The advancement of technology and compression of time and space have lifted the lid from secret boxes of countries that would think the national boundaries were sacrosanct. This has made established diplomacy a little difficult to run at international forums. The world has qualitatively changed since the advent of this century. The flow of information and weakening of national boundaries and diverse populations and social geographies can no longer be weighed in the plane of established diplomatic axioms.
Soviet exit in 1989 from Afghanistan happened with the melting of national boundaries, where social media and internet created illusions and new found dreams after the end of ideologies. Kashmiris were swayed by that wave and foreseen movements of ethno-nationalisms in religious uprisings. Undermining the nativity and painting it in one colour of race and region movement on manufactured fault lines did only produce fragmentation and chaos in those societies. It happened in Middle East, West Asia and touched Central Asia as well. And these fading colour movements finally perished in Arab spring.
Europe consolidated, while Arab and Asian societies got entrenched in proxy wars. China emerged, but gazed and accepted as ‘lonely wolf ‘that has capacity to alter the terrain of power. There is rising scepticism about world order. Soviet Union disintegration misbalanced world order. It made religions mix with nationalism devoid of morality. The process of democratization played on it and promoted the divisions and rupture of cultures with fragmentation of societies.
If first twenty years of present century had seen excessive mix of religion with politics in Asian societies, there is simmering disenchantment with such mix in Asian societies, while in US and European countries neo-liberalism and market consumerism have weakened the social institutions and bonds of mutual trust. Today each one is lonely existing like nomad and living in imagined nativity.
It seems the excessive surveillance from the state or non-state agencies and caging have made inner self different than the exterior one. The inner language is of disillusioned self and lonely person in home or outside the home.
US exit in 2021 augurs profound alterations in the word order. US left Afghanistan without any settlement with Taliban. No doubt, its Doha talks had come to this conclusion that there would be of participatory interim government for first two and half years.
This was supported by Russia and China as well that would guarantee the foreign investment in Afghanistan. Now that Taliban is dominating, it is setting new terms for sharing governance. This has made China also apprehensive. The post Coved China has become more belligerent, fretful, and sensitive to its security concerns. Quite in know of its strength, it fails to get positive attention from the international comity of nations.
China attracts business partnerships but Chinese are discrete in mutual coexistence. It will take time to get acceptance internationally. China is being feared by bourgeoisie for future settlements, unlike western countries, which remain cherished places, even for Chinese.
Unlike US, it is not being considered as a promised land by any aspiring young person to realize its future. Despite liberal democracy has its issues of governance, it still is the best lived experience of diverse populations. This paradox has become more severe for China to respond responsibly, when it is judged to take lead in economic, military and technological realms.
There is no doubt, the US exit from Afghanistan has made central Asia the focus of attention in the coming decades. It is already circulated that the heart of Asia is the heart of the world, whosoever has sway on it could control the ensuing times. The Central Asia region (CA) comprises the countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
It is a diverse region, less talked about but rich in resources with major strategic importance due to their geographic location. Like Asia, Central Asian countries too have disputed territories and contested places among these countries. Disruptions in Afghanistan mean destabilization in the region. The central Asian countries can also wake up to its sub ethnic across border loyalties.
Central Asian fault lines are not yet open to read, but a destabilised Afghanistan shall be a catalyst for the sharp fissures for resurgence. This is all in the neighbourhood of aspiring world power China, a perpetual headache to manage. It also lies at the crossroads of Russia, the Middle East, South Asia and the Far East. China’s OBOR without good will of the neighbouring countries and recompilations with western world can boomerang. China knows it that US manoeuvring capacities cannot be undermined.
Therefore, there is so much hustle and hurrying of international meetings in the central Asian capitals. Pakistan has reservations for India, while President Ashraf Ghani accuses Pakistan of its continuing to support to Taliban against his regime.
China and Taliban do not want Turkey to come to Afghanistan to safeguard its airports. And Russia slams US’s hasty Afghan pull out. US, so far has been categorical not to allow any forceful occupation of Kabul. It has military understanding with Tajikistan and also can safeguard boundaries of Kazakhstan.
Taliban has almost eighty per cent control over Afghanistan. It is said it is weighing world reactions before having final onslaught on the major cities. The fast deteriorating conditions of law and order and security have increased drug trafficking and threat of terrorism in the region. China asks Pakistan to do more and suspects Pakistan Taliban behind the bus blast in Pakistan that killed nine Chinese citizens.
It is a mercurial position in the region. There is no choice other than for the consensus of all the powers and regional countries to see that stability comes to Afghanistan. US in principle has roped in Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan for new group to bring balance in Afghanistan. It is to irk China and Russia that are against American intervention in the region. India has huge investment of three billion dollars in all parts of Afghanistan in dams and infrastructure.
The line of thinking that the new Taliban leadership is opposed to, what the older Taliban leadership was as assumed, has yet to stand to scrutiny. There was nothing like good Taliban or bad Taliban, similarly there is nothing like civil Taliban or uncivil Taliban. Taliban has clear cut ideas about governance, which does not go well with the super powers. However, the consensus among superpowers and Taliban discussions at Doha has brought some hope of agreement for saving the foreign investment in Afghanistan and bring it to some interim governance to move on the advantages it had for the last three decades.
Taliban has put three conditions for the negotiations. First, to release its seven thousand prisoners. Second, free the US blacklisted Taliban leadership and governance of Afghanistan on Islamic lines. Pakistan has a soft power of two million Afghan refugees on its soil.
Time would tell whether it still uses it as a strategic depth against its security concerns, as it did in the past or it treats it as an asset for stabilization of Afghanistan and Pakistan. If 1980s brought out present dispensation of right wing politics in the region, it would be prudent for Indian leadership to have process of reformation that strengthens its pluralism. The inorities have to be accommodative and majorities reconciling and understanding for a better future of our people in this country.
Ashok Kaul is Professor Emeritus in sociology at Banaras Hindu University