Afghanistan can trigger multidimensional spillover effects on South Asian politics – Analysis – Eurasia Review
By Md. Ishtiak Hossain *
Currently, international experts are watching Afghanistan with great interest. Experts assume that after the withdrawal of US troops, a civil war will break out in Afghanistan, as a result of which some neighboring countries will also become involved in a proxy war. As a result, there will be political tensions in the region surrounding Afghanistan.
Basically, the fight will be between the Taliban and the anti-Taliban groups. But other neighboring countries will also get involved by helping these groups with weapons, money and support, to serve their own interests. However, at the same time, nations will not get involved in direct conflict either. Hazara minorities, Afghan government forces and ISIS are notable anti-Taliban actors. The main players in this proxy war are the United States, China, Russia, Iran, India and Pakistan. Political tensions between the two South Asian neighbors, India and Pakistan, could intensify as a result of the proxy war.
Pakistan, a main actor
Pakistan was one of three countries that recognized the Taliban when they came to power in Afghanistan. But later, after the September 11 attack, when the United States launched Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001, targeting the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan had to oppose the Taliban due to strong pressure from Washington. But at the same time, at the start of the operation, Pakistani tribal groups on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border sheltered Taliban fighters when they needed refuge. The Taliban’s survival depended heavily on these Pakistani friends, who appeared to have given silent support to the hardline Sunni Islamist group.
Things are different this time. There is no American pressure on Pakistan to take a special stand on Afghanistan. Moreover, currently Pakistan is not so on good terms with its former American ally. In such a context, Pakistan can benefit more from maintaining good relations with the Taliban.
China, Russia and Iran
Regardless, China, Pakistan’s “all-weather friend”, has stepped up its communications with the Taliban. Afghanistan is very important to China for its Belt and Road initiative, which aims to connect 60 countries in Africa and Europe. In addition, relations between the Taliban and Russia have also gained ground in recent times. The Taliban will need the political and moral support of a regional power like Russia in the coming days.
Another important player in the proxy war is Iran, whose situation must also be analyzed. The Hazaras are the main enemies of the Taliban. Iran is helping the Hazaras by providing them with weapons and money for their self-defense as they are both Shiites. Due to the conflict with the United States over the nuclear crisis, Iran has become more dependent on China and Russia. There will be further complications if the Hazaras and Taliban engage in civil war. By siding with the Hazaras, Iran will essentially go against China and Russia on the Afghan issue.
Thus, a careful study of the pros and cons of the Afghan situation makes it more than likely that Pakistan, China and Russia will support the Taliban. On the other hand, the United States, India and Iran will support anti-Taliban groups.
The reappearance of Al-Qaeda
But what could be bad news for both the United States and India is the likely re-emergence of Al Qaeda alongside the Taliban’s return to power. One of Al Qaeda’s main goals is to make India a battleground and then expand the fighting in the Middle East. On top of that, the rise of Al Qaeda would make the Kashmir issue more complicated for India. So India would do better if anti-Taliban forces held the reins of power in Afghanistan.
Another important fallout could be a reappearance of Al Qaeda. Their reappearance could trigger violence in regions such as Kashmir, Xinjiang (Uyghur) and Chechnya.
In addition, Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have also appeared in recent times. Al-Qaeda will also try to connect the Rohingya radicals to its “war”, as will the rebels from Kashmir, Uyghurs and Chechens.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to assume that the rise of the Taliban, and the way various nations coldly embrace or approve of the group, would have a lot of impact on regional politics, which could become more complicated, intense, and passionate.
* About the author: The author is a student in the Department of International Relations, Rajshahi University, Bangladesh. He can be contacted at [email protected]
Source: This article was published by South Asia Monitor