February 17, 2019

The Afghan Quagmire: Winners and Losers

By *Shahdad Baloch

The United States of America has finally announced a conditional ceasefire with the Taliban which includes a bilateral agreement between both warring parties. Both, the Taliban and the USA have shown willingness that within a framework of eighteen months the foreign troops would pull out from Afghan soil that bought win-win situations for some nations and dilemma for the others.

The volatile region has been under the grip of various actors who drew geopolitical, economic and geostrategic favours for each one. Many ideologies were operating by international and regional actors. The secularism, capitalism and fanatics all have been the participants in the Afghan war. But the vacuum left between seems to be falling in the favour of those who exploited the once progressive Afghan nation to be at the cost of religious dogmas.

The military might, war costs, implications and timeframe to win the war were fair enough for America and her Western allies on the war against terrorism but the ally (Pakistan) that they have chosen plundered the dollars of America and in return betrayed it. Baloch nation and their freedom struggle is also the actor through which America, Afghan government and India could turn the table in their favour. But as ill luck would have it, Pakistan seems to be the driver of the entire scenario and curry some win-win situation for herself with a long meddling history in Afghanistan’s affairs.

The United States is one of the losers or not, it is not yet answerable because of a diverse foreign policy of America. The aim and ambitions of the USA are the factors that decide the fate and national interests of America. The only losing end of USA is its economy that was used to strengthen the Taliban by Pakistan in name of the war on terror. Baloch nation’s position is like America because its territory is used by Pakistan as shelter to facilitate the Taliban and their spouses. The remaining nations India and Afghanistan or their governments are major losers in this quagmire.

The Afghan government has never pondered on developing skilful and appealing diplomacy. From Soviet invasion to US war against terrorism, Afghanistan has been failed to recognise her real enemy Pakistan despite knowing the fact that the godfather of Talibanisation and religious extremism in Pakistan. The bitter truth is that from the period of president Hamid Karzai to Mr Ashraf Ghani, Afghan government relied more on its “foe” (Pakistan) than “friend” Baloch nation. Despite the fact that several international forums like the United Nation, the Tashkent Declaration, the aforementioned government has failed to echo the Baloch issue. But on contrary, Pakistan has escaped no opportunity to infiltrate the Taliban with the task to create havoc against the Afghan nation.

The recent tweet by president Ashraf Ghani seems to be the realisation of that truth that why his government didn’t show their moral support to Baloch nation, with knowing that on several forums Baloch leader Mr Hyrbyair Marri has emphasised the need of fraternity between both Baloch and Afghans. But on the other hand, Pakistan has left no stone unturned to introduce Taliban in the mainstream of Afghanistan’s politics, which is likely to replace the constitutional government of Afghanistan. During the entire scenario, America has supported the Afghan government that failed to ferret out their well-wisher in the region, which is only Baloch nation whether it is for Afghanistan or America. Today the Afghan government is ending in misery without any regional support and Pakistan with her machination is planning to topple the Afghan government through her proxy Taliban. Many Pakistani are already cheering the return of Taliban which will not only be disastrous for Afghanistan but also will be a strong blow to Indian interests in the region. Once the Taliban are back in Afghanistan, Pakistan will focus on Kashmir and continue to bleed India.

In September 2017, India and Afghanistan agreed to move ahead with the New Development Partnership to the tune of $1 billion, in which India would take up hundreds of development projects in Afghanistan in areas including education, health, agriculture, water, etc. The bilateral trade between India-Afghanistan in 2016 – 17 stood at $590.1 million with India’s exports to Afghanistan being $377.2 million and imports from Afghanistan worth $212.9 million.

What next! What would be the fate of this investment, seemingly it is going to vanish. India played the role of investment in Kabul and Pakistan of disturbance. But now the situation is revealing that the latter is engulfing the investment of the former. India was thought to be regional tycoon but owing to following blunders by Indian government their role is seemingly mitigating;-

– India didn’t understand diplomacy of America who by all means supported India to stand against Chinese imperialism and to counter the role of Pakistan in Afghanistan.

– Secondly, knowing the brutalities of Iran the Indian government went against America by designing relationship with Iran who is killer of people and also a godfather of proxies in Syria, Yemen and western part of Balochistan.

– America did a big armament deal with India so that India could counter China intra-regionally and inter-regionally, but the irony of fate is that India started backdoor diplomacy with China.

Concurrently, a piece of writing went through me with the caption “from Sydney to Karachi, new pak campaign to sully India” where the writer blamed that Baloch freedom seeker in coalition with Pakistan planned to attack Chinese embassy in Karachi thereby deteriorating Sino-India relations. Strictly speaking, if there is any Baloch freedom seeker working under the parole of Pakistan then the Baloch nation would be aware of that.
On several forums Baloch intellectuals, writers and leaders have unanimously reiterated that there was no Indian support to Baloch liberation struggle. Baloch nation has never asked for support from any third country on the basis of their rivalry with Pakistan in fact Baloch have been urging the neighbouring Afghanistan, India and Bangladesh to chalk out decisive foreign policies that serve their national interests, help bring peace and stability in the region and of course that is what the Baloch have been striving for since 1948 – after occupation of their country by Pakistan. Let alone of any immense support the Indian government even postponed a seminar about ‘Human Rights in Balochistan’, where the leader of Free Balochistan Movement Hyrbyair Marri was invited as one of the speakers.

