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It's 2014. Afghanistan's biggest watershed since 2001, the year the war on terror began, is upon it. American forces are in the middle of a pullout that is likely to result in a much smaller US military foorprint after this year. On the face of it, the stage is set for India-a regional power with global aspirations-to rise to the occasion, bank on its goodwill, and help re It's 2014. Afghanistan's biggest watershed since 2001, the year the war on terror began, is upon it. American forces are in the middle of a pullout that is likely to result in a much smaller US military foorprint after this year. On the face of it, the stage is set for India-a regional power with global aspirations-to rise to the occasion, bank on its goodwill, and help rebuild the nation. But presented with a golden opportunity, India has been found wanting. This book examines the changing trajectory of Indian policy owards Afghanistan and argues that New Delhi has been responding to a strategic environment shaped by other actors, without developing an autonomous posture. By refusing to be proactive, India has lost the initiative and done some long-term damage to its vital interests, the least of which is gaining access to the energy-rich central Asian region while the biggest is to foil Pakistan and the Taliban's designs of once again rising to prominence in Afghanistan. The way in which India's foreign policy shapes up this year-or if it does at all-will determine the consequences for Indian security once Western forces depart. As Afghanistan braces for the most important year in its political history since 2001, India's Afghan Muddle sets the terms for the debate on why 2014 is no less important for India as well.


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It's 2014. Afghanistan's biggest watershed since 2001, the year the war on terror began, is upon it. American forces are in the middle of a pullout that is likely to result in a much smaller US military foorprint after this year. On the face of it, the stage is set for India-a regional power with global aspirations-to rise to the occasion, bank on its goodwill, and help re It's 2014. Afghanistan's biggest watershed since 2001, the year the war on terror began, is upon it. American forces are in the middle of a pullout that is likely to result in a much smaller US military foorprint after this year. On the face of it, the stage is set for India-a regional power with global aspirations-to rise to the occasion, bank on its goodwill, and help rebuild the nation. But presented with a golden opportunity, India has been found wanting. This book examines the changing trajectory of Indian policy owards Afghanistan and argues that New Delhi has been responding to a strategic environment shaped by other actors, without developing an autonomous posture. By refusing to be proactive, India has lost the initiative and done some long-term damage to its vital interests, the least of which is gaining access to the energy-rich central Asian region while the biggest is to foil Pakistan and the Taliban's designs of once again rising to prominence in Afghanistan. The way in which India's foreign policy shapes up this year-or if it does at all-will determine the consequences for Indian security once Western forces depart. As Afghanistan braces for the most important year in its political history since 2001, India's Afghan Muddle sets the terms for the debate on why 2014 is no less important for India as well.

