Issue Many countries in west Asia has been desirous of partnering India in development-related activities.
Background Prime Minister recently visited to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan and Qatar have which undoubtedly, helped strengthen relations with these countries, especially in the area of economics and trade.
Reason for this Most countries of West Asia have their own security and strategic construct. India is not visualised — nor does India see itself — as a “net provider of security” in the region.
Relation with Iran What applies to saudi Arabia also applies to Iran.
Comparison with Gwadar Port Impression that the establishment of Chabahar port gives India a strategic advantage vis-à-vis China is misleading.
Challenges in Afghanistan Afghanistan, for which Chabahar port was intended to be the lifeline, is in dire straits today and its future in jeopardy.
What India should do in Afghanistan India’s focus would need to shift from development to finding ways and means to ensure that Afghanistan does not turn into a major crucible for myriad terrorist groups.
- Many countries in west Asia has been desirous of partnering India in development-related activities, recognising India’s current importance in Asia and the region. However, the same cannot be said of strategic and security relations.
- Prime Minister recently visited to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan and Qatar have which undoubtedly, helped strengthen relations with these countries, especially in the area of economics and trade.
- Though many countries have mentioned shared security in join statement but mere mention in joint statements of shared security and strategic concerns, common ideals and convergence of interests, enhanced defence ties, etc do not translate into a strategic relationship. In such matters there is need to tread with caution.
Reason for this
- Most countries of West Asia have their own security and strategic construct. India is not visualised — nor does India see itself — as a “net provider of security” in the region and, consequently, India does not figure prominently in these countries’ security and strategic plans.
- There are again certain limits to intelligence and counter-terrorism cooperation, as serious differences exist between many of these countries and India on what constitutes terrorism and who can be described as a terrorist. Saudi Arabia, for example flirts with different nations, most noticeably the U.S., and frequently leaning towards Pakistan.
- Thus when the India-Saudi Arabia joint statement talks of the two countries’ responsibilities to promote peace, security and stability in the region, it conveys different meanings for the two countries. For Saudi Arabia, Iran is the main enemy. For India, Iran is a friend, and the threat of terrorism emanates from Pakistan, which remains intent on employing terror as a strategic instrumentality to destroy India.
Relation with Iran
- What applies to saudi Arabia also applies to Iran. A reference in the India-Iran joint statement to the importance of regional connectivity linked to the development of Chabahar port is being mistakenly viewed by some people as a declaration of strategic intent.
- But Chabahar port was solely intended to be an alternate trade and transit route to Afghanistan and conceived as such at the turn of the century. It aimed to circumvent Pakistan’s embargo on movement of goods from India to Afghanistan with no strategic overtones.
- However the delay in setting up Chabahar port has, however, reduced its economic value and utility, with China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative — to which both Pakistan and Iran subscribe — threatening to outflank it.
Chabahar Port- Read Editorial Today #42- Chabahar Port
Comparison with Gwadar Port
- Impression that the establishment of Chabahar port gives India a strategic advantage vis-à-vis China is misleading because
- China’s investment in Gwadar port dwarfs what India proposes to invest in Chabahar.
- China’s relations with Iran are today on an upswing. Chinese President Xi Jinping was the first major world leader to visit Iran after the lifting of sanctions, signing more than a dozen deals, including the OBOR initiative.
- Iran has openly welcomed both China’s OBOR initiative and Maritime Silk Road initiative, and sees major economic benefits to itself once they are completed.
- China’s trade with Iran is of the order of $52 billion, much higher than the $9 billion trade between India and Iran.
Challenges in Afghanistan
- Afghanistan, for which Chabahar port was intended to be the lifeline, is in dire straits today and its future in jeopardy. India’s investment in Afghanistan has been substantial (for which it paid a heavy price in terms of both development assistance and the loss of human lives), including the Rs.1,700 crore Salma dam in the strategically vital Herat province; the new Afghan Parliament building; and the 218-km long Zaranj-Delaram Highway in western Afghanistan — but it faces the prospect of losing out on all that it has invested because of following reason
- Currently, large swathes of Afghanistan are under Taliban control.
- Constant attacks on government and other targets have eroded the credibility of the National Unity Government.
- Afghanistan’s experiment of forming a government with Ashraf Ghani as President and Abdullah Abdullah as Chief Executive does not appear to be succeeding.
- Mr. Ghani, a one-time U.S. acolyte, has tended to alternate between aligning with Pakistan and opposing it. Unlike his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, he displays little preference for India.
- Some Afghan leaders now seem to be leaning towards the China-dominated Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and give it a key role in a future security architecture.
- Collapse of the National Unity Government will almost certainly lead to a surge in Taliban-directed activity.A Talibanised Afghanistan could well become a staging post for launching attacks against India. The possibility of regional instability, which Pakistan could use to its advantage and to India’s detriment, cannot also be disregarded.
- India has been kept out of the newly created Quadrilateral Coordination Group which consists of the U.S., China, Pakistan and Afghanistan to discuss Afghanistan’s future.
What India should do in Afghanistan
- Left with few options and with the anticipated proliferation of Islamist extremist groups including the al-Qaeda and the IS, India’s focus would need to shift from development to finding ways and means to ensure that Afghanistan does not turn into a major crucible for myriad terrorist groups, specially the IS and the al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS).