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Indian regional polls 2017: Anti-incumbency, Congress-SP and media management cause big win for BJP

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] Y [/yt_dropcap]ear 2017appears to be an eventful one, for, India as there will be important for Indian politics. Besides facing the crucial Presidential elections, five states such as Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have gone to polls in February-March, Gujarat (PM Modi’s home state) and Himachal Pradesh will go to polls in 2018.

While Uttar Pradesh (UP), Uttarakhand and Punjab have given clear mandate to BJP and Congress party respectively, Goa and Manipur refused to give a clear mandate either Congress or BJP, but the federal ruling party BJP has got the upper hand as its governors supported BJP to form the government in these states, though the party did not get either a majority or at least maximum seats, though it has got less seats than Congress in both instances.

The BJP is the clear winner in this round of Assembly elections in five states. With an apparently decisive mandate in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and its impressive showing in close races in Manipur and Goa the party is giving all credit to the Modi wave which has apparently succeeded in combating people’s perceptions about demonetisation. For Congress, the only saving grace was Punjab.

The extremely right wing political party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with military support under a highly “sophisticated” and very energetically dynamic leader Narendra Modi has had an easy win in the by-poll held last month in 2 of 5 states in a polarized India’s corrupt polity. At the outset, the election, conducted as a referendum for his demonetization drive to check and end black money flow and stop financing of terrorism operations in the country and around, was out and out PM Modi’s “historic” win. However, many factors like anti-incumbency, indirect support of Congress and Samajwadi Party in UP, absence of any credible honest leader or genuinely people’s party at national or regional level etc, contributed greatly to Modi’s fortunes.

Today after the regional polls, Narendra Modi has become the most important leader of India, above Hazare and Kejriwal who caught the imagination of entire nation with their anti-corruption movement against the Congress-BJP governments. BJP and PM Modi do deserve well wish for the electoral victory for working for equality in the nation. In a democracy, seats in state and federal assemblies decide government formation. However, seats could be won by politicians through cheap and undemocratic means.

The outcomes of the by elections have revealed anger and disappointments of voters towards the ruling dispensations including Congress, BJP, SP, etc and opted for the opposition parties, almost everywhere. Political parties cannot take the voters for granted in polls, at least. People have displayed a great sense of responsibility in punishing the ruling class for being dishonest.

Goa

BJP has sage managed the show in Goa state even without a majority by horse trading the independent MLAs. Congress secured more seats than the incumbent BJP but it did not stake its claim to form a government while BP did exactly that and now ruling the state and now Congress has approached the court, maybe as a mere formality to fool the world. ..

Close races in Goa and Manipur but with bargaining and deflections, BJP staked claim There were four major contenders for the 40 seats in the Goa Assembly – Congress, BJP, Aam Admi Party and the smaller Maharashtrawadi Gomanthak party and the Goa Foward. While the present Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar has lost his seat, Congress’s Digambar Vasant Kamat who is also former Chief Minister, has won in his constituency, Margao. During his door-to-door campaign, Digambar Kamat repeated one mantra frequently. “Call me any time, 24×7. You need no agent to come to me. Although the Congress had 17 seats, just one lesser than BJP the latter has staked claim to form government.

Congress, as usual, played mischief and let BJP become the ruling party but when BJP became the winner, it called it a foul play by the governor who just obey he federal government’s orders. . Even as counting as underway it was expected that neither party would be close to the magic figure of 21 seats. The Indian Express reported that the MNP and smaller parties may play the king maker and that is exactly what happened.

The night long negotiations finally sealed the deal for BJP as both the MNP and Goa Forward Party agreed to support the BJP after they were promised ministerial berths by Nitin Gadkari. The Congress leaders, including party general secretary Digvijaya Singh and top state politicians, camped at the iconic Mandovi hotel in Panaji, where for five hours they wrangled over the choice of CLP leader, apart from waiting for Sardesai and other Independents. The Governor invited the BJP to form the government and current Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar will be sworn in as Chief Minister.

Goa and Manipur experiments of letting the Hindutva party control government show that there is a consensus between Congress and BJP that the latter should rule India and its states to solve many issues (like Muslims, Pakistan, China, security, etc)

Manipur

In Manipur also, BJP stage managed and formed the ministry and Congress party that ruled it for many years has quietly gave in, almost signaling that its time is over as ruling party and BJP could take its place and communal pride. With the BJP and its alliance of regional parties together got 30 seats. By using ‘security issues” and using Sharmila as a serious threat to India as she wants all extra military laws withdrawn to let people live without fear, the BJP made a stunning debut in Manipur, winning 19 seats and leading in two of the 60 assembly seats in the states. The party’s concerted efforts to make inroads into the conflict state paid rich dividends. Ram Madhav of the BJP said that the performance of the BJP has been satisfactory given that the state unit was weak. Manipur too saw a record turnout of almost 86% in the second phase of polling as BJP intensified its security campaign.

