Thursday, July 08, 2021

Securing India's frontiers - Afghanistan

Afghan Army
    Pic Source: military.wikia.org

A series of interlinked & possible scenarios in the coming weeks, months & years through this decade. Of course, this post is limited through publicly available information & hence, not dependent on all moving parts of the geopolitical machinery. Am not writing anything that is not available in public domain.

Few days ago, there was a breaking news. "US vacates Bagram Air Base outside Kabul" To many this is just news that day. What followed was a literally shameful runaway leaving equipment, radars and about 700 vehicles. Worst, they didn't even tell their Afghan counterparts that they're leaving. They just left switching off even the power. Yes, THEY JUST LEFT said local General of ASDF in an interview to WION. This is just running away from battlefield. A perfect defeatist posture, that Taliban wanted from day 1. After about 19 years of bloodshed.

A strange coincidence. Vietnam war lasted little over 19 years. As if history is repeating itself, an equally shameful defeat in Afghanistan for United States is coming up after 19 years of bloodshed. With the act of running away from Afghanistan, US has made sure of one thing. Forcing its allies to talk to Taliban - worst human rights abusers. On second thoughts, US might have just bettered Taliban, that has forced people in Afghanistan to side with Taliban than an elected Afghan Government. (Atleast as per some western media reports). Just pointing how badly a war is fought without a strategy or an objective. Least of all, achieving peace was never in mind. From the start, the very condescending attitude towards local culture was evident and one could say that US would lose the war within days after the fall of Taliban in Kabul.

US lost Afghanistan for just two reasons. First, just like in Vietnam, US won every battle in Afghanistan. But ultimately lost the war. Marines and machines don't win wars. It is maturity that does. You think, rolling tanks into villages would achieve peace in any part of the world. It won't work. US lost the battle that day itself. Secondly, people of Afghanistan are basically tired of war. They need a safe & quality life / future. No bullets. People like Amarullah Saleh, Hashmat Ghani & Atta Nasib should have been given a better role politically - for a few years now. Instead, US tried their best chances with people like Abdullah Abdullah. God bless them.

Securing Afghanistan is very important for the region. India seems to have realized this & started its moves from long ago. Recollect those umpteen visits by the then EAM Sushma Swaraj (I miss her!) and her successor EAM Jaishankar. They seem to have read the act that is coming up for Afghanistan in US. At the time of writing this, rumor is that many warlords have fled to Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. There are also rumors that Taliban is turning against their protector - Pakistani ISI - all along. This change in stance seems to have come after the recent DOUBLE Qatar visits (in June 2021) of EAM Jaishankar. We're indeed talking to the Taliban. Think of Muttawakil type in Delhi! But then, do we have a choice? We're pushed into it by US & West anyways.

As mentioned above, we're forced to talk to Taliban by US now. If not, we'd be faced with a deadly combo of Taliban and a failed state in Pakistan. Funny as it might sound. But back then it used to be said that a stable Pakistan is necessary for a stable Afghanistan. Now, for Pakistan to be safely dismantled we need to keep them busy with Taliban. Or should I say, keep Taliban busy & reduce them to rubble?

On the other hand, the "talks" with Taliban is a win-win for India. Because, it is Taliban who need Indian monetary & political support than we need them. We can have "some" leverage in Afghanistan through Taliban. Better than having none. What if Taliban goes against India in future? Well, don't you think, the visits to Central Asian Countries would have some reason? I leave it at that.

Per western media reports, Taliban is conquering village after village & district after district. But reality is, they're attacking outposts in those places. Yet to see the real deal. Let me give a teaser. The geography of some regions of Afghanistan is such, that it is very difficult to keep supply lines constantly open. Yes, there is a reason why 1000s of Afghan troops crossed into Tajikistan. But, it is not end of road for Afghanistan. By spreading thin, Taliban is risking its very existence. Sending a couple of Toyata Hilux with 10 mercenaries in each pick-up into streets don't make them victor. They need to face real bullets - which will definitely come in the coming days and weeks and months. Let's see if they hold on to it. So, don't fall for the mirage that media is creating that Taliban is winning. They're nowhere close to winning. Even if they do, it is very hard to sustain it. Rookies don't have a place there anymore.

