afghan government, the agreement establishes the contours of a long-term relationship and a framework for future cooperation. But it notably leaves out details on the levels of forces and funding the United States will commit to Afghanistan after 2014. Meanwhile, insurgents continue to mount frequent attacks against high-visibility targets throughout the country and have assassinated international personnel and Afghans with ties to the government of President Hamid Karzai. Trust between the U.S. and Afghan governments has eroded as a result of Afghan civilian casualties, attacks on U.S. and other international forces by Afghan troops, and blunders by U.S. military personnel, including the burning of Korans at an air base.
  • Although the Obama administration has reached out to the Taliban and Pakistan in the hopes of achieving a negotiated settlement, the U.S. transition strategy still prioritizes military activity over diplomacy. As Washington draws down its troops, it has armed both regular and irregular Afghan forces and targeted insurgent commanders and other extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The military campaign has had significant successes, particularly in dismantling al Qaeda and largely destroying its senior leadership in the region, achieving a primary U.S. national security objective. It has also weakened Taliban insurgents and restored Afghan government control over significant portions of southern Afghanistan. The original article can be accessed via Foreign Affairs.

ii. There is also one analysis on how to secure Afghan. The author stated the current problem on Afghan & suggested 3 ways to buttress fragile authority in Afghanistan

  • Problem: The Chicago Declaration commits the United States to the more ambitious goals of helping craft “a democratic society, based on rule of law and good governance.” However attractive the maximalist position, it would require an increased deployment of foreign troops and political advisers, and changes in Afghanistan’s political culture, that are unlikely to occur. Yet even the minimalist objective, designed to prevent a return to power by the Taliban (which has consistently refused to renounce its long-standing ties with al-Qaeda and other transnational terrorist groups based in Pakistan and would be likely to provide them a safe haven in Afghanistan), will be impossible to achieve absent a substantial commitment. Attempts to safeguard U.S. interests “on the cheap” are likely to fail. If the security situation deteriorates, a small number of Special Operations Forces (SOF) would have difficulty operating—as they do today in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. The Kabul government is only likely to extend cooperation to SOF if, in return, it receives substantial support to maintain its fragile authority.
  • i. Security:- There will be pressure in Washington to announce another troop drawdown in late 2012 or early 2013. The next U.S. president—either Obama or Mitt Romney—would be wise to resist that pressure. Only the presence of large numbers of American troops can ensure that security continues to improve. For all the dissatisfaction with the war effort revealed in polls, there is little intensity to the opposition—there are no antiwar demonstrations and the war has not become a major political issue. Thus the next president will have a relatively free hand to maintain current troop levels until 2015 even though the move will not be popular. Pledge to maintain a substantial advisory and counterterrorism presence after 2014 of twenty-five thousand to thirty-five thousand troops. Washington will be tempted to leave the smallest possible presence after 2014 and to confine troops to safe bases. This would be a mistake unless peace breaks out between now and then. A force of, say, five thousand troops would have a hard time defending itself, much less carrying out its mission. And advisers who are confined to base would not be able to effectively mentor the ANSF or gain “situational awareness.” It would be safer and more effective to have a more robust presence so that U.S. troops could protect themselves while also helping the ANSF with logistics, planning, air support, medevac, route clearance, and other important functions.
  • ii. Politics:- Go slow on peace talks. U.S. officials want a peace deal with the Taliban that would enable a faster U.S. drawdown. But a grand bargain on acceptable terms—with the Taliban giving up their arms and becoming a normal political party—is unlikely. Taliban foot soldiers in Afghanistan may feel coalition pressure, but their leaders remain safe in Pakistan, and Pakistan’s generals are loath to let the Taliban to sign a peace treaty that could allow them to slip out of Islamabad’s grip. Under those conditions, putting too much pressure on Kabul to reach a deal with the Taliban could backfire by causing the Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks to recreate the Northern Alliance and renew the devastating civil war of the 1990s. A better course of action would be to pursue deals with individual Taliban commanders—offering them incentives to stop fighting—and thus try to split the insurgency.
  • Identify and groom a successor to Karzai. Afghanistan would benefit from a leader more committed to fighting corruption and establishing the rule of law. But the political process is unlikely to produce such a leader on its own. Iran, Pakistan, and various Afghan warlords will back their favored candidates. The United States should do the same. It is doubtful that an ideal candidate can be found, but, at a minimum, it should be possible to identify the “least bad” one. Admittedly American policymakers erred in picking Karzai in late 2001 and they may err again—but they at least know much more about Afghanistan than they did then. And to avoid making any choice is to cede the decisive vote to malign actors.
  • iii. Pakistan roles:- Launch drone and/or SOF strikes on Haqqani and Taliban leaders in Pakistan. Though the CIA and SOF have long targeted terrorist leaders in Pakistan, primarily using drones, their targets have been mostly confined to al-Qaeda. A few Pakistani Taliban and Haqqani leaders have also been eliminated, but senior Taliban figures have not been targeted, because Washington wants to avoid antagonizing Islamabad. But U.S. forces, even at the current force level of eighty-seven thousand, have shown they can survive without the Pakistani logistics line; they have done so since November 2011. Pakistan may also withdraw cooperation in drone strikes on al-Qaeda, but that organization has been so weakened that the strikes are less important now than a few years ago. Regardless of Islamabad’s reaction, it is necessary to undertake an aggressive campaign of drone strikes to increase the pressure on the Taliban and the Haqqani Network to prevent them from taking advantage of the NATO drawdown.