The Congress has been ruling the North-eastern state Manipur for almost a decade and a half and faced a tough challenge from the BJP which, supported by the military establishment, as usual, made security issues to win poll. Since Manipur does not have any Muslim population it needs not to target anti-Muslim sentiments for Hindu votes but Sharmila gave the stuff for the BJP to talk at length about the security issues threatening India.

With communal agenda on cards, the BJP has very cleverly exploited anti-military feelings in Manipur state being represented by Irom Sharmila to expand its vote share in the Northeastern state.

On 11 March, as the results for Manipur Elections started coming in, Thoubal constituency was among the first few seats from where the results started coming in. This valley seat from where Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh was contesting the elections, had another key player who for 16 years was on fast for Manipur’s rights. Social activist Irom Sharmila Chanu aka ‘Iron Lady’ was the icon of Manipur who with her decade-and-a-half long fast against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (Afspa) garnered a lot of national attention sympathy and support. Upon ending fasting, Sharmila soon formed the PRJA which garnered support and attention from national parties like Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Left and Democratic Front (LDF), etc. The party with its clear intention to revoke the draconic military law Afspa and redraft Inner Line Permit system set about campaigning through the state and gathering political funds.

In a state which is rife with violence, corruption, administrative struggles, and development deficits, her fight seemed watered down. While the BJP gathered votes by making promises about removing the economic blockade, creation jobs, removing corruption, ensuring rights to the Nagas, etc. Sharmila kept mum on all these issues.

Military played important role in the defeat of Sharmila and she lost so badly in her maiden election contest that she became panicky and vowed to quit politics altogether. Sharmila was mostly treated as a laughing stock by both Congress and BJP and its chief minister, because victory for Sharmila can be disastrous for both parties. When they all joint tempered with m voting machines remains to be investigated.

But the story in this 60-Assembly seat state is very different as there seems to be anti-democratic operations during poll day. Sharmila’s party Peoples’ Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA) failed to secure a single seat in the state and its leader lost the fight against Manipur’s three-time chief minister Ibobi who won with 18,649 votes, Sharmila didn’t get more than 90 votes, giving rise to genuine suspicion of voting machine tampering during the poll by the Modi regime.

Many in the national media hailed this as a tragedy that an internationally renowned human rights activist couldn’t manage to secure even a 100 votes. However, the local populace has a different picture to share. When the 44-year-old decided to quit her 16-year-old fast in 2016 and join politics, it was welcomed by both national media and political parties. She soon formed the PRJA which garnered support and attention from national parties like Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Left and Democratic Front (LDF), etc. The party with its clear intention to revoke Afspa (through legislative means) and redraft Inner Line Permit system set about campaigning through the state and gathering political funds.

In a state that has some 1,500 cases of extra-judicial killings, she was the face of the revolt against Afspa. When she ended her fast, people perceived it as the end of the movement. This angered a lot of people. Her popularity also tanked after she revealed her plans to get married to Goa-born British national Desmond Coutinho, whom her supporters have always accused of diverting her attention from the fight against Afspa. She had plans to tie the nuptial knot after the 2017 polls but Desmond recently said the marriage would not take place before 2019. While the party has allied with the Nagaland People’s Front of the neighbouring state, it chose to not announce an alliance with the regional party in Manipur. The reason, a senior party leader said, is a clause in the NPF’s manifesto that talks of Naga integration. “That made the party a bit uncomfortable,” the party leader said. A post-poll alliance, however, is not ruled out, the leader added.

Congress and BJP one and same!

BJP could easily target both Congress and Sharmila to victory. In a state hit badly by anti-incumbency against the ruling Congress government, the neglect that the various hill tribes suffered under Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh’s government helped the BJP make inroads in the hill areas. Of the 60 assembly seats, only 20 seats are set aside for the hill areas, while the Valley has 40 seats. While the hill areas account for 85% of the state’s geographical territory, the Valley accounts for 15% of the total area.

BJP didn’t just have a national appeal, it also went door-to-door to campaign about the party. They had swayamsevaks (volunteers) who regularly held meetings to discuss local issues, way before the elections were announced. The people in the hills (Naga districts like Senapati, Ukhrul, Tamenglong) saw an alternative to Congress, which with the creation of the seven new districts in December 2016, had lost the vote of the Naga tribes.

