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In Another Lifetime: A Roadmap to Peace for Pakistan and India –part 1



This paper is part one of a three-part series. The overall paper describes how it might be possible to improve relations between both states (at least in theory). Part one begins by discussing the primary issue between both countries i.e. Kashmir – after which the paper highlights1 out of a total of 3“Opportunities” that both countries can leverage to achieve rapprochement. Part 2 of the paper discusses the remaining 2 “Opportunities” and then describes the pre-requisites of the proposed roadmap to peace. Part 3 outlines and details the roadmap to peace itself.



Pakistan and India gained their independence in 1947 as British India came to its culmination. Since independence, the two neighbours have been all but neighbourly towards each other. Their relationship has been defined by political turbulence in the least and all-out war at the most – both countries have fought three full and one limited war.

This rivalry stemming from the disputed territory of Kashmir has resulted not only in a massive trust deficit but has converted the region into a global flashpoint due to both countries’ nuclear arsenal and their engrossment in an arms race for supremacy. Although there have been many negotiations, peace initiatives, and CBMs (Confidence Building Measures) since independence, major success stories have been negligible.

The countries have been ensnared in an enduring deadlock that continues to the present day. This paper endeavours on providing a solution to improve the stagnating relations between both countries. It does this by initially highlighting what the Kashmir issue is and then deliberating upon the opportunities (to mollify relations) before delineating a roadmap for peace.

The roadmap suggests that rather than bickering on the territorial aspect of Kashmir, the status quo should be maintained for at least a decade. Instead of discussing whom Kashmir belongs to, both countries should rather focus on improving their economic relations. After some kind of economic interdependence has been established, political and cultural gaps should be addressed via political, socio-cultural, and even military CBMs.

Once the trust schism is filled to an extent after a decade or so, Kashmir should be discussed with a rational head rather than the prevailing emotions and distrust. Although the final section of the paper has some “ifs and buts” and hypotheticals, it attempts to stay within the realm of reality as not to paint an idealized or fictional scenario. The paper ends by concluding that a viable friendship can and should be achieved if both countries (and the international community) play their cards right.

An “outside the box” mentality and “people of Kashmir first” policy must be applied to bring peace into the region; if not, the stagnation will continue – such is the dilemma of Kashmir. A huge caveat that the paper must state before delving deeper is that as things stand currently, there is more chance of war between Pakistan and India than any chance of complete peace.

There are a plethora of reasons for this but the main include India’s revocation of Jammu & Kashmir’s (J&K) special status which angered Kashmir, Pakistan, and China; India’s humanitarian abuses in J&K under Modi; China and India’s recent border skirmishes, and the Indian Ocean tensions; and Pakistan’s Air Force downing two Indian fighter jets when tensions were high post-Pulwama.

In the present scenario, especially when India changed the status of J&K by abrogating two constitutional articles, neither Pakistan nor India wants to do anything to do with the other. However, if things were not as bad as they are today, this paper opines that the path to peace presented could be feasible.


Kashmir is the root cause of Pakistan and India loathing each other. Subsequent to the 1947 war over Kashmir between both states, UN resolution 47 was passed in 1948 that asserted that the issue must be resolved through a plebiscite. The Indian government promised that a plebiscite would be conducted, but this never transpired making UN resolution 47 one of the oldest resolutions in the UN.

Historically when it comes to peace talks, Pakistan has always proclaimed a Kashmir first policy and maintained that Indian transgression against Kashmiris was the main problem, while India states that cross-border terrorism from Pakistan into J&K is the primary issue. The facts are simple: both Pakistan and India have exacerbated the Kashmir situation since its inception.

Without going into too much history, the Kashmiri people in J&K never felt integrated with India despite the state being given semi-autonomy. Due to Delhi’s manoeuvring around the plebiscite issue, its meddling in J&K elections, and Kashmir becoming a mock-democracy, the people had enough. In 1987, things escalated – the Kashmiris came out to protest against India, and soon after an insurgency began.

