Afghan peace deal! What's in it for us?

By Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal. Dated: 7/21/2019 12:39:13 PM

MARGINALIA

Peace deals may not always end up ensuring peace. Afghanistan is a fine example of how prospects of peace in conflict zones can be fully botched up by bigger powers in the name of peace and justice. 17 years after the United States of America made a direct intrusion into Afghanistan to oust the Taliban and prop up a 'democratic and liberal' client government, a peace deal is in the offing, which effectively will bring back Taliban to power. So, why were they here in the first place?
That's not all there is to the irony staring a country that has been shaped for decades by its strategic geographical location and its culture of tribal feuds, exploited fully by the mightier powers. The Taliban was a creation of the America which began liberally funding Pakistan in the 80s' to fight its war, more than a decade before it stepped in directly, against the Soviet forces and its progenies ruling in Afghanistan. The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan in 1979 for a host of reasons - political and economic expansionist designs, the unreliability of the local ruler (who pitted himself to power after a bloody coup dethroning the Soviet puppet), to increase its communist influence and to checkmate America which had begun hobnobbing with Afghan rulers. For decades before the Soviet made a military intervention in the region, its patronage to Afghanistan had already muddied the waters in the name of development and modernization, leaving the already divided feuding society of Afghanistan even more divided, its modernized urban landscape in striking contrast to its deeply complex and conservative rural set-up.
The Soviets retreated as America began to get a foothold in Afghanistan, plunging the region into deeper crisis. The war against communism proliferating the numbers of religious radical groups, causing bloodshed and massive displacements, and eventually giving rise to Taliban. The American military intervention and its brutal air strikes, post 9/11, turned whatever was left of a beautiful country into rubble. Its propped 'democratic and liberal' regimes, lacking ground-support, ensured the strengthening of Taliban and enlarging space for organisations like Al Qaeda and Daesh (a version of ISIS) through their incompetence and their corrupt practices. The Afghan intervention was a mistake in 1979 and it was a bigger blunder in 2000. The wars have guzzled up money and human resource. It left the Soviet Union, which broke up soon after its retreat from Afghanistan, battered and it is a drain for America too which wants to ease itself out of the situation.
In the last few years, while America is on pins to withdraw from Afghanistan, Russia has emerged from the debris of Soviet Union as a power to reckon with. China's geographical proximity and its economic expansionist designs in the Asian region lend another layer of complexity to this tangle. A military confrontation with Taliban threatens security interests of Pakistan, whose army has fully backed the Taliban. In a game of musical chairs that Afghanistan's politics has been reduced to for decades, America, Russia and China (with Pakistan in tow) are hoping to create a win-win situation with a peace deal on the plate. The only losers will be the people of Afghanistan who were hoping to make a gradual transition towards peace, development and democracy. The Taliban may soon be back to rule with its regressive and repressive ideology, diktats and policies, dampening the prospects of that dream.
As these churnings begin in the neighbourhood, there are lessons to be learnt for India. Taliban's rise in Afghanistan opens up possibility of flare up in militancy and infiltration by rabid jihadi groups in Kashmir. The events in Afghanistan have earlier cast their shadow on Kashmir and they may as well do again in future. By allowing itself to be nudged out of the peace negotiations on Afghanistan, India has not only lost its influence in Afghanistan and turned its huge investment in the region into a waste, it has also endangered its own security interests. It has squandered the opportunity of using diplomacy to counter the prospect of Taliban coming back to power in Afghanistan. The other lesson to be learnt is that the more the military conflicts are prolonged, the more they get complicated and bloody, making it impossible to resolve them. They may continue to go around in circles as is the Afghanistan case.
Kashmir is culturally very different from Afghanistan and is spared of a military history of warring tribes. But the conflict has been breathing and alive for the last more than seven decades. It has been violent and extremely bloody since the last three decades and continues to negotiate an even more perilous path. From the 'azadi' seeking militia of 1989, this military conflict did not only see the proliferation of pro-Pakistan rebel outfits. It is now confronted with an increasing appetite, especially among the younger generation, for the more vitriolic ISIS and al Qaeda ideologies. The situation is not as alarming right now but is more worrying than the usual denial that one often comes across both within Kashmiri society and official circles. Empowering jehadi groups in Afghanistan could impact Kashmir by giving an impetus to this push, as happened in the nineties. This time, it may be more lethal.
The ultra-militaristic and muscular policy being pursued by the Indian government in Kashmir is definitely a major factor that perpetuates a culture of violence and pushes more young men into the throes of militancy. Also, being a more powerful stake-holder, a larger onus will always be on the state. But the inability of the society to understand how such radicalization destroys it from within is also a factor. The choking of democratic space for dissent necessitates creative thinking and innovative models for resistance, not endorsement of suicidal methods of picking up guns and romanticising violent resistance. The Afghan conundrum and its jinxed fate should serve as a lesson for all sides to think and review their actions.

 

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