36 review for India's Afghan Muddle

  1. 4 out of 5

    Pranay Kotasthane

    My review for The Business Standard (Oct 22, 2014) India's Afghan Muddle is set against the backdrop of the imminent withdrawal of United States forces in Afghanistan and attempts to highlight India's options in the emergent geopolitical scenarios in the region. The author, a professor of international relations at King's College London, has been a long-time observer of South Asian politics and security issues. In this work, Mr Pant has relied on news reports and independent analyses, from India My review for The Business Standard (Oct 22, 2014) India's Afghan Muddle is set against the backdrop of the imminent withdrawal of United States forces in Afghanistan and attempts to highlight India's options in the emergent geopolitical scenarios in the region. The author, a professor of international relations at King's College London, has been a long-time observer of South Asian politics and security issues. In this work, Mr Pant has relied on news reports and independent analyses, from India and elsewhere, to construct an Indian narrative on the Afghanistan imbroglio. The objective of this work is threefold. First, the author draws attention to the urgency of the situation. He makes a case for India playing a proactive role in Afghanistan considering that a power vacuum will embolden forces that will inflict great damage to the Indian national interest. The second objective is to review the trajectory of India's Afghanistan policy to demonstrate how "India has largely been reactive in a strategic environment shaped by other actors". The third objective is to give a lowdown on the regional players and their conflicting interests, which make this challenge a seemingly insurmountable one. India's Afghan Muddle begins by outlining India's core interests in a safe and stable Afghanistan. Scarred by experiences with a hostile Taliban regime, India has concentrated its energies on blocking the re-entry of the proxies of the Pakistani military-jihadi complex. It is clear to India that a radical Islamist regime backed by Pakistan is sure to cause a spillover of such elements into India. While Pakistan continues to push the Haqqani network back into Afghanistan under the garb of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, India's core interest lies in developing effective resistance to such radical forces. Other Indian interests include the possibility of making Afghanistan a "land bridge" to Central Asia and acting in a manner that befits a regional power. Next, the book looks at India's role since the fall of Taliban in three phases. In the first phase, India acted as a support provider that tried to build the institutional capacities of a war-ravaged state, involving itself mainly in "brick-and-mortar" engagements. The second phase witnessed a dip in India's fortunes as a growing footprint of Pakistan's proxies began attacking various symbols of Indian presence in the country. This phase also witnessed a decline in India's geopolitical footprint even as the United States partnered with Pakistan in the Global War on Terrorism. India's inability to protect its own interests in this phase sparked a fear even amidst the co-operative forces in Afghanistan. India's position was undermined as a perception gained ground that a nation that cannot uphold its own interests cannot be banked on to do the same for others. Consequently, India's policymakers had to acknowledge that an improved on-ground security situation was a pre-condition for protection of all the other interests. The third phase saw the Indian state clawing back in the aftermath of changing geopolitical equations arising from the death of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad. This event made United States perceive Pakistan as a part of the problem rather than a solution, opening up opportunities for India. India forged a security partnership with Kabul and started playing a greater role in equipping the nascent Afghan armed forces. Instead of supplying arms to Afghanistan, India financed the arms bought from Russia. India also aligned with Iran, particularly in sharing intelligence. The most interesting section in the book is the one that presents the strategic interests of all the players in the region. It immediately becomes clear to the reader that in this maze, each agent is pursuing orthogonal or even opposing goals. While Iran's primary objective in Afghanistan has been the reduction of the United States' footprint, Pakistan continues to see Afghanistan in pursuit of "strategic depth". On the other hand, China has preferred to take a back seat, getting involved only in a few copper mining investments. Then there's Russia, which seeks to rebalance power in Central Asia. Despite these disparate goals, the future will broadly be determined as a contest between two alliances that have diametrically opposite interests in the region - the Saudi-Pak-China combine and the India-Iran-Russia alliance. The last chapter surveys India's options and this section appears undercooked. It is not clear whether the author's definition of a proactive India also includes stationing of Indian forces in Afghanistan. The maximum and minimum bounds of what constitutes an effective strategy for India are not explored. Mr Pant makes a point that managing Pakistan will be the most important factor in determining the stability of Afghanistan. However, considering that the military-jihadi complex continues to call the shots in that country, how such a nexus can be dismantled through endogenous or exogenous changes is not explored in sufficient detail. India's Afghan Muddle is an excellent summary of the Afghan situation seen from an authentic Indian strategic perspective. The author attempts to reignite the debate of India's future role in a changed Afghanistan. With recent changes at the helm in both the countries, the arguments presented in the book couldn't have come at a more appropriate time.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Shrikant Dalvi

    Following is My Analysis after Reading this wonderful book Afghanistan War and possible formations to curb the Terrorist Corruption. What does the war and skirmishes in the Middle Eastern countries (Afghanistan-Iran-Iraq) have to do with us ? If this is what our constant question is and what our frequent answer is then we must better get into the depths, for refusal to such questions may lead us into darkness. Afghanistan, 'the graveyard of empires' as it is rightly called, is in turmoil since many Following is My Analysis after Reading this wonderful book Afghanistan War and possible formations to curb the Terrorist Corruption. What does the war and skirmishes in the Middle Eastern countries (Afghanistan-Iran-Iraq) have to do with us ? If this is what our constant question is and what our frequent answer is then we must better get into the depths, for refusal to such questions may lead us into darkness. Afghanistan, 'the graveyard of empires' as it is rightly called, is in turmoil since many centuries. This region with the abundance of Energy resources is seen to be of strategic importance to many countries including India, US, Pakistan, Iran, Russia and China to some extent. After 9/11, followed by US and west's Afghan war since 2001, Afghanistan has been unstable and is continuously heading towards Pakistan exported Islamic Extremism. Taliban and it's terrorist wing, Al Qaeda had the upperhand in Afganistan from 1994-2001, is now working under the shadows along Af-Pak border. Pakistan with it's anti-India centric foreign policy, is more assertive on it's eastern border than that of it's west. Al Qaeda and its affiliates, the Pakistani army brewed Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba are playing a 'waiting game' to regain the hold in Afghanistan following the complete departure of US troops in 2016. US assistance of $1.5 bn to Pakistan for bringing about stability in Af-Pak region has backfired and has been diverted to Al-Qaeda and its wings by Pakistani Army and ISI. Pakistan wants to have a strategic hold over Afghanistan and wants it to remain as the favourable hinterland for Pak. This is seen as an assertive step by Iran who will not tolerate Pak influence in it's neighbourhood. The US withdrawal is detrimental to India's security. Despite of recognising Pak as the part of the Afghan problem, US is still thinking as Pak to be the central player in calming Taliban while India is been looked onto as part of the problem by the West (considering Kashmir to be the flashpoint and the main reason for Pak activities). India's 'Soft Power' through the developmental work in Afghanistan has instated the confidence in Afghani people. They see India as a natural ally who can bring about peace and stability in the region. The prolonged negligence of India as a central player and a solution to the Afghan problem by the West has played into the Pakistani led Haqqani network and LeT's advantage. Haqqanis and the LeT has constantly tried to thwart India's developmental work in Afghanistan (Indian embassies at Jalalabad attacked in 2013, at Herat in May 2014 and now Indian built Afghan Parliament Building). The Quetta Shura, Taliban's War Council, has used Pakistani sponsored safehouses to continue their 'Napak' activities. The West has been thinking Kashmir to be the major flashpoint that is letting Pakistan to focus more on its eastern border rather than the western to solve the Afghan problem. Strategic thinkers from Washington and London are thinking India to be the main part of the problem. There has been talks to bring the 'Good Taliban' to the negotiating table by the West excluding India. If final solution is been reached through talks with the so called 'Good Taliban', Afghanistan might end up falling into the hands of Extremist Taliban. India's reluctance to help Afghanistan with the 'Wanted List of Military Equipments' is too much for India. But India must address this by supplying and training Afghan Security forces to guard their own backyards otherwise Afghanistan might play into the hands of Extremists backed by Pakistani elements. All of this is changing since US killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan's backyard. Though there are diverse views about US not intimating it's old friend, Pakistan in Operation Neptune Spear, there friendship has taken a backseat. US now views India as a potential power that can settle Afghan problem. Recent visits by US Secretary of State to India post Abbottabad operation signifies the importance that India holds in the eyes of the West. Iran looking forward with it's Civil Nuclear deal with P5+1, if it can keep it's word may get assistance. If Russia can settle it's home issues with Ukraine and gain back the West's trust then it may help with the formation of India-Russia-Iran-US front to settle Afghan problem. (The reason for excluding China into this equation is obvious, for its obnoxious decision and stubbornness on not adding terrorists into the most wanted list and India has been kept far away from Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.) As Alexis de Tocqueville, the french political thinker says "When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in Darkness". Indian policymakers must learn from the past and shape the dynamic future of Afghanistan and the region for Everlasting Peace and Stability.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kumar Anshul