This insurgency was a product of both Indian miscalculations and Pakistan’s support to Kashmiri (and foreign) militants. Eventually, Indian counter-terrorism and slipups by Pakistan caused the movement to simmer down (the Kashmiri grievances were still present but violence faltered). In 2004, President Musharraf ended support to the militants due to international pressure after 9/11.

The modern-day Kashmiri struggle is primarily a product of India. India’s human rights record in Kashmir has always been ghastly – 100,000 Kashmiris killed since 1990 – but since BJP has begun its Hindutva agenda, things have begun worsening yet again. Draconian laws such as the Armed Forces (special protection) Act (AFSPA) are still enforced in the region despite there being a plethora of international calls for its elimination.

The AFSPA gives widespread powers to military personnel and police such as shoot to kill, right to arrest without a warrant, right to raid houses, and it also grants security forces impunity from civilian prosecution. Modi’s intentions seemed clear when he nominated a controversial far-right politician to become an M.P. – Dr.Swamy has made his disdain for Muslims very transparent – in 2017 he tweeted that Kashmir should be “depopulated” of its Muslims who should be sent to south India as refugees. In July 2016, mass protests erupted due to the killing of a popular militant commander, Burhan Wani, by Indian forces. In response to the protests, the Indian security forces killed over 90 Kashmiris and put Kashmir into one of the longest curfews in its history.

Analysts like Joanna Slater highlight that today the militancy in Kashmir is “smaller and less deadly than at the insurgency’s peak in the late 1990s and early 2000s.” Scholars like Simple Mohanty caution that if the Indian government continues its political-military status quo, the current Kashmiri protests have a real danger of escalating into an armed militancy.

Adding fuel to the fire, the BJP government abrogated Article 370 and 35a of the Indian constitution that gave a degree of autonomy to J&K. Modi has also shut off internet services intermittently so that civilians cannot communicate to the rest of the world. In fact, right after the abrogation, India enforced a curfew that has been ongoing for 400 plus days.

India’s steely response has driven away even moderate Kashmiris – soldiers barge into homes, cut off roads, use live ammunition when protests erupt, kill or blind innocents including children. In 2018, the United Nations accused the Indian government of using excessive force in Kashmir since 2016 and called for an international inquiry into human rights violations. Kashmiri women, too, are a major casualty of the conflict in the valley – they have to face harassment almost every day and are often the victims of rape at the hands of the Indian security personnel.

Many human rights groups have also lambasted the Indian government for not giving them permission to investigate the human rights violations being conducted. India continues to blame Pakistan for its involvement but international commentators agree that Pakistan’s military support has dropped down significantly – Pakistan has increased its diplomatic support, however, under Imran Khan.

Jeffery Gettleman, the South Asia bureau chief for the New York Times notes that where once, years ago, Pakistan supported militancy in J&K, “Now, the resistance is overwhelmingly homegrown,”. “Homegrown,” he clarifies, means that the Kashmiri conflict is today shaped by “internal Indian politics, which have increasingly taken an anti-Muslim direction,” rather than by geopolitics.

There have been several vicissitudes to the Kashmiri freedom movement, but the one today is characterized by stone-pelting Kashmiri youths than by armed men – however, things could be headed to militancy again due to unabated Indian transgressions.


There is no love lost between both countries and more oft than not there appear to be attempts from one side to malign the other – for example, quite recently the EU DisinfoLab uncovered a massive Indian disinformation campaign against Pakistan titled “Indian Chronicles”. However, there exist opportunities that can be leveraged to improve bilateral relations

Most of these opportunities are economy centric as economic interdependence initially between both countries can eventually lead to amicable cultural and political ties. Pakistan and India are strong regional powers, but currently, in terms of economic development and strength, there is a huge mismatch.

Pakistan’s economy is the 23rd largest in the world in terms of purchasing power parity but citing the untapped potential (human resources and otherwise), it should be much sturdier than this. Due to mismanagement of funds, corruption, and political and security instability, the true potential of the economy has not nearly been achieved.