Taliban should not live in la la land. A counterattack WILL come. Afghan Army would not go down without a tough fight. Some media reports do refer to this. If things get worse, some provinces / districts in Northern Afghanistan would see bloody clash. It would be like Northern Syria for sometime. Push would be from two sides for them this time. With US nowhere near them, CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) 
from Tajikistan side would give a push too. Enter Russia in the scenario. Did you see videos of tank movements from Siberia to Western Regions past few days? Well, relate to this.

IF things turn bloody in Northern Afghanistan, only two possibilities: Either Taliban rookies would be decimated. Or, would be contained to such an extent that they'd surrender themselves. Afghans are basically going to reclaim their land eitherways.

With Afghan threat contained, we come to Pakistan.

The very reason a state like Pakistan should exist should be questioned on three points: Logically, Economically & Strategically. 1) Are they self-sustainable & economically sound? No. They are begging for loans with every single country they meet - even on sidelines of Global events. With a lot of these events going virtual, they are hit quite bad without these sidelines happening. 2) Are they sticking to their reasons basis which they became a 'nation'? No. Had they been, Bangladesh would not have been lost. What is the solution then? Well, let them implode. Next chapter shall follow later. But, let there be no doubt. This would be initiated by India. Let there be no doubt, Pakistan would be dismantled.

The other aspect is, how we operate. When you can see us talking to Taliban, have you noticed how we're talking to Taliban's adversaries too? Likewise, for India to be safe and secure, we need equally secure energy supplies. Here's where we have played well with our options & worked with our strategic partners.

Aftermath:

Recently, there was a discussion at OPEC+. UAE and Saudi fought over a increasing few million barrels of oil. Standoff continues to this day. Possibility being speculated is that UAE might exit OPEC as analyzed by energyintel.com first. Now, being picked up by CNBC. US is trying to broker a peace deal. Why? Petro-dollar economy would crash, if OPEC falls apart. The ramifications of this, would be stark and not easy to see. Many don't want to see this either.

The region has started to prepare for the aftermath of Afghanistan. UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Iran Envoy to UAE discuss "cooperation". Whether this is regarding act in OPEC / OPEC+ or with reference to regional security issues is to be seen. Not much is given in this news report. But, what is surprising is, within 24 hours, Indian External Affairs Minister lands in Tehran and gets audience with no less than the new Iranian President. This is nothing less than a surprise. Such visits don't happen just like that.

Why is this landing in Tehran important? Well, for two reasons: 1) Indian EAM has visited Qatar and has channels Larger picture is that, Indian Minister landed in Tehran while on his way to Moscow. Which is to work on two flanks of Indian security that are under stress.

Russia and UAE are key partners. Russia is predominantly a "counter-balance" for unipolar worldview of US & China in the region. UAE helps with anti-Radical front in the region & that for the world.

An informed guess makes one anticipate possible futureevents due to US actions in Afghanistan: 

1. An exit from Iraq.
2. Ditching of allies in Pacific to defend themselves. Which will enable China to go hyper-aggressive in Asia & even may attempt the Taiwan act. Australia should rise up to the occasion if it happens.
3. China is being stretched to the maximum already. It'll be further weakened by stretching further and a battle in the Pacific Ocean would only worsen their status.
4. It is better if China doesn't attempt any foolish moves before Beijing Olympics 2022. Zhongnanhai knows reasons well.
5. Russia is already talking to partners in ASEAN. Russian FM Lavrov was in Laos.

Conclusion:
With many such events, we are in for very interesting months. A lot is happening far behind limelight. So, Taliban is not winning anything. If at all, it is losing and taking Pakistan with it. Don't fall for cheap western propaganda of NYT type media houses. They even gave space to Taliban for Op-Eds.

