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Indo- US Relationship: Moving Beyond Security in Afghanistan

Scholar Srijan Sharma writes, India and US are seen as a major players in managing Afghan affairs. Therefore, a discussion over perspective of possibilities of convergence of interests of  both the countries on worsening situation of Afghan affairs complemented by the present environment of geopolitical reset deserves merit.

Introduction

It has been one year since Afghanistan since the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban. The Afghan episode had not only raised alarm on the security front but also at various other fronts like humanitarian and economic issues. In such a situation two nations who have immense interests in Afghanistan- India and US are seen as a major players in managing Afghan affairs. Therefore, a discussion over perspective of possibilities of convergence of interests of  both the countries on worsening situation of Afghan affairs complemented by the present environment of geopolitical reset deserves merit.

Indo-US Axis In Afghanistan

For India, Afghanistan is crucial due to many reasons- the long historical and traditional neighbour factor, security and strategic reasons for keeping an eye on Pakistan- China axis. Whereas for the US, Afghanistan was another cold war theatre in countering Soviets influence and later, specifically after 9/11, it became one the major theatres for US’s war on terror. Both nations prioritised Afghanistan with different perspectives, for India Afghanistan was more than a security issue but for the US, Afghanistan was limited to security issue. Therefore, it can be said that Indo-US axis did not have the required balance which can put both the countries strongly on to same page, sustain them and expand them on managing the Afghan affairs. Last year US decided to withdraw from Afghanistan which led to Talibanisation of Afghanistan. This event gave a security problems to New Delhi; and as time passed, increased crisscrossing of various terror backed networks and outfits alarmed US and forced it to find right space to operate in the lost ground. The security dimension opened the doors of common ground of cooperation between India and US on Afghan affairs. However, a thin lining of alternative cooperation with Pakistan slims the chances of solidifying Indo-US cooperation on Afghan affairs. Hence, at present Indo-US relationship requires more widened common grounds for managing Afghan affairs.

Central Asia: The Point of Convergence

To start with, Central Asia can be a common ground for Indo-US relationship. Moreover, in the backdrop of Ukraine crises, Russia leaning more towards Central Asian countries to gain strategic depth has become cause of concern for US. Given the regional dynamics of Central Asian region where China and Russia both are growing their strategic and economic presence which get complicated with  domestic problems of the region- corruption, economic and political instability making this region both problematic and competitive. Therefore, a direct way of entering into the region maybe a complicated option for US. Similarly, India faces similar problems.

Currently, India is discovering various opportunities and geopolitical space to enhance its Connect Central Asia policy by reducing dependence on Russia. Therefore, one can argue that the existence of common ground for bringing strategic convergence on Afghanistan would be- US to keep check on Russia and China. Whereas, for India it is to enlarge its energy and other vital resources complimented with checking China and Islamic blocs.

Looking Through Central Asia and Challenges

Given the possibilities of a strong common ground, India and US can cooperate in rebuilding Afghanistan in exchange of cultivating access to Central Asia. Although, India is already on the work of resuming the presence in Afghanistan, indicating that India is getting ready to deal with Talibanized Afghanistan. However, for US it is going to be a tough job because there are strong set of challenges-1) security challenge 2) limited leverage over Taliban. These set of challenges have become more complicated after killing of Al Zawahari where US have expressed its displeasure over blatant violation of Doha Agreement. On one hand US is still apprehensive of recognising  Taliban and on the other hand Taliban’s anti US actions slims the chances of US of having any leverage over Taliban. Therefore, one can argue that US still not have a smooth path for expanding its perspective over Afghanistan and constrained to limit its interest only to security perspective. It won’t be wrong to say that moral interest of US in Afghanistan is the key to building the cooperation in Afghanistan, further accommodating the central Asian excuse especially with India. It is also an undeniable fact that for cooperation to take place, US has to increase  its footprints in Afghanistan with a sustained and formidable interest based collaboration with Taliban. Otherwise, there is no chance of Indo-US relationship expanding its horizons for managing Afghan affairs.

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