The dollar, at the time of writing this paper, is placed at 161 rupees. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan had pledged to solve the economic crisis of the country but things could be much better. According to the Asian Development Bank, Pakistan’s GDP is expected to contract by 0.4% in 2020 and grow by 2.0% in 2021. Since Imran Khan’s arrival and the coronavirus crisis, inflation has risen to 9%.

Pakistan needs to initiate economic reforms, exploit the abundance of natural resources and industrialize its economy among other things to improve its economy and tackle unemployment. Since, the country is in an economic crisis, economically collaborating with neighbour and rival India should be considered as a viable option.

Conversely, India had been much better economically than Pakistan and was one of the fastest-growing economies globally until some bad economic policies and the coronavirus ravaged the country in 2020. India is the third-largest economy by purchasing power parity and the sixth-largest in terms of nominal gross domestic product.

One of the primary reasons Modi was elected was due to his promise of economic development and job creation for India specifically its youth. The ABD forecasts that the economy will contract by a whopping 9% in 2020 and will grow by 8% in 2021.India’s annual consumer price inflation in September 2020 was 7.34%.

Both countries have suffered due to the coronavirus but India has deeper wounds due to it having the second-highest number of cases after America. Since both countries require an economic uplift more than ever, working together economically (in the very least) is necessary. However, again to reiterate, the paper does not see any kind of cooperation to take place.


The paper opines that trade could be of utmost significance for both nations’ rapprochement.  Unfortunately, in August of 2019, trade was formally suspended by Pakistan when India revoked Article 370 and 35a. Even prior to this, the potential for trade was never realized. Although improvements in recent years had been made, much more can be achieved in today’s age of globalization.

Unfortunately, even when trade was ongoing, high tariff and non-tariff barriers owing to political chasms severely hindered it. Two primary reasons why trade has suffered is due to Pakistan’s refusal to grant India most favoured nation (MFN) status and India’s denial to eliminate non-tariff barriers on Pakistani goods.

Granting MFN status to a country means that the grantor country promises the grantee country lower tariffs or high import quotas – all for the sake of better trade. Although free trade initiatives like the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) exist under the aegis of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), tradecan hardly be defined as “free and fair”.

The chief reason for the inefficacious implementation of SAFTA and other trade agreements is owed to the distraught relations between the antagonistic neighbours. According to the 2016-2017Annual Report of the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Pakistan and India’s total trade was around $2.61 billion in 2015-2016. This figure has burgeoned lavishly since 2003-04 when it was an inadequate $345 million.

The trade balance between both countries has been predominantly in India’s favour, with its exports to Pakistan totalling $2.17 billion while Indian imports from Pakistan only valuing $441 million in 2015-2016. However, according to the former governor State Bank of Pakistan, Ishrat Hussain, this trade deficit should not hamper the trading relations between Pakistan and India, as it is a win-win situation.

Pakistan and Indian trade occurs on an official (now suspended), indirect, and illegal level. Trade through authentic channels is official trade. Trade that takes place through other countries such as UAE, Singapore, Iran, etcetera is referred to as indirect and amounts to around $2 billion. Both countries should seek to minimize indirect trade and endeavour to achieve cost-effectiveness by trading directly with each other.

Illegal trade, lastly, consists of the goods smuggled through mostly the land border. Trade has also historically fallen victim to both countries’ use of positive, negative, and sensitive lists which dictates what can and cannot be traded. The trade potential of both countries is somewhere around $10.9 billion with export potential being $7.9 billion while the potential of imports accounts for $3 billion.

Others suggest even larger figures –Ajay Bisaria, former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, mentioned that through the stabilising of relations, elimination of non-tariff barriers, and liberalisation o fthe visa regime,trade can rise to a massive $30 billion. The negative list of Pakistan is made up of 1,209 items predominantly from the electrical machinery, automobile, pharmaceuticals, steel, and textiles sector.

Pakistan’s negative list aims to shield its auto-component and automobile industry from Indian imports (Taneja et al, 2013). Scholars retort Pakistan’s apprehensions by highlighting that the country can benefit from inexpensive automobile imports from India – a more cost-effective alternative juxtaposed to the pricier imports Pakistan receives from Japan and Thailand. India on the other hand endeavours to protect its textile and clothing industry. India places high tariffs and duties on ready-made goods to protect its domestic industry.