Will write another post detailing each of the above mentioned "expected events" and reasons.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Radicals Are On The Verge Of Being Radically Ruined

“There will come a day that we will see far more radical extremists & terrorists coming out of Europe. Because of lack of decision making, trying to be politically correct or assuming that they know the Middle-East, they know Islam and they know the others far better than we do. Am sorry, but that’s pure ignorance.” ~ Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates at 4th Tweeps Forum at Riyadh in 2016.

The words of the Minister left many West Asia watchers stunned. Especially from Europe and US. This gave a sneak preview into that paradigm shift that is about to come in the next few years. Looking back at how things went, the reaction seems quite justified. Many times, people get confused on what is going on, in Arab world. It is public perception that everyone is fighting everyone there. But then, the devil is in the fine print. The wars are moving up north and closer to Europe.

The war is slowly revealing the real enemy. The radicals. The pattern is evident. Whoever tolerates others, would survive. Rest would be decimated brutally. This is the pattern, from Saudi Arabia to Iran and everyone in-between. Globally too. Radicals are being crushed left right center. Basically, music is stopping for radicals. They better mend their ways. This is exposing the game of those real radicals, those that are with power. With many magic hands shaping the feat of peacemaking from behind. Some are so important catalyst in the equation that is taking shape, that we simply can’t ignore them. Indian Government for example.

Many actions that seemed impossible few years ago, are taking shape right now. It might sound totally disconnected. But, scratch a few layers, you would understand the tacit support that made it possible. In a way, the support has to be seen with transactional barter with a tinge of civilizational links. The way things are moving, we are expecting a non-radicalized Islam in West Asia, which would take path of becoming soft power in years to come. Giving importance to knowledge and contribute to human advancement. There are few well written pieces on New York Times on Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Zayed a.k.a MBZ.

Few months ago, was it even possible to think of an Israel – UAE peace treaty? Few good men made it happen. And the effort was regional effort. Many bad apples were cornered.

What we know today is that Turkey wants to become a trans-Asian Nation – like USSR. Raccip Tayyip Erdogan is trying to make an impact and influence states from Armenia and Cyprus to the West to Xinjiang in the east. He claims all of it. His hypocrisy can be best explained in one single statement. That is, while condemning Chinese illegal detention of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, he deports them back to Beijing via a third country. There are media reports on this. Just one problem here. Arabs would oppose this idea tooth and nail. Result: We’re seeing opposition to Turkey growing stronger and stronger day by day. Therefore, Azerbaijan – Armenia war got complicated with Turkey’s involvement. This is where the UAE led alliance (with almost all of GCC members) is in effect an anti-Turkey & anti-radical. This is where everyone else are seen working out their differences in the region, to take on Turkey.

One after another, Arab states would embrace Israel as a long-lost cousin. Palestine would ultimately choose to be Israel’s friend in the region. Change is inevitable.

On the European side, with President Macron not in a mood to relent on radicals domestically and giving a tough resistance to Turkey and is taking them heads on across the region – from Cyprus to Armenia to Qatar & Libya, things are only looking bad for Turkey & more specifically Erdogan. Ultimately spreading thin the money, effort and troops from Cyprus to Libya to Syria to Azerbaijan. Over past few months, US & Israel started moving away from Turkey. EU has announced that it stands by France in case there is a flare up leading to France vs Turkey in Europe or elsewhere.

It is in this context that it is rather surprising that Erdogan is not seeing what is coming up for him & people whom he supports in due course. Ever wondered why there was little to no ISIS in UAE, Jordan & Oman? Think about it.

As they say it takes few good men to change future. Her too, few good men stood up to radicalism & are making a huge difference to lives of common people from that community. And they have full support from Indian Government along with key partners of GCC. From prospect of doom, Arab Nations are today seeing ray of hope.

