The political churning: watchful times

Afghanistan is rapidly coming under Taliban control
The political churning: watchful times
File Photo used as representational pic

There have been dialogues and discussions since the beginning of this year vigorously. Interestingly, the regional dynamics is so fluid that each country in the region is weighing the fall out of American exit from Afghanistan. America is set to leave Afghanistan completely in coming months. Over the months, the contesting claimants in Afghanistan, despite many conferences since the beginning of this year, have not come to any settlement. There seems to be no consensus, even among the regional powers or US about the management of different warring parties and the governance of Afghanistan, after the post US withdrawal. Taliban has rapidly been conquering the rural Afghanistan and is about fifty miles away from Kabul. US has strictly warned Taliban that its forceful occupation of Kabul would not be accepted by the international community. It is the first time that the international diplomacy and singular interests of each country are explicitly wide-open. Despite President Biden facing ire from its Republican senators not to engage Pakistan, he has not outreached Prime Minister Imran Khan since assuming his office. The reason is that Pakistan has lost that manoeuvring edge, which it had at the time of soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. It could dictate to US and had command over Taliban. September 11, has changed that equation. In pursuit of blood money and American pressure to do more, Pakistan has distanced Taliban beyond regain. Most of its valuable assets were leaked to US and many were taken to prison from the soil of Pakistan. And Prime Minister Imran Khan reversing that decision has followed aggressive foreign policy and openly exhibited its proximities with China.

It is first time that Pakistan has worked for a role to China and rope Turkey in its arrangement of post withdrawal political manoeuvring. Russia is sceptic about it and America is not much bothered. Afghanistan since May this year has been rapidly coming under Taliban control.

Taliban has gained control on sixty units, including port of SherKhan. Despite president Ghani has changed his chief of the army staff and his minister for defence, the army morale is down and its rural militia is surrendering to Taliban army. Since American air force has ceased to operate, Afghan air force is not well prepared to take the challenge. Present regime and Taliban have not reached any agreement. Taliban wants complete Islamic sharia laws to operate and pay good bye to the present democratic polity.

Its announcements have found echoes in the northern region of Pakistan. There is no doubt that China has been Pakistan’s all weather friend since late 1960s, but its role and closeness were not for public consumption and tacitly hidden from international gaze. In Prime Minster Imran Khan’s time, nothing is secret.

The consequences are that its perennial crisis of identity of a security state is first time visible to optics. It is not the religion that is obstacle for India Pakistan friendship, but it is the selective nationalism, which a section of political elite and top brass establishment in Pakistan has chosen under the grab of religion to differ from India. China, that has nothing in common with Pakistan, yet its anti-India standpoint has brought it unprecedentedly close to Pakistan.

Pakistan relatively a new country and new nation state has developed its nationalism on Indian antagonism, which is on anything anti-India. That is a faulty proposition. It means bleed Indian Muslims so that they are anti-India, work on its fault lines so that India could become weak and keep Kashmir on boil, away from reconciliation. Its security paradigm undermines its religious strength.

In post COVID Era, it has chosen to put all its eggs in China’s basket, but China unlike US has its calculated road map of its vision that might in future collide with the vital interests of Pakistan. China in no way would like its OROB project affected in Baluchistan.

Hence do-more will come from China now, instead from the West? This is the real conundrum of building a nation exclusive on the security state paradigm. In the past, Pakistan used Taliban force to bleed India in Kashmir and western world then could not afford to ignore it. US and Pakistan then were strategic partners. This time the world is different. Pakistan can hardly afford Afghan refugees and in-group fights inside its country, if there is turmoil in Afghanistan.

There is no western aid to flow and no porous borders to sneak them into India. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s categorical interview that Pakistan would no longer permit its bases against Afghanistan and open pronouncement that China would be its long term interest partner have not gone well with US administration.

At the same time, China has huge interests at stake, for its OROB does not need obstacles in Baluchistan. Pakistan cannot protect that interest unless there is peace in Afghanistan. President Biden knows it, so Pakistan is wilfully ignored. Peace with India is also Pakistan’s compulsion, in view of changing political scenario in the region.

India and Pakistan have future only if both the countries derive its nationalism from the realities that there cannot be a social homogeneity any longer to develop nationalism on social origins. Pakistan is a Muslim majority, but with different diversities and varied sects. Similarly, India is a Hindu majority with different castes and communities.

These are not fault lines, but strings of strength of our civilizational nationalism. These realities are to be accepted with distributive social justice through strengthening our institutions including having unwavering faith in the constitution. India was fortunate to have early leadership for a period, until its democratic traditions got well rooted. While, in Pakistan early leadership perished quickly.

It has turned into a security state, generating its nationalism internally on anti-India pedagogy in educational institutions and externally on anti-India centric foreign policy. Its role has remained identifiable and moving on expected lines. If in early fifties till early 70s, it has turned out to be a client state to the west, now it is playing the same role for China against the west. The security state that undermines geo-economics weighs more on disparities and strategic partnerships.

It is a long range sustained contradistinction to the nation building process. Had Quad -e-Azam, M Ali Jinnah lived for more years, like early leadership of India, Pakistan’s nationalism could have evolved on the pattern of modern nation-state paradigm. His first address to new born country was firm indication to his agenda of building Pakistan on the lines of a modern nation-state. It would have been a complimentary axis of India. He passed away too soon.

The subsequent military leadership built it a security state. In the Cold War era, it was a strategic asset to the western powers and in the post-cold war era, it is reduced to a strategic depth of China. The rallying central point politics is the antagonism with India. It has construed its history in patches, from Qasim to Zia.

Since Imran is naïve in politics with different grooming, his contradictions could not remain camouflaged. He remains a split persona, swinging between early ultra-modern to late radical conservative world view of Pakistan. He knows this fluid nationalism base is weak to build a strong country on geo-economics, but at the same time his internal constrains of power mechanism compel him to take u-turns on vital policy issues that he had set for himself. Kashmir is off shoot of it.

At the moment, Kashmir is socially fractured and politically disillusioned. Indian leadership has also come to conclusion that India with its shared history, evolutionary organic growth and with plural democratic viable institutions of inter group accommodation can hardly afford to be only a security state viz a viz China or against Pakistan.

The fact is that in the new global order, nationalism has to be searched in shared histories and organic journeying of the nations. Both India and Pakistan can find the prescriptions in the philosophies of founding fathers of their countries. Peace is the only option available to both of them.

Ashok kaul is Emeritus Professor in Sociology at Banaras Hindu university

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