While India is trepidatious that Pakistan’s strong yarn and fabric manufacturing industry will undermine its small to medium scale sector, in reality, imports from Pakistan are more likely to contend with the mill sector rather than the power loom sector in India – therefore there is no justification to guard the larger companies against imports. 

The positive list approach is muddled with misgivings, lacks transparency for traders, and not to mention leads to high transaction costs. The authors also note that minimizing NTBs and granting MFN status will boost market access for both countries. Trade liberalization of other items would also be beneficial for both countries.

India exports numerous goods that Pakistan exports from countries further off such as tea, electrical generating sets, sugar, petroleum products, etcetera, hence Pakistan can reduce transportation costs and save money if it begins importing these goods from India. Likewise, Pakistan can export surgical instruments, cement, wheat, sports goods etcetera to India which the latter relies on other countries for – this would be more inexpensive for India to import and a boon for Pakistan’s exports.

Pakistan-India trade is also massively inhibited by subpar transport and infrastructure facilities. Due to the political environment of Pakistan and India, rail and air travel has always been subject to disparities while roads are not only limited but underdeveloped. Although new facilities were added for cross-border road transport, the land infrastructure leaves much to be desired.

The Attari-Wagah border in Punjab is the only operational land route between both countries (not including Kashmir) used for trade and tourism. The facilities at Attari-Wagah are underwhelming vis-à-vis the storage, handling, and clearing of goods, especially perishable ones. Due to manual security checks, it is tedious and time-intensive to load and unload goods.

Despite launching an Integrated Checkpost (ICP) in 2012 at Attari-Wagah, which included parking space, CCTV cameras, a separate trade gate for cargo trucks, and dedicated cargo storage, the trade facilities still remained relatively manual and time-consuming. A lot of the trade is also time-consuming due to security concerns on both sides of the border. Both countries, especially due to their egregious history, remain fearful of narcotics, weapons, ammunition etcetera entering from the other side.

Security agencies in Pakistan and India are therefore cynical of opening the border completely for trading and tourism. For years, businessmen from Pakistan and India alike have pressured their respective administrations to expand trading relations and reduce border disruptions that range from harassment by security forces to bureaucratic inhibitions. In the aftermath of 9/11, the debate on balancing security and trade became prominent.

Innovative mechanisms were adopted to not only maintain security but also keep a steady trade flow going. Despite being an arduous challenge, this has been undertaken by various nations commendably. Pakistan and India should learn from the international community and set up a more automated and effective border system that balances trade with security. For example, despite being strong trading partners, America has been weary of narcotics coming in from Mexico.

The delays in clearing freight-carrying trucks across the U.S-Mexico border cost both countries around 51,000 jobs and around $6 billion in 2005. In response to this, both the American and Mexican governments initiated the Unified Cargo Processing (UCP) program. The UCPprogram has proven successful in different parts of the America-Mexico border as waiting times have contracted as much as 85%.

The UCP program ensures that both American and Mexican staff jointly inspect cargo – therefore dual checks on each side of the border are removed. Furthermore, automation mechanisms such as gamma-ray truck scanners, weighbridges, X-ray scanners, surveillance systems, and the latest computers are of the utmost importance. The Ugandan government purchased cargo scanners valued at around 1.5 billion Ugandan Shillings to negate manual checking at the border.

Companies such as Cotecna have worked with many governments to supply, finance, install, operate, and even maintain an integrated border system based on cargo scanning technologies. Security dilemmas stretching from threats to genuine attacks in Pakistan and India have ignominiously dented the trading partnership.

Both countries should take inspiration from the aforementioned trading innovations as well as others and augment trade while not compromising upon security. India, in 2018,decided to add full-body truck scanners to the Attari ICP and replace vintage cameras with advanced CCTV ones. This was a great endeavour; however, a coordinated effort into improving both sides of the Attari-Wagah border would be more advantageous.

