India and Afghanistan: Positioning for Withdrawal
November 11, 2011
Today, with U.S. and NATO forces beginning their withdrawal from Afghanistan, the historical sequel to the Soviet Union’s 1989 withdrawal from the country is unfolding. The newest wrinkle in this story is that India is now actively involved and trying to position itself accordingly.
India is not alone. Just this past week, Turkey sponsored the “Security and Cooperation in the Heart of Asia” Conference in Istanbul, the first time all regional countries were brought together to address Afghanistan’s future. India joined Pakistan there (last year Pakistan blocked India’s attendance). Other participants included Iran, the Central Asian republics, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. was there as a “supporter” of the Istanbul Process.
With the Istanbul Conference now behind them, the regional states look toward the Bonn International Conference in December. As India and the other regional states contemplate the U.S. exit from Afghanistan, none should lose focus that the country will never be able to secure its territory and population without the active collaboration of its more powerful neighbors and near neighbors. The Istanbul Conference demonstrated that a critical mass of regional stakeholders, now including India, may be accruing in this regard.