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Friday June 21, 2024

Discussing Afghanistan

By our correspondents
November 24, 2016

The power structures we have come to expect to dominate South Asia are slowly being replaced. The disaster that is the US war in Afghanistan means fewer countries trust it or expect it to deliver stability. The election of Narendra Modi in India has made it all but impossible for Pakistan to maintain good relations with its Eastern neighbour. China, thanks to the CPEC, has made a bold bid to be the primary political player in the region. And now Russia is trying to make its influence felt in the region too. The country that was humiliatingly forced to withdraw from Afghanistan in 1989 is now trying to have its voice heard in planning for the conflict-ridden country’s future. Moscow will be holding a conference, along with Pakistan and China, in December to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and what can be done about it. The meeting will be held the same month as the Heart of Asia conference in India, which is also concerned with peace and stability in Afghanistan. Russia is clearly hoping to dislodge Indian hegemony in South Asia by overtly supporting its neighbours and becoming more involved in regional issues. The opening to do so is certainly there since both Heart of Asia and the US-led Quadrilateral Crisis Group have failed to achieve any diplomatic breakthroughs in Afghanistan.

Russia has made other moves recently showing it is ready to pursue a closer alliance with Pakistan. At the Brics summit in India, Russia and China were at the forefront of moves to block India from adopting a resolution denouncing Pakistan as a terrorist state. Russia also carried out joint military exercises with Pakistan, a clear thumb in the eye for India, which has traditionally been a Russian ally. The US, meanwhile, has drifted every closer to India and at the UN General Assembly meeting in September it even held a trilateral meeting with India and Afghanistan without inviting Pakistan. Such moves have led us to Moscow. Of course, Russia has close to zero influence in Afghanistan so the point of this conference seems to be less to influence events on the ground and more to show India and the US that it will not always get its way in the region. With the CPEC, China will now be an economic player throughout the continent and be less reliant on India for trade routes while Russia, which looks at India as a proxy for the US, might be more inclined to pursue better ties with Pakistan.