Sharmila, who has won several international human rights awards, said in her interview with HuffPost India that both the leading national parties — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress — were practically “the same”. However, this did not stop either of the two national parties — Congress or BJP — from using the funds in their deep pockets, to campaign extensively in the state. The state which rarely received any national attention was suddenly getting visited by senior leaders of the BJP like Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Narendra Modi, Prakash Javadekar, etc. Their rallies gathered thousands of Manipuris, whereas Sharmila’s PRJA went house to house to campaign for their party.

Sharmila decided to compete from a Meitei populated seat against a Meitei favourite Okram Ibobi and expected victory. In the interviews before the polling began, she reiterated that she hopes to win against the three-time chief minister. However, she forgot that the highly seasoned Congress politician had managed to snag the Thoubal constituency in two consecutive Assembly elections and that too with high margins. This time too he secured the seat with a margin of 11,470 votes against BJP leader Leitanthem Basanta Singh. Even the BJP didn’t put up a strong candidate for that seat. Sharmila’s misguided political judgment cost her MLA seat.

While the core media lords we are being harsh on the celebrated human rights activists, it is a matter of concern that the state which has a million female voters failed to support their female icon. An abysmal 90 votes are what the ‘iron lady’ got for her 16-year penance.

People’s mandate does not matter in Goa and Manipur; dictatorship or democracy?

In both Goa and Manipur BJP regime has played well to deny the party that got maximum seats to form government but let BJP form the government. In doing so, PM Modi has made the BJP ideology of”BJP only” crystal clear. The message is simple: If any other party is unable to get a clear majority BJP alone can form the government by purchasing MLLAs and MPs.

In Goa and Manipur, the BJP was in a minority. It won 13 seats out of 40 in Goa, with the Congress winning 17. In Manipur, its performance was just as poor, winning 21 out of 60, to the Congress’ 28. However, the party which rules at the centre has manipulated legal provisions to ensure that a state does not remain headless to claw its way to power against the will of the people. In Goa, it put together a coalition after negotiations with a party that had projected itself as secular – the greatest sin of the virulent anti-national, in the lexicon of most supporters of the BJP.

The narrative of the BJP (even Congress) has been that the minorities have been given too much leeway, and the trolls its leaders – including a Sikh Prime Minister – follow feel the minorities should acknowledge that they don’t deserve to be treated as more than second-class citizens. The minorities they attack include Muslims, Christians, and those unfortunates with intellect. The one democratic procedure in which the minority has no right is what follows the outcome of an election.

In a country that is becoming increasingly more bigoted and hostile to minorities, people must ask themselves what strategy makes leaders out of people who have, on the surface, no qualifications to run a country. The most powerful man in the world is Trump, a businessman with no political, diplomatic, or policy-making qualifications. The most powerful man in India is a healthy orator Modi who stays silent on the most burning issues of the day, asks others to react, recently deputing his Home Minister to handle the Kashmir crisis.

Standing in long queues in extreme weather is seen in the context of soldiers dying in battle for their country. How are the two comparable? A soldier dies in the uniform he volunteered to wear, for a country that he is defending of his volition against an enemy. When a pensioner has a heat stroke or a cardiac arrest while waiting through the day to exchange notes that he was saving for an emergency, where is his volition, whom is he defending, and who is the enemy?

Indian protests generally are just a show and never intent on real changes or reforms or at least further development. BJP’s one of the main agendas is to somehow acquire majority in Rajya Sabha (Upper House of parliament) to pass all bills and enact new bills as per RSS designs. But the move that upset the RSS agenda and brought the nation literally to a standstill was demonetisation. For weeks, even months, people struggled to pay each other. People literally died from standing in queues. Yet, despite all the chaos, there was no public protest – unlike the outrage in Venezuela, whose government attempted to follow India’s move. In that country, the people will saw the government withdraw the demonetisation move. In India, though, months after the dramatic decision was announced, when the memories of standing in queues for hours only for the ATM to run out of money before one’s turn came and notes being rationed out on a war footing are still vivid, the BJP has made a clean sweep of two Northern states. BJP has enough money to get votes.

Punjab

Punjab, ruled by BJP led coalition until the poll, has now opted for Congress party – of the 117 seats, the Congress was leading on 64 seats – and brought the AAP to focus by giving it a historic status with 28 seats. Two years ago, AAP had scored a sensational victory in Delhi, decimating rivals BJP and Congress. It also debuted in parliament by winning four seats in Punjab in 2014 – the equivalent of 33 seats.

While the entire country was full of energy during the counting of votes, the social networking websites were as silent as a grave with the AAP leaders going silent on the election results. The Twitter account of most of the AAP leaders, including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal did not show any activity since the results started pouring in.