Pakistan and India should mutually decide on border requirements and implement these in a coordinated fashion – similar to how both countries incepted the ICP in 2012. Both countries should also enforce strict fines on smuggling and other illegal activities on the border. Lastly, Kashmir, both Azad Kashmir in Pakistan and Jammu & Kashmir in India, must not feel eclipsed.

Unfortunately, currently, intra-LOC trade is closed due to political tensions and the coronavirus.In 2008, both countries agreed to one of the biggest CBMs i.e. the inception of the intra-LoC trade through the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot routes.There are only 21 permissible items that can be traded. There are trade facilitation centres (TFCs) on both sides with trade officers present for regulation purposes.

The intra-LoC trade has remained resilient for the most part despite border escalations; however, trade at times is interjected due to a myriad of ceasefire violations on the Poonch-Rawalakot route. Agricultural products, shawls, spices, and so on are primarily traded. The intra-LoC trade is a great endeavour as it aids the economy and development of the Kashmir region – not to mention has led to greater people-to-people contact across the border.

It is projected that around $211 million has been traded from October 2008 until December 2011 across the LoC. Intra-LoC trade follows a barter system and has zero tariffs applied to them. Despite the promising start of intra-LoC trade, there is much room for improvement; if certain inhibitions were removed, it would advantage the Kashmiri people and region noticeably.

Traders have incessantly cited some severe qualms regarding intra-LoC trade and have threatened to stop trading if these concerns were not alleviated. Firstly, communication links between traders on both sides must be started – currently, they cannot call each other. Due to security concerns, India has disallowed the international direct dialling system from J&K to any part of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir. It is also not possible for the traders to meet their counterparts across the LoC.

Secondly, akin to the inadequate trading services on the Attari-Wagah border, the TFCs on both sides of the LoC suffer the same fate. Manual systems and massive security checks waste the time of traders and undermine trading flows. The use of X-ray cargo (truck) scanners has been suggested by traders. Furthermore, cold storage and generally improved storage for goods need to be provided since most of the goods are perishable such as vegetables and fruits.

Thirdly, traders have also desired more items to be allowed to be traded. The annual potential trade volume across the LoC is estimated to be around $974 million – unfortunately, trading volumes in the past do not even come close to this figure. Fourthly, establishing banking and financial channels and discounting the barter system is necessary to improve trade.

Currently, no banking system has been provided and no decision has been made regarding the currency to be used for trade. Traders cited this issue as one of the direst in need of resolution.

The paper will continue in part 2 and part 3.

Sarmad Ishfaq works as a research fellow for the Lahore Centre for Peace Research. He completed his Masters in International Studies and graduated as the 'Top Graduate' from the University of Wollongong in Dubai. He has several publications in peer-reviewed journals and magazines in the areas of counter-terrorism/terrorism and the geopolitics of South Asia and the GCC.

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South Asia

The Taliban Are Back — And Its Fine



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.


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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South Asia

Examining the impacts of Globalization: A Case study of Afghanistan



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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South Asia

Why France holds the key to India’s Multilateral Ambitions



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Authors: Prof. Nidhi Piplani Kapur and K.A. Dhananjay

As Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla pitches for permanent membership and reforms at the United Nations (UN), India’s prowess in multilateral diplomacy is tested. Against this backdrop, allies and partners who intend to support India become a critical factor not only to its UN ambitions; but also, areas where India’s multilateral interests are emerging – namely in the European Union (EU) and Indo-Pacific Region. In this regard, India’s multilateral goals are threefold–securing a permanent membership at the UN, enhanced multilateral trade relations with the EU, and enlarged capacity-building in the Indo-Pacific. Yet, for realizing its multilateral endeavours, India’s age-old relationship with France remains the key.

Since the signing of the Strategic Partnership with India in 1998, France has played an enormous role in supporting Indian interests. Whether it is backing India’s stance on Kashmir, collaborating in defence and space, or even pledging solidarity in fighting the second wave of the pandemic, France has assisted India in its strategic and societal causes. Therefore, being a reliable and strategic ally, France is a perfect guide for India in the aforesaid multilateral pursuits primarily because of its credentials as a permanent member in the UN, founding member of the EU, and in recent times, an emerging power in the Indo-Pacific region too.