Our policy towards Gulf countries hasn’t changed much since 1960s. We say ups and downs together in business. But one thing stood out. There was a parallel track encouraging each other’s development – beyond religion and business. Take for example UAE. It stood with us – like France, when we did nuclear tests in 1970s.

At this point, we can only observe from grandstand those key discussions have indeed deeper understandings with New Delhi. We can certainly note that the meetings, summits and visits of the leaders of the region gives you good insight. Arab nations, seem to have understood the meaning behind the 2014 mandate for PM Modi.

First two years of PM Modi was dedicated to immediate neighbors. Though successful to a certain extent, things moved to extended neighborhood in the following years. France & UAE are the two nations it went to woo very deep. French President was invited as Chief Guest to 2016 Republic Day. Following year, UAE’s Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Zayed was invited. Within few months, as if it was waiting next to be catapulted, MBZ was invited to White House in May 2017. This was a week before President Trump was to visit Saudi Arabia. A month later, in June 2017, Modi visits White House. Then, in July 2017, Modi makes the historic Israel visit. First ever by Indian PM. Few months later in 2018, Modi visited Palestine. And, while coming back to Delhi, PM Modi met Sultan Qaboos, one of the key architects of what is shaping West Asia today. Not many know that Sultan Qaboos is anti-radical and has kept Oman free of radicals. Meanwhile, India has been inviting troops from Oman and training them. It is not out of thin air that Israel was able to normalize relations with its neighbors. Jordan, Oman, Saudi & UAE along with India played a huge role in it.


(Source: LSEBlogs.com)

Meanwhile, latest that India has said at UN is this: “India been unwavering in its commitment to the Palestinian cause & continues to remain supportive of a peacefully negotiated resolution to the issue; India has supported the two-State solution as just & acceptable. We welcome the agreements for normalization of relations b/w Israel and UAE & Bahrain. India has always supported peace & stability in West Asia, which is our extended neighborhood: Permanent Representative of India at UN Security Council open debate on situation in Middle East.”

This is indication that India, would treat Israel as an equal to Palestine. Fair & just. This changes a lot of things. India has created a space also to be critical of terrorist attacks emanating from Palestine. What is worth noticing is that, since UAE & Bahrain normalized relations with Israel, and that Saudi Arabia and few other nations might follow suit soon, the rocket attacks have ceased. Reason solely being the loss of protection they used to get riding anti-Israel wave. Now, the Palestine State would have to be formed. Not after weapons and terror attacks. But, through dialogue.

While GCC is doing its bit to contain radicals from the region, France is acting against radical ideology from Turkey & Lebanon and stopping them from entering Europe, US & Russia are acting against ISIS. India has its own trouble domestically through Pakistan funded radicals. Afghanistan is fighting its own battle. Rest of the world is busy with Chinese support to radicals across these non-civil states that propagates radicals.

Turkey may also stop propagating expansionism and come to real world. Laying claim to lands as far as Xinjiang when Turkish military is stretched from Cyprus to Libya to Azerbaijan to Syria, not sure if Erdogan is right person to lead a nation. Erdogan’s single biggest contribution to Turkey is that of turning a once liberal nation which acted as a bridge between Europe & Asia, into a radical theocracy without any room for reasonable opposition in a democratic setup.

Conclusion is that, going forward, there would be no place for radicals in this world. All those radicals in the region, Taliban or Pakistan supported terrorists or ISIS or anyone else who fall into that category anywhere in the world in general, won’t survive longer than a couple of years. Writing is on the wall. Better mend your ways. India, US, France, UAE & Saudi Arabia have understood the reasons and are indeed trying to make world a better place. India and other like-minded free nations are in support of this great effort. Hopefully, we shall have a much better world in the coming years.

Note: This piece was first published on The Daily Guardian on 28th October 2020. Web version can be accessed here. Epaper of print version can be accessed in the link here.

Friday, August 07, 2020