In the initial phase of counting, it became quite evident that the AAP party scored zero in Goa while it backed 2nd position in Punjab. The exit polls had predicted that either Congress or AAP would win. Whereas Shriomani Akali Dal (SAD)- Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance which was written off by all political pundits and journalists before the elections, has sprung a surprise by becoming the second largest party in the state. While the leaders were quite excited in the morning and tweeted motivational messages on Twitter before the results, their account became dull after the initial trend. AAP leader Ashutosh tweeted in the morning saying the result will set the tone for the future politics in India. “It’s a historic day,” he tweeted. Kumar Vishwas was among the few AAP leaders who came out in open and spoke about the elections. The leader congratulated BJP and the Congress on their win. Accepting the defeat in his style, he also tweeted a poem. The AAP, which fought its first assembly elections in Punjab, was at third place with 22 seats.

BJP is increasing its national presence step by step, indirectly supported by Congress, SP and other essentially anti-Muslim outfits.

Congress party with largest black money owners’ does not oppose BJP. What is even more shocking than that is that the BJP has ensured that it will form the government in two states where another party had garnered more votes than it had.

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The Indo-US bonhomie: A challenge to China in the IOR

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The oceans have long been recognized as one of the world’s valuable natural resources, and our well-being is tied to the oceans. From providing minerals and food to coastal nations to serve as highways for seaborne trade, Oceans are highly-regarded in the geopolitics and geo-economics. In 2010, the global ocean economy was valued at $1.5 trillion, and by 2030, it is likely to surpass $3 trillion. Such a growing geostrategic and economic significance pit authoritative nations into the race. 

Bounded by Africa on the west, the Indian subcontinent on the North, Australia on the East, and the Antarctic Ocean on the South, the Indian Ocean is the third largest water body. Over the years, it has become an area of competition among Washington, Beijing, and New Delhi. China, the world’s second-largest economy, imports energy via sea lanes in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), while India, an influential regional actor and competitor of China, has also significant reliance on the IOR for its trade. Therefore, the reliance of both countries on the safe transportation of resources is inevitable, and they seek dominance in this water body. The growing global leadership of China, and the Indian economic rise have heightened the strategic value of the IOR and both powers have locked horns in it.

The success of the Chinese Belt and Road initiative (BRI), which strives to enhance China’s economic dominance from East Asia to Europe, hinges on the IOR. The IOR provides China with critical sea trade routes to the Mideast and Africa through BRI’s flagship project: China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). China, through BRI’s connectivity and economic potential, outweighs Indian influence in the IOR. Snaking its way from China’s western province Xinjiang to Gawadar port on the Arabian Sea, CPEC is a counterfoil to India, diminishing India’s strategic weight in the IOR. Therefore, India has an aversion to the CPEC because it ends the Chinese Strait of Malacca dilemma and makes its way through Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Having access to a port like Gawadar, China is likely to gain strategic and economic leverage in the region. Not only in India, but Beijing’s grandeur BRI is not well-received in the US as well. The world’s second-largest economy, China, aims to surpass the US economy in the coming years. On the accounts of the Chinese economic growth, the unipolar world order, once dominated by the US, has swapped its position with multipolar world. In addition, the US stakes are high in the IOR. With its interests in the Mideast, Africa, and Central Asia, the US is wary of China’s growing influence in the IOR. As a result, the US and India share a broader spectrum of mutual interests in the IOR.

New Delhi and Washington are enjoying rapprochement in their ties so as to limit China’s burgeoning influence. To materialize the quest of Washington about the freedom of navigation and maintaining open sea lanes, India spearheads the US paradigms in the IOR to curb China. For this purpose, India has eyed to magnify its naval capabilities and seeks partnership with many littoral-nations in the IOR. “Activating partnerships and expanding capabilities in the Indian Ocean are central to our quest for security,” says Indian Foreign Secretary. Indian bonhomie with Japan and Australia stands as the crux of New Delhi’s disposition to share warm ties with influential global actors. Australia, India, and Japan share the same US security umbrella: Checkmating the Beijing rise. These nations have translated their partnership in the Quad as a new feature of diplomacy to establish their authority in the Indo-Pacific region. Navies of India, the US, and Japan cooperate under the aegis of the trilateral Malabar Exercises, the most recent held in early November near Visakhapatnam in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. This time, Australia was also part of the exercise. The Indian Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR), a naval information hub initiated by India, brings all Quad members under one roof to exchange vital maritime information in the IOR.  Australia and Japan recently posted liaison officers to the (IFC-IOR), where a US liaison officer has served since 2019.