UN Reforms and Permanent Membership

Ever since India was elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2020, it has constantly batted for organizational reforms within the UN. As India puts it – ‘reformed multilateralism’ is in the need of the hour. It is a fact that the UN is currently beleaguered by an unevenly poised multilateral system, mainly wedged between the politics of the United States, Russia, and China, and hence is proving antithetical to the organisation’s legitimacy and purpose per se. Besides, with China reportedly making inroads within the UN system, India’s call for reforms underpins its cause to arrest Beijing’s influence that could otherwise prove costly to its strategic interests, including territorial disputes along the Line of Actual Control.

At the UN, France has endorsed India’s bid to overhaul the Security Council on numerous occasions. Currently, France and India are presiding over the Security Council in successive terms for July and August respectively. While India has signalled to make ‘best’ efforts to reform the UN during its short stint at the Security Council, France has already called for negotiations with India to explore and expedite the reformation it proposes. Whatever may be the challenges, France provides elbow room for India to set the ball rolling.

Brokering the India-EU FTA

The EU has been an important multilateral partner for India via trade and strategic relations. Post the EU-India virtual summit in May, an event that drew participation from leaders of all the 27 EU member states, there has been a lot of talk on India’s burgeoning importance in Europe. The summit was a positive outcome for India, as negotiations for the long-pending Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU were set to restart after a gap of 8 years. Notably, FTA talks with India come at a time when the highly debated EU-China trade deal was frozen by the European Parliament owing to ‘tit-for-tat’ sanctions surrounding China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

For India, the FTA is a watershed for extending multilateral relations with the European continent and an opportunity to consider an alternative to futile Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations. Though the FTA might look vibrant and dynamic, the EU considers India’s policy on market access, intellectual property, and data security unfavourable to pursue a free trade agreement. These issues may not be easy to forego, especially given the socio-economic conditions induced by the pandemic; but there comes the French angle to the discussion.

In the EU, France was one of the main proponents for resuming FTA negotiations with India. Since France has a significant foothold in the EU and a long-standing relationship with India, it has the tenacity to cement the middle ground while both parties deliberate on the FTA. This way, both India and the EU’s interests are not shredded, and if the FTA becomes a reality, France gets to keep the legacy of brokering an otherwise impossible landmark deal.

Enlarged Indo-Pacific Cooperation

The rise of China and the consequent formation of the QUAD has put the Indo-Pacific region in the global geopolitical landscape. The Indo-Pacific is at the centre of India’s strategic and territorial interests. As a prominent state in the region, India pursues a strategy that counters China’s dominance and expands its outreach in the Indo-Pacific. Seeing the political circumstances in the Indo-Pacific, France has also shown a keen interest in exploring its prospects in the region.

From securing membership at the Indian Ocean Rim Association to participating in strategic engagements such as the Australia-India-France Trilateral Dialogue and the QUAD-Plus network, France is gradually expanding its footprint in the Indo-Pacific. Not to forget, through 4 overseas territories, France also has a regional presence in the Indo-Pacific. With the EU also launching its Indo-Pacific strategy, France naturally has a tactical advantage to even pilot European interests in the region.

Ergo, French entry in the Indo-Pacific is good news for India because now it has more partners to restrict China. As a result, multilateral capacity-building and maritime domain awareness operations in the Indo-Pacific look at a major facelift in ensuring maritime security, freedom of navigation, and most importantly – restrict Chinese expansionism. Given the French factor, enlarged Indo-Pacific cooperation is beneficial for India to rise as a pivot as well as keep an eye on China’s incessant effrontery in the region.

Based on what France brings to the table, India is looking at a friend whose promising rapport provides a new prism for its multilateral aspirations. Albeit, the judicial probe ordered on the Rafale deal in France might cause light tremors in Indo-French relations and may also spill out a political limbo. It is a headache for both Paris and New Delhi to eschew, and hopefully, they could steer it in a way mutual interests do not succumb to the looming uncertainty.

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