Random Thoughts

The Afghanistanization of South, West & Central Asia

Imperial powers are well known for their divide and rule policies. Britain in acquiring and dissolving its empire split Iraq and Kuwait and created Jordan and Gulf kingdoms. It split the Pashtuns by the Durand line between India and Afghanistan and subsequently hived off the two wings of Pakistan from India. France divided Syria and Lebanon. Russia in its conquering phase took over Azerbaijan splitting Azerbaijanis between Iran and its conquests. It also acquired its Southern Muslim population of South Caucasus from the shrinking Turkic Ottoman empire. Its artificial boundaries between Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan left mixed populations in those republics amongst themselves and Afghanistan. The breakup of the Soviet Union left economic deprivation, autocratic and corrupt authoritarian rulers and rising Islamic insurgencies.

The US and Pakistan promoted, nurtured, financed and armed Islamic militants to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. Pakistan also applied the same strategy in Kashmir and Punjab against India. The US invasion of Iraq made the centuries old covert Sunni Shia schism into an overt festering wound. The US created demons of mujahideen and Al Qaeda were the match that detonated the Iraqi gunpowder piled up by the US. US support for Iranian regime change has worsened terrorism in Iranian provinces of Baluchistan, Kurdistan and Khuzistan. Now the US is facing a devastating, unwinnable and costly insurgency from its devil’s spawn.

It would be unfair to blame only the imperial powers. The military, autocratic as well as democratically elected governments of south, central and west Asia have implemented such corrupt, inept and foolish policies and indulged in neglect of the poor and minorities, while neighboring states have promoted or turned a blind eye towards terror. Pakistan’s use of the Taliban to gain strategic depth in Afghanistan and harass India, has now brought it to ruin as its terrorists have turned against the mother state. There are insurgencies in the provinces of Baluchistan, Northwest Frontier, FATA and even Sindh and Punjab.

Sri Lanka’s discriminatory economic and linguistic policies favoring the Sinhalese majority led to the Tamil insurgency, just overcome after decades at ruinous economic cost and persistent Tamil alienation. India initially looked on the Sri Lankan Tamil insurgency with benign neglect because of the ethnic ties of the Tamils to its own state of Tamilnadu. A foolish Rajiv Gandhi with delusions of grandeur sent in the Indian army as a police force and eventually paid the ultimate price due to a Tamil woman suicide bomber.

The Indian state with its shamelessly corrupt leaders and politicians and captured by vested interests to become a predator state, has been unable to provide public services, honest and good governance, healthcare, education, electricity, infrastructure and even safe potable water to nearly half its citizens. Thus insurgencies have occurred in the northeastern states, Punjab and Kashmir, fueled by Pakistan in the last two. Now it faces a Maoist insurgency in West Bengal, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, constituting nearly a third of its territory and half of its states and territories. In addition neighboring Nepal has been taken over by Maoists, China claims the state of Arunachal, Pakistan claims the state of Jammu Kashmir. Bangladesh supports Islamic extremism and illegal migration into India and faces inundation by rising seas due to global warming.

Myanmar is ruled by a military junta which imprisons its elected leader. It faces an insurgency at the Thai border and provides a refuge for Assamese ULFA fighting India. Thailand faces an Islamic insurgency in the South as do parts of Indonesia. Iran faces a Sunni Baluchi rebellion in the south and a Kurdish insurgency on the northwest along its border with Iraq. Even China has serious problems with Tibet and Sinkiang. High handed military suppression of deprived and backward minorities invariably inflames insurgencies when the government fails to fulfill its civic obligations.

It is worse when foreign troops unable to speak the local language, who do not know or respect the culture and customs of the local population and rule via puppets lusting for power and money, with the collaboration of warlords or drug barons. This is why additional thousands of American troops in Afghanistan without providing jobs and economic benefits or uprooting bribery and corruption by police and government officials, is destined to fail and will only add to loss of American blood and treasure. The American people facing unemployment, foreclosures and an economy lying flat on its back will not have the patience, perseverance or appetite for a decade of slugging it out in Afghanistan and India should think twice before adopting a policy of bombing insurgents by planes or drones.


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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