India has a long aspiration to dominate the Bay of Bengal and prioritizes closer economic ties with South Asian states to balance China’s trade advantage. For its part, India is eager to visualize greater security cooperation among the littoral nations through BIMSTEC. The seven-member alliance among India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, and Nepal aims to accelerate members’ economic growth and social progress among members across multiple sectors. BIMSTEC is a platform accentuating Indian vigor and its manifests the Indian overtures against China in the IOR.

Sharing common goals in the IOR, the US perceives India as a significant ally in the region and strongly supports its maritime expansion. The rapprochement between the two sides has resulted in the significant naval build-up of Indian forces in the IOR. The construction of military bases, modernized equipment and fleets, new maritime assets, and the expansion of security ties are all part of New Delhi’s push to assert itself as the region’s leader. By acquiring ‘blue water’ capabilities, the Indian Navy aspires to undertake its traditional role, like ensuring the coastal defense of the country, providing sea-based nuclear deterrence (entailing its assured second-strike capability), projecting the nation’s soft power beyond its shores, and maximizing the sphere of influence in the region. India aims to become a 200-ship navy in the next decade. In the defense budget for the year 2015-16, 16% share has been allocated to the Navy.

The Indo-US cooperation poses a considerable challenge to China’s ingress in the IOR, and Pakistan is no exception. Moreover, their cooperation undermines the peace prospects and endangers stability in the IOR. Recently, the G7 summit concluded with an objective focusing to challenge China’s rise. Joe Biden Administration maintained a firm line against China. Therefore, in the near future, pining hopes for preemption of the competition among authoritative nations in the IOR would be the pie in the sky.

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The Taliban Are Back — And Its Fine

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The Taliban have recently conquered large portions of Afghanistan and seem poised to overrun the Afghan government in Kabul. Yet, contrary to what many commentators assume, the return to power of the Taliban is not necessarily a loss for the United States. The Taliban can indeed become an asset for great power competition with China and Russia.

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The Taliban movement scored significant territorial gains throughout the last months. It made large headways into the northern part of Afghanistan and is now surrounding several major cities, seemingly waiting for the departure of the last foreign troops before it seizes these locations. Yet, a potential takeover by the Taliban, although a hard-to-swallow pill, needs not turn into a net loss for U.S. foreign policy.

The primary — although now often forgotten — motive for NATO presence in Afghanistan was not to skirmish endlessly with the Taliban, but rather to eliminate the threat of devasting 9/11-scale attacks by Al-Qaeda and consorts. However, the current Al-Qaeda threat in Afghanistan hardly justifies U.S. and allied military action there.

First, no massive attack has occurred on U.S. soil for the last twenty years and relevant American law enforcement agencies have taken extensive precautions to make sure it will not happen.

Second, Al-Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan is now estimated to be less than 1,000 by even pessimistic reports. Advocates of a continuous Western presence in Afghanistan have yet to show how a few hundred terrorists represent an existential threat to the United States or the Free World. It stretches the imagination that seven or eight hundred soldiers of fortune pose a vital and imminent peril for America, while China and Russia now field large and modern militaries well-positioned to overrun their neighbors and make a bid for regional hegemony in East Asia and Eastern Europe.

Third, many of Al-Qaeda’s recent attacks or attempts at attack on the West have little if nothing to do with Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda activities have been delocalized to other countries in turmoil. Those arguing that NATO needs to indefinitely garrison Afghanistan for the sake of a few hundred terrorists should thus logically also advocate for NATO to garrison Iraq, Libya, Mali, Niger, Syria, Yemen, and others.

Fourth, the Taliban never participated in the 9/11 attacks, and their current alliance with Al-Qaeda has a single main motive: surviving NATO presence. Once NATO is out, there is no obvious reason for them to keep working with Al-Qaeda, which may bring devastation once again upon the Taliban and Afghanistan by conducting reckless international attacks from Afghan soil. The Taliban did not fight for over twenty years to hand over the country to Al Qaeda or anyone else.

Therefore, no essential U.S. interest justifies keeping intervening into Afghan domestic politics. Furthermore, since the Trump administration, the U.S. government identifies China as its primary great power competitor and Russia as a secondary one. U.S. foreign policy is now mostly designed with Chinese power as a background. In a nutshell, Afghanistan, even under Taliban control, could become an asset for competing with China and Russia.

Beijing recently warned that the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces poses a major threat to regional stability. The Chinese want America to remain in Afghanistan for as long as possible; that is the unmistakable clue that the United States should exit as fast as it can. If a ferocious civil war continues, Beijing will have to reinforce its western border.  Also, if the Taliban take over, Afghanistan may become more sympathetic to the plea of the Xinjiang Uyghurs and less receptive toward Chinese interests. In both cases, China will be forced to strengthen its defense in the areas bordering Afghanistan for fear of instability. Although this burden will likely remain light for China, it is still an easy and unexpansive gain for Washington, because a Chinese soldier busy garrisoning the Afghan border is a soldier unavailable for action towards Taiwan, Korea, or India.

