Regional approach

With Osama bin Laden’s death, the imminence of the US’ pullout of its troops from Afghanistan is growing by the day. The likely exit of foreign troops is expected to result in a vacuum that the Taliban backed by Pakistan will seek to fill. The implications of such a scenario for India are immense. In fact, like India there are several countries including Tajikistan, Iran, Russia, which are deeply worried over the emerging scenario. Of course, Iran and Russia will not be unhappy to see the back of the American forces but the likely return of the Taliban to Afghanistan and the surge in Pakistan-backed religious extremism in the region are triggering the worst fears of leaders in the region. It is imperative that India reaches out to Iran, Russia, Tajikistan and other likeminded Central Asian powers without further delay in order to ensure that Afghanistan remains in friendly hands.

India has worked with Iran, Russia and Tajikistan before; so co-operating with these countries now to keep at bay inimical forces should not be difficult. In the late 1990s, Delhi joined hands with Russia and Iran to provide medical and other support to the Northern Alliance’s fighters battling the Taliban in Afghanistan. And yet, there is there is some unease in Delhi over the possibility of co-operation not falling in place easily. Over the past few years, India’s relationship with Iran has soured considerably even as that with the US has warmed. Teheran is unlikely to have forgotten the many slights it has suffered from India. It will have to redouble its efforts to woo Iran. However, since India-Iran-Russia co-operation on Afghanistan is as much in Teheran’s interest as it is in India’s and Teheran should be brought on board.

 There are hotheads in India who are suggesting that Delhi should replicate an Abbottabad-style operation to take out Pakistan-based terrorists who are waging war on India. They are calling for deeper co-operation with Israel on counter-terrorism as the way forward. India must desist from charting out unilateral strategies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Going it alone in a violent neighbourhood is a recipe for disaster. A regional approach that is inclusive is likely to be far more productive and to result in a durable settlement.

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