South Asian Dynamics
The South Asian World
The world has moved rapidly towards globalization in the past two decades. However, despite economic interests being the core of all interactions, geopolitical principles have largely remained unchanged. The post cold war dynamics and alliances have influenced the way nations do business. Iraq and Afghanistan have carved out new battlegrounds in the already embittered Asian polity. The War on Terror and its manifestations of demonized Jihadi overtures have stressed the emergence of non-state actors in affairs of the world politics. All these, combined with the global economic meltdown, have forced nations to look inwards. South Asia, known for its boundary wars, region, religion and caste based social systems, uneven distribution of wealth and history of mutual distrust is no different.
The Global Scene
Disintegration of USSR, weakening of NATO and emergence of nation states, especially post the financial crisis has been a noteworthy change. The year 1989 did not quite end the Cold War, but it created a world that bypassed it. The year 2001 did not end the post-Cold War world, but it overlaid it with an additional and overwhelming dynamic: that of the U.S.-jihadist war.
The year 2008 did not end the U.S.-jihadist war, but it overlaid it with far more immediate and urgent issues. The financial crisis, of course, was one. The future of Russian power was another. The importance of Russian power is this: As soon as Russia dominates the center of the Eurasian land mass, its force intrudes on Europe. Russia united with the rest of Europe is an overwhelming global force. Europe resisting Russia defines the global system. Russia fragmented opens the door for other geopolitical issues. Russia united and powerful usurps the global stage. (Stratfor)
Chinese economic growth and resurgence is another story of the 21st century. Cooperation and development are the Chinese mantras while silently the dragon, a known nuclear state, is readying itself for playing more dominant role in the world politics.
India with its vast economic policies and globalised look appears far more astounding. As per reports of the western analysts, China and India will be the engines of growth of the future world, relegating west, based on their soft power combined with greater potential for growth: economic, political and military. This will largely be led by the growth of knowledge workers in these countries. However, it has to flatten the social equation within, along a multitude of lines..the most pertinent being social justice and balanced distribution of wealth. The convergence of India and Bharat would be the key to stability and growth of this emerging economic powerhouse.
The Muslim world will fail to grow until it sheds Jihad as their official policy for survival. However, the Anti American and Anti Semitic sentiment will rule and govern most of their policies. The GWOT ensured this. Consequently, terrorism and interplay of non-state actors will remain dominant player in the geopolitical canvas of the millennium. The Middle East will continue to burn.
The world is witnessing reversion to national interests supremacy over all other equations. The rise of protectionism will continue some more.
To summarise, the era of multilateralism, post the financial melt down, will give way to the theory and practice of the concept of nation state. This will now engage policy makers to a more protectionist behavior and resultantly pursue policies based on the paradigms of nationalism and sovereignty.
While US will remain the only super power for the century, the world would largely be seen forging alliances with or against it. However, no such alliance is in sight but Eurasia and/or Asia could be the initiators of one. With this as the backdrop, US interests will largely be protected fervently by all possible means: political, economic and military.
Indian Ocean will be the playing field of US to continue to control the Pacific and the Atlantic. Any Russian or Chinese enterprise here will be strongly contested. Geopolitically, the US would continue to maintain a strong presence in this area ( read control of the Suez canal, Hormuz and the Malacca straits) while it pursues the ambition to control the Eurasian underbelly through GWOT in Afghanistan and Pakistan. India is now warming up to a strategic alliance with the US against the interests of its cold war ally.
The South Asian Picture
What does this hold in store for South Asia?
Unwittingly, the region destabilized by the cold war machinations, is facing the second Afghan War, courtesy GWOT, and is now on the brink of another Indo Pakistan conflagration- the bane of any peace and growth in South Asia. The US is in a dilemma about its Pakistan policy but is caught between the devil and the deep sea in trying to fight and sustain its operations in Afghanistan through other means. The Pakistani generals have been quick to capitalize on this and have fleeced the US of billions of dollars of military aid, while supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Currently, it is fighting the bad Taliban in FATA and NWFP while supporting the good Taliban in Afghanistan. In other words, it has wily nilly become the main exporter of terror while fighting a war on terror. Pakistan may well be at the intersection of terrorism and WMD. A simple paradox!
Afghanistan war is another interesting phenomenon. The cold war battleground saw US first backing the Taliban against USSR and now fighting a long haul to get rid of them. Timelines drawn from 1979 to 2001 and now to 2009 indicate that US has been overly bullish and has underestimated the Afghans who through history have suffered but not surrendered. British attempts of the raj era until 1919 exemplify this. Will the Afghan war render NATO more ineffective and irrelevant, especially if it is a long haul, as outlined by NATO commanders on ground? The contours of US foreign policy in the Obama times are complex and the strategy may need a rethink and deeper application. Will anaconda really work? Mumbai attacks have added new hues to the concept of strategic terrorism taking shape under players like LeT apart from Al Qaeda.
The SAARC, plagued by Indo Pak rivalry, has failed to develop as a strong regional forum. Sri Lanka is bleeding through its war with LTTE. Bangladesh has just found its democratic voice amidst upsurge of Muslim sentiment attempting to destabilize the country. Nepal is a democratic state now via Maoist philosophy. Bhutan remains quite for the time being. India and Pakistan, the declared nuclear states in the region, which were on a path of reconciliation, have come to heads over the terrorism issue.
The South Asian region is in a turmoil over the war on terror apart from scores of other regional, social and economic reasons. The future appears to be based on an equation with zerosome answers for the time being.