Like the Chinese, the Russians will be forced to protect their southern borders and their Central Asian partners against a potential threat emerging from Afghanistan. To Moscow, this represents around 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) of Afghan-Tajik, Afghan-Turkmen, and Afghan-Uzbek borders to guard; this will push Russia to reorient at least some military forces towards Central Asia and thus release some pressure from NATO in Eastern Europe.

A Taliban-led Afghanistan may also further U.S. interests towards Iran and Pakistan in more indirect ways. Indeed, if the United States keeps engaging with Iran, the uneasiness of living with a Taliban Afghanistan on its eastern borders will give further incentives for Tehran to accommodate the United States, and even Israel and Saudi Arabia. If, unfortunately, Washington fails to repair its relations with Iran, Afghanistan can then become a valuable partner to contain Tehran, regardless of who is in charge in Kabul.

As noticed by former CIA Bruce Riedel, without Western presence in Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban will be less dependent on support from Pakistan, and Pakistani Taliban will be free to focus their fight against the government in Islamabad. Indeed, Prime Minister Imran Khan made clear that he did not welcome the Taliban back in power and would seal the border with Afghanistan if they were. Consequently, with the Taliban back in office and NATO out, Pakistan will be forced to reinforce its western border, thus diminishing its capability to compete with India. Therefore, New Delhi will be more able to focus on the Chinese threat to its northern and eastern borders. Trouble emanating from Afghanistan may even become an impetus for the Pakistanis to normalize their relations with the Indians.

Since the February 2020 peace agreement, the Taliban have kept their word to refrain from attacking NATO. They are not mindless fanatics yearning for planetary devastation, but rational actors who made clear that they were only interested in ruling Afghanistan and have proven open to negotiation and adjustments. Once in office, the Taliban will have no shortage of potential threats; they will have to navigate between China, a potential hegemon in Asia, a resurgent Russia, and mistrustful governments in Iran, Pakistan, and Central Asia. Threatening or attacking Washington and its allies will be the last of their concerns. They agreed that Afghanistan should not turn into a safe haven for international terrorism again and have been busy fighting with the Afghan branch of the Islamic State. In a 2020 op-ed in The New York Times, the Taliban even touted the possibility ‘for cooperation — or even a partnership — in the future.’

Afghanistan is and will remain of secondary importance for U.S. foreign policy; yet, maintaining a working relationship with a future Taliban government can offer several benefits at virtually no cost to the U.S., while turning a military defeat into a political win.

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Examining the impacts of Globalization: A Case study of Afghanistan

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Globalization is often considered as one of the most important and transformative events in the 21st century. It has led to the creation of multiple influential actors, rise of the information revolution and the formation of various instruments enabling cooperation and interdependence. Of the key aspects in the concept of globalization is the creation of state institutions which have allowed for monitoring, control and economic investments thus enabling greater connectivity with the people across the globe. The information revolution which came as a result of increase in technological prowess and development of communication technologies has led to the creation of virtual communication spaces. Big technological cooperation’s were able to exercise influence in the social media space and enable a conducive environment of presentation of various discourses. Globalization has also had a significant influence in the manipulation, coordination and control of all manner of discourse directed at various prominent political figures. From state to non-state actors all have been impacted by globalization.

Globalization in 3rd world countries saw an interesting and significant transformation where nations sought to gain advantage of the political and economic expansion which came as a result of increased connectivity of markets and political institutions. For these 3rd World states where political and economic capital was deficient in terms of influencing regional and global dynamics, they sought to further their geo-political objectives through increased trade, cooperation, cultural diplomacy and providing their strategic assets for more influential states to utilize. Countries such as African and South Asian states utilized international institutions, communication technologies in order to further their social, political and economic interests (Hamidi, 2015 ). Afghanistan in this regard hasn’t been averse to the changes effectively induced by globalization. Being a pivotal state in terms of key foreign policy objectives of states such as United States and Soviet Union, Afghanistan has seen change due to globalization. Its influence, in the cultural, political, societal and economic spheres shall be further explored in the ensuing paragraphs of this essay.

