Geopolitics is as much about national interests as it is about balance of power.
America after Osama Bin Laden is nearing its final act in its South Asia engagement. The mop up operation has begun, blood, sweat and all. Secretary Geithner (together with the Federal Reserve’s Donald Kohn) and President Obama, in that order, had visited India to talk economics. The CIA and the Navy Seals then visited Abbottabad to kill Bin Laden. This is a good sign for both Pakistan and India while the United States is contemplating its disengagement.
As a rising power America is appearing to be expecting India to play its part in the region to resolve the Afghan conflict. India’s historical border until 1947 from around 300 B.C.E had extended to the edge of Afghanistan. And so had India’s national interest till today.
The Cold War conflict in Afghanistan that has changed hands from one empire to another, having ended the former Soviet Union and threatening to possibly end America’s post-Cold War domination of the world, must be swiftly brought to a close by the United States or left to the fragile democracy of the post-Taliban Afghanistan even as the Taliban is resurgent across Afghanistan’s fuzzy border with a Pakistan where democracy is learning to once again assert itself as its military and intelligence are receding into their rightful place under the shadows of Iran and a transitioning Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
The winds in Washington are still blowing toward Beijing rather than toward achieving an economic balance of power in Eurasia, as if the United States would be, myopically, comfortable dealing with one Asian power rather than two at a time, embroiling the developing and erstwhile non-aligned India in a mess that was created by the Cold War to satisfy its itch of internationalizing the Kashmir conflict, an attempt India had resisted since 1947, to denuclearize Pakistan and India along with Iran, to maintain the UN-Perm 5 status quo, leaving China as the only Asian nuclear power. In that gambit, India would lose land to Pakistan if the United States and China get its way and Pakistan could be regionalized into MENA and the Islamic Central Asia.
If Afghanistan is abandoned, Pakistan may not be India’s burden, contrary to the expectations in Washington, for if Pakistan-Afghanistan becomes India’s yoke the intent behind America’s Indian economic diplomacy would be in question, setting back the thawing Indo-American relationship into a deep freeze once again, in favor of an assertive China in Asia, maintaining the status quo in Asia since Nixon and Kissinger.
India’s interests do not lie in abandoning what could become a rival sustainable development program to China in Asia to get entangled in Pakistan, unless Pakistan provokes India into a bi-lateral cross-border conflict which India has always won in its defense and can handily, swiftly and decisively win once again, despite a nuclear Pakistan.
India, a mature and stable democracy, which does not face the same political risks as China, does not need the United States to grow into a major global power because it can leverage the opportunity for the next industrial revolution which has the potential to level the playing field between the have and have-nots. Therefore, both to the chagrin and surprise of many, India’s and China’s competitive and cooperative relationship could become biased in favor of Asian stability, seeking balance of power rather than efforts to mutually marginalize each other in their desire to be in the good graces of the West. Nixon-Kissinger will no longer work given the large market for Russian and MENA natural resources in India and China in an emerging world that is yearning for a better life.
Ending the Taliban after Bin Laden could, therefore, end up entirely becoming the responsibility of the United States. It is in Pakistani president Mr. Asif Ali Zardari’s interest to cooperate with the United States to bring the Cold War saga to a close for both the United States and Pakistan to partake, in their own interests, in India’s sustainable emergence as China moves along, of its own accord, toward gradual political-economic liberalization.
Only then will have Washington worked together, between the National Economic Council (NEC) and the National Security Council (NSC).