The full article can be read via Council on Foreign Relations. There is also one article on Afghan conflict as the U.S pulls out from this region via New York Times.

4. On Kashmir  & Pakistan :-

“United States President Barrack Obama’s statement that no solution on Kashmir could be thrust from outside has come on expected lines, keeping in view the changing dynamics of politics at Global level, particularly after 9/11 attacks. Obama was not cautious in his statement when asked about Kashmir solution, but he made it crystal clear that nations (India and Pakistan) must see their responsibilities, as “It is not the place of any nation, including the United States, to try to impose solutions from the outside.”

However, he has not completely ignored the issue of Jammu and Kashmir while expressing satisfaction over the continued “bonhomie” of India and Pakistan in the shape of increased trade and people to people contact. His statement also has a symbolic value as far as registering Kashmir as a problem is concerned.

Obama’s assertion about not intervening in resolving the protracted conflict has given a setback to the separatists, who apart from “sacrifices” of people in past 21 years had been banking upon the support from the International community particularly the United States. Since Kashmir continues to be alive in the United Nations in the shape of its resolutions, the Washington connection becomes more visible. With Pakistan being its ally in cold war period and subsequent power game in the region, it was visibly stronger making people to live in an illusion that it was Washington, which would make India to take a decision on Kashmir. In a sense Pakistan was a broker in highlighting Kashmir’s genuine cause at the international level. It was more because of human rights situation in Kashmir that attracted attention at the international level rather than Pakistan’s lobbying. Case of Kashmiri American Council executive director Ghulam Nabi Fai is enough to draw conclusions how irritated Washington has been with Pakistan and its policy. He (Fai) was booked and thrown into jail just because what they say he was on pay roll of Pakistani agency thus pushing into the background the political reality of Kashmir issue.

The situation had, however, changed in the past one decade, since Pakistan not only lost its stability to war in Afghanistan but also the India’s increasing proximity to Washington played a significant role in neutralizing its effect in making them (US) believe that their intervention in resolving Kashmir issue was inevitable. Until September 11 attacks on US, Pakistan’s position on diplomatic level was still forceful. It could maneuver support on Kashmir by projecting it as a “genuine political issue”. But in the aftermath of those attacks, Pakistan’s deep involvement in the so-called “war on terror” and its visible failure to contain Taliban for US, changed the dynamics of politics in the region. While Pakistan was seen as a breeding ground for “terrorism”, this argument was linked with the Kashmir problem as well, thus projecting it as part of “International Islamic terror network”. However, the fact remains that Kashmir has never been part of such a network and presence of any foreign militant notably from Pakistan has been merely a coincidence. There has not been any imprint of Al Qaeda or Taliban in Kashmir, which could make it part of such a network.”

The full article can be accessed via South Asian Ideas.

While reading these articles and news, I was thinking to write an analysis on it, topic by topic. But of course it will take times somehow. My first analysis will be on Afghanistan since there are lots of reading on it. So stay tuned !