The state of Afghanistan has seen consistent and prolonged conflicts throughout its history. It’s political and social landscape has been affected by continuous struggle to attain power by warring warlords. Home to many ethnicities, the Afghan conflict has also impacted various ethnic groups disproportionately with many ethnic minorities becoming victims. Economic woes combined with rigid social norms and values have all contributed to a dwindling state marred by conflict. Afghanistan before the dawn of modernism was home to one of history’s notorious empires. It housed the rulers who invaded across to the rich plains of India in search of arable land for cultivation and for its natural resources. Despite its rich history Afghanistan was primarily distinguished along the lines of a tribalistic society with consistent conflict over land, domestic feuds and scarcity of resources. This all saw a radical change when during the height of the Cold War the Soviet Union, seeking to gain inroads in to South Asia invaded Afghanistan. What followed was a prolonged and protracted conflict in which not only the Afghan people but the people of neighboring Pakistan were also deeply affected in adverse ways. (Britannica , 2021 )

Afghanistan’s ascendancy to the mainstream global political spectrum came as a result of America’s denouncement of terrorism and the beginning of the war on terror. Post 9/11 American coalition forces invaded Afghanistan with the aim of targeting terrorists’ strategic strongholds in hopes of preventing future recurrences of attacks on European states. Another primary objective of the US and NATO coalition forces was to establish a national government enabled by foreign aid of the United States and led by social representatives of the people of Afghanistan. Before the US becoming an entrant in to the Afghan conflict, Afghanistan had largely been unaffected by radical transformations by globalization. Strict adherence to religious and social norms combined with a sense of alienism was one of the dominating factors which rendered Afghanis practically immune to the effects of globalization. Furthermore, economic and social insecurity had led Afghan societies to cluster into communities in hopes of reducing these anxieties which had become a recurrent theme in the pretext of globalization (Kinnvall, 2004 ).

Globalization for Afghanistan has been what is commonly termed as a “mixed bag”. For inviting international bodies to provide aid, relief and security meant a continuous rise in political influence exercised by foreign nations and institutions. Before the advent of American intervention in Afghanistan, foreign influence was mostly restricted to Afghan political elite where several key political stake holders had gained primacy in the eyes of the European governments (EUC paper series , 2017 ). The post 9/11 political spectrum was to radically effect the social political and economic spectrum of the conflict ravaged country. Foreign intervention aimed to radically change the societal fabric of a conservative afghan society and to introduce it to the global financial markets. Economic strife had complemented Afghanistan’s bulging unemployment, increased violence and vilification of what was termed as ‘evil, alien’ concepts of democracy and capitalism. The United States had aimed for re-vitalizing an Afghan society subjugated under Taliban rule.

Afghanistan before 2001 had chronic lapses in communication infrastructure which was largely due to poverty and rigid control by the then Taliban rulers in Afghanistan. Since 2001 the communication bulge came due to a rising influx of international aid and US military deployment. Subsequently Afghan societies were able to connect, report and increase knowledge as a result of the growth in media outlets. Qualitative studies point to the conclusion drawn that content produced by BBC played a significant role in behavioral changes of Afghan society (Adam, 2005 ).  The rich monopoly over the constructive discourses surrounding Afghan societies has also changed through the years as analyzed by various academics. Import of cultural and social identities and appreciation of various political voices came due to the significant influence of globalization.

The Afghan economy is another important aspect which has been significantly affected by the geo-political events and the onset of globalization. Globalization has bought with it the economic interdependence through a global financial market system aiming to liberalize and interconnect regional and state economies. Afghanistan for long had seen a frail economy compounded by elements of corruption, ceaseless conflicts and an influential control of trade routes by the Afghan Taliban. The Afghan Taliban, a pre-dominantly Pashtun organization consisting of multiple influential operating factions has for long controlled the opiate trading routes which form the bulk of Afghan domestic export. Primary trading routes had traditionally also included the Pashtun regions of Pakistan. Afghanistan’s anti-Soviet role was furthered by control over such content flows which not only allowed a vast and complicated network of interconnected guerilla groups but also served as the primary produce generating capital (Mendel, 2019 ).

While many argue that globalization inherently is a positive force aiming to alleviate and provide further economic, social and political stability, contested views argue in terms of empirical evidence against the normative claim. The Afghan perspective under the subject of globalization was seen as largely as a disconnect from the rest of the world. The process of integration, Western scholars argued was through the increased presence of defense forces and international institutions aiming to uplift societal deprivations. Another interesting perspective in this regard comes during the analysis of Al-Qaeda networks which for long operating on a global level. Such a degree of efficiency combined with a global distribution of opium trade was only possible through a systematic interconnectedness with various international networks. These would then allow a vast and lucrative drug business to operate despite chronic lapses in the government institutions on economic policy and implementation of government economic models.

