Pakistan and Afghanistan: The (In)Stability Factor in India's Neighbourhood?

Pakistan and Afghanistan: The (In)Stability Factor in India's Neighbourhood?

by Kingshuk Chatterjee (Editor)


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The present volume comes out of a conference held by the IFPS in collaboration with CPWAS at Calcutta University in March 2012. The volume comprises of eight essays highlighting on various approaches to the question of instability in India's western neighbourhood, and what it could mean for India. The issues covered include the domestic dynamics of Pakistan, Afghanistan, the extent to which these have a bearing on the foreign policy of the Government of India, and the economic and social cost extracted by the aura of instability that has come to characterise the neighbourhood.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9789381904626
Publisher: Sun Links Ltd
Publication date: 01/15/2013
Pages: 186
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.56(d)

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Pakistan and Afghanistan

The (in)stability Factor in India's Neighbourhood

By Kingshuk Chatterjee

KW Publishers Pvt Ltd

Copyright © 2013 Institute of Foreign Policy Studies (IFPS) and Centre for Pakistan and West Asian Studies (CPWAS)
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-93-81904-62-6



India's neighbourhood to the west, Pakistan and Afghanistan, can easily rank as one of the most volatile regions on the globe. Witnessing prolonged violence and instability for a little over three decades — ranging from two full scale foreign invasions and occupations to a civil war — Afghanistan virtually began to be seen by the international community as the epicentre of volatility in South and Central Asia, threatening to spill over its frontiers in almost all directions. In the course of the first decade of the 21st century, although many western observers began to argue that the epicentre was located on either side of the Durand Line, Pakistan was in as much danger of beginning to unravel as Afghanistan was, and the volatility in the region was much greater than it was previously suspected.

Observers and strategists based in India found some curious satisfaction in this I-told-you-so moment. India has long subscribed to the position that