    This book was written in 2014, when US finally withdrew all its troops from Afghanistan seriously endangering the security of the region. The author Harsh V Pant, who is a Professor of International Relations at King's college London has done a commendable job at carefully speculating and putting down that what a vulnerable and Taliban-threatened Afghanistan means for India and its security. The book focusses on Indian interests in Afghanistan and the security vacuum that had been created post Am This book was written in 2014, when US finally withdrew all its troops from Afghanistan seriously endangering the security of the region. The author Harsh V Pant, who is a Professor of International Relations at King's college London has done a commendable job at carefully speculating and putting down that what a vulnerable and Taliban-threatened Afghanistan means for India and its security. The book focusses on Indian interests in Afghanistan and the security vacuum that had been created post America's withdrawal of troops, giving Taliban another chance to enter and wreak havoc in the country thus compromising the security of Indian Subcontinent. The book also boldly concludes that how Pakistan, with its weak civilian government overpowered by the rogue military and intelligence, is the real culprit and how it has supported insurgents and Taliban in Afghanistan since ages and how it can be extremely disastrous for India if these forces again gain power. At the end, the author put forwards his fears about the lack of a strong Indian foreign policy with Afghanistan and suggest some remedies to ensure the safety and security of India. This was my first book on Geopolitics and International Relations so undoubtedly it was a difficult read. But if not anything else, this book gave me a fair insight about how just a Geographical location of a country can be of a strong strategic importance for her and how the security and stability of that country can have direct effects on all her neighbors. An enlightening read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ashutosh Chauhan

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

  6. 4 out of 5

    nmansur

  7. 4 out of 5

    Krish Gopal

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rakesh Kalani

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ram Krishnan

  10. 5 out of 5

    Muhammad Waqar

  11. 4 out of 5

    Muhammad Waqar

  12. 5 out of 5

    Suyog Dalal

  13. 5 out of 5

    Afroz Khan

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sanjeev Mishra

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mahesh

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kunal Singh

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bharat

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gagan Shergarh

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mohan Lal

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bhartendu

  21. 5 out of 5

    Suvendhu Patra

  22. 4 out of 5

    Laxmi Pavana

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tofayel Ahmed

  24. 5 out of 5

    Hifza

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dar Shakoor

  26. 5 out of 5

    Naqeeb Khattak

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dimpu Sushant

  28. 5 out of 5

    Prateek

  29. 5 out of 5

    Umika

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mayank Malviya

  31. 5 out of 5

    Rahini Takalkar

  32. 5 out of 5

    Amber Ather

  33. 5 out of 5

    Deepali Gupta

  34. 4 out of 5

    Anamika

  35. 5 out of 5

    Priya Basumatary

  36. 5 out of 5

    Smaran Kapoor

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