It is increasingly becoming clear that India and America have different interests in Afghanistan. America seems ready to make a deal with the Taliban and bring them back to power. India sees this as a victory for Pakistan. Therefore, India and America not only have different views on Afghanistan, but they actually seem to have a clash of interests. India looked at Karzai as a friend. However, Karzai seems to have become the first victim of the American withdrawal.
Afghanistan is one of very few countries in South Asia which are leaning toward India. With the Taliban coming to power there, Afghanistan will also move away from India. This can only add to the isolation of India in the region. India may feel that to a degree, America is responsible for India’s isolation in the region. The other countries, including Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, feel that India is aligned with America against China. All of these countries want to reassure China that they are not in the anti-China camp. These countries have greatly improved their relations with China. India seems to have very few friends left in the South Asian region. Afghanistan was the only country in the region which was the exception to this trend. This is the main reason that India is very sad to see a friendly government changing in Afghanistan.
It seems that India has been unable to understand the fundamental shift in American policy. President Bush was very friendly to India because he saw in India a great ally, along with Israel, to join his anti-China and anti-Islamic alliance. However, Bush was extremely unpopular in Europe, which wanted no part of Bush’s new alliance.
When Obama came to power, he fundamentally changed the Bush doctrine. Obama is very popular in Europe. Therefore, Obama’s priority was to re-establish the traditional trans-Atlantic alliance. The former American Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had a little different thinking. She was not very popular in Pakistan. President Clinton was very friendly to India. Their daughter, Chelsea, experienced anti-American sentiment in Europe and was very uncomfortable with that. For all of these reasons, Hilary Clinton did not share Obama’s enthusiasm about the revival of the trans-Atlantic alliance. I feel this is one of the reasons for her parting company with Obama.
The new American Secretary of State, John Kerry, has different views than Hilary Clinton. He is a strong advocate of strengthening America’s relations with Europe. In the recent G-8 Summit, it became clear that America and Europe want to move closer. Vladimir Putin was the only one who stood firm against them. As America is moving closer to Europe, Putin is moving closer to China. The world is now moving into two camps just like during the Cold War days. On one hand, we have a western alliance of America and Europe; on the other hand, we have an eastern alliance of Russia and China. John Kerry is also very friendly to Pakistan. For Obama and Kerry, India is less important than it was for Bush and Hilary Clinton. The resolution of the current conflict in Afghanistan is likely to go in favor of Pakistan compared to India. As the policy of reviving and strengthening the traditional western alliance unfolds, India is likely to lose the central importance for America, which it enjoyed before. The differences and clashes of interest between the two countries will also become more apparent.
India should also reconsider its policy. The traditional Indian policy was non-alignment with a tilt toward the East. That is exactly what is needed now. India should try to revive its policy of non-alignment keeping in mind that it has much more in common with the East (Russia and China) and has more potential conflicts and clashes of interest with the revived western alliance.
India should also be aware of the fact that Europe has suffered tremendously because of the two World Wars. Europe is extremely reluctant of having a Third World War fought on its soil and will rather see that war fought in Asia. Both Russia and China are trying to prevent Asia from becoming the arena for the Third World War. They seem to feel that if the west feels that the Third World War will again be fought in Europe, then it is less likely that there will be a Third World War. Europe will do everything to avoid such a war.
India should work with Russia and China to make sure that Asia does not become the arena for the Third World War. This is a good way to prevent a Third World War and maintain peace and harmony in the world. This is not only in the interests of the Indian people but is in the interest of all people in the world. Let us hope that India learns the right lessons from Afghanistan.
Dr. SAWRAJ SINGH