Comparatively, Pakistan has edge over India in Afghanistan’s quagmire and the region as well. One wonders how! The answer is simple Pakistan has left no chance while creating a bad image for India, for example, take Kashmir issue which is the backbone of Pakistan’s foreign policy. On contrary Balochistan issue would have been Indian agenda to uncover the notorious face of Pakistan brutalities. But the bitter truth is that Pakistan has always raised Kashmir issue on different forums of the world but the Indian government has done nothing satisfactory for the Baloch nation.
Pakistan is in engagement with all those flanks of Kashmiris which are against India and trying her best to amalgamate all those forces under a single banner. Evidently, the foreign minister of Pakistan Shah Mahmood Qureshi is manoeuvring Kashmiri forces overtly by holding meetings with them and formulating anti-India agenda. But Modi’s government is reluctant to meet a single Baloch representative that is the reason that, Pakistan with his machination echoed her voice in United Nations where a resolution was passed on Kashmir against India. Despite the fact that India hasn’t adopted a brutal approach in Kashmir but Pakistan has in occupied Balochistan.

This diplomatic edge of Pakistan is now rolling back Indian influence from Afghanistan and in the region. Similarly, avoiding the good gesture of America, India is paving a way for China to be a hegemonic power in the politics of South Asia, where once India was sole power. Pakistan has a big desire to disrupt the regional balance of power by inviting China in the region. Once China penetrated deep then there would be an alarming situation for India, USA, Europe and the Gulf states. These states don’t seem to understand what China is trying to achieve by strengthening its grip in Gwadar Balochistan.

Indeed India should have a national interest-based foreign policy but observations are revealing that India is not so sound in managing her foreign policy. For example, on one hand, India is an ally of America which is against China’s aggression but on the contrary, India is building sound relationships with the later. Likewise, India has friendly relation with Arab nations who are in enmity with Iran but India is intended to invest in Chabahar in Iranian occupied Balochistan.

This policy of India has disappointed the Baloch as well as the USA which is on a global campaign to convince the world about Iran’s evil expansionist designs in the region.  America has done her best for Indian permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council but on the contrary, China opposed it. America on several occasions put resolutions to ban those religious outfits in Pakistan which are against India but China used its VITO power to overrule such resolutions.
In a nutshell, the Indian government is not benefitting from the super-power and put her on the mercy of those who are harming Indian interests. Owing to which, in near future, America might neutralise its warm relations with India.

Two wars are under consideration for America simultaneously – the defeat of more heinous ISIL/DAESH and negotiation with the Taliban. Despite several actors in the Middle East, America remained invincible against DAESH /ISIS the reason d’etre behind that was American alliance with upright and honest Kurds who with their iron have pushed DAESH out of Iraq, Syria and surroundings. In the Middle East countries like Iran was supporting every anti-USA group to sabotage American cause and efforts but the sincerity of Kurds deterred every evil design and consequently America within a short span of time attained her goal.

The same situation would have been for America if they had supported Baloch nation despite raising a big sum for Pakistan who proved as a nursery for producing of Taliban in the Afghan war. Baloch national leader Mr Hyrbyair Marri has always declined to be proxy of any nation but America could have defeated Taliban and nasty policies of Pakistan only by supporting genuine demand of free Balochistan and working with Baloch people on mutual interests, the Baloch secular nature could neutralise Islamisation of South Asia, Middle East and Central Asia. However, Pakistan and Iran are rapidly radicalising the Baloch youth on basis of Shia and Sunni religious extremism. Once the entire region is radicalised then no power in the world can defeat them. Afghanistan, USA, India, Europe and Gulf countries need to act against these fanatic designs of Iran and Pakistan on an urgent basis and support the secular Baloch, Pashtun and the Sindhis who are fed up of Pakistan.
Besides, the Baloch nation always stood against Chinese expansionist policy which would have been confined only through supporting free Balochistan because China without Baloch territory will never succeed but succumbed to her desires. But the fraudulent policy has encouraged Pakistan to exploit Baloch occupied land for Chinese interest. Hence, the only option left for America is to follow the same suits that she did in the Middle East by formulating an alliance with Kurds. In this region, there is no alternative than the Baloch nation. Otherwise, history would compare soft withdrawal of American troops as another Vietnam.

There is confusion among numerous observers that what would be the fate of Baloch freedom struggle after withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan. Either it vanishes away as it was during Soviet invasion or there will be a vacuum on the same pattern where during the Cold War mostly African freedom movement seekers became surrogates of east or west? In Soviet era, it was the notion of socialism with which Baloch freedom movement was based on but the pioneer of prevailing freedom movement Mr Hyrbyair Marri has taken out the germs of socialism and communism from Baloch society by aligning the Baloch national struggle with patriotism on the basis of Baloch national interests.
Today the Baloch movement is purely based on nationalism that is Baloch nationalism and confined solely to Baloch nation and bounded within the geography of occupied Balochistan whether it’s under the occupation of Iran or Pakistan. So USA withdrawal might have short term implications for the Baloch nation – that is “the refugee crisis” those Baloch who migrated to Afghanistan to escape Pakistan’s brutalities. The withdrawal even benefits Baloch nation because it would prove the claim of Pakistan as based on falsehood which used to blame afghan government its agencies and even RAW.

Yet the Baloch as a whole is not a loser in this scenario because the nation is thriving for their freedom and has no status of a state. So the win-win situation is more than losing in long term. But the major setback is for Indian policymakers and Afghanistan government who failed to formulate a sound policy for their stability but their imbalanced or unclear policies about regional stability have benefitted Pakistan and the emerging fanatics who in near future might harm India and Afghanistan because of their contradictory ideologies. For America, the only course open is to raise warm support for freedom movement of Balochistan wh ich is a direct course of USA success in her historic long lasting war.

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