Afghan society under the Taliban was rigidly controlled and monitored. Consisting largely of rural tribesmen, high rates of unemployment and extreme poverty had subjected the society to the will of powerful tribal leaders who worked to further their objective of accumulating power and influence. Religion in Afghanistan has also induced a traditional society to follow principals ascribed in religious texts. Laws and structure of society were decided on the basis of a rigid code of scripture. US department of State in its report argues that “legal change occurs usually when it is followed, not when it is leads public by opinion”. This argument follows in line with the narrative that while although US forces and NATO allies were able to remove a Taliban government, applying US democratic values and legal constitutions would be difficult and would ultimately fail when it came to attaining societal approval (Palmerlee, 2003 ).

Afghani society has followed traditional principals and held on cultural traditions and narratives. With globalization many academics have argued that Afghanistan’s inability or the lack of want to change arises from either a poor system of governance or a strongly entrenched traditional societal structure. Despite having multiple programs and promoting organizations representative of the Afghan people, resistance to change has always come due to deeply held beliefs of the need for religious protectionism and maintaining tribal identity. This ‘counter-global’ stances show a societal push back of what is considered as an interference of foreign media, and institutions as a challenging force to disrupt established social norms and values. US forces therefore ever since entering into Afghanistan have found it difficult to reconcile Afghan societies thoughts and values with Western ideals of democracy and capitalism. It is one of the influential factors which allow organizations such as the Afghan Taliban to continue an armed insurgency where general acceptance of society has created the space for the Taliban to operate for a continuous period.

The political spectrum of Afghanistan has also been affected by globalization. International institutions and states have continuously aimed to impart western form of governance in Afghanistan. Foreign investments and defense deployments have continued with the pursuit of gaining political leverage and to back national governments representative of Afghanistan. Despite the continued inflow of foreign capital and operations conducted by NATO forces, the Afghan conflict has largely remained un-resolved and unchanged. The current government having the backing of powerful NATO forces has been largely unable to gain credibility and acceptability in the eyes of Afghanis. Afghanistan’s continued withdrawal from globalization and a rejection to imparting new and improved means of governance has been a primary factor which hasn’t allowed credible space for forms of governance like this to prosper.

The political spectrum also continues to be shaped by consistent sense of ‘loss of sovereignty’ This concept comes as result of a globalization where the greater influence of international institutions and foreign states is observed to have a negative impact on the states individual sovereignty. Despite the profits gained from having a highly interconnected market system and the creation of institutions to reduce the chance of conflict, such influence has been challenged by developing countries. South Asia is largely populated with people living below the average rate of income established by international organizations such as the United Nations. The people of Afghanistan belong to the poorest strata where people have the lowest levels of income followed by a large scale of unemployment and little to no foreign export except the opiate trade. International organizations and non-state actors have over the years gained increasing levels of control and influence in the governance structure of Afghanistan. Through providing aid, defense and foreign policy strategies Afghanistan government and the role of influential international actors has led to an increasing sense of loss of sovereignty by the Afghan population (Political works , 2009 ). This has allowed the continuing Afghan insurgency to gain traction and acceptance where despite being dislodged from power the guerilla paramilitary force has taken up an aggressive and largely successful campaign against the foreign led forces.

Cultural identity has been at the forefront of the debates surrounding globalization. Common conceptions of globalizations mainly discuss the normative aspects of increased communication and inter-dependence between countries. Globalization has increased interconnectivity and has led to a homogeneity of cultures and traditions. While debatable, the concept remains significant in the debate on globalization. The study on Afghanistan has largely been on political economy and connecting Afghanistan with the global financial institutions. Cultural values of democracy and westernized conceptions on human values have found little acceptance in Afghanistan and in other Muslim countries. This interesting concept can be studied by understanding the radically altering understanding of individual values and identities of Muslim cultures with that of Westernized democratic ideals. This makes it problematic where enforcement or promotion of these values then leads to cultural rifts and becomes the precursor for possible future conflict. In the case of Afghanistan cultural identity is fixated in the identification on the basis of religion and tribal identities. The celebration of the ‘collective’ and the promotion of shared norms and values gains greater acceptance over westernized ideas of the individual. With these fundamental differences cultural identity has been largely unchanged despite continued foreign assistance and commitment in Afghanistan (Weisberg, 2002 ).

Afghanistan for a large part of its history has seen great conflict of different scales. From internal rifts to foreign interventions the complicated and prevailing nexus in Afghanistan continues to invite academic debate till today. Globalization has increasingly allowed greater connectivity and enhanced opportunities of cooperation and increased global/regional ties. For Afghanistan the complicated situation has been further exasperated with an increasingly globalized world. With foreign interventions and rising levels of inequality and influence of non-state actors, the situation of Afghanistan continues to remain in flux. Only time will truly tell how and to what extent has globalization truly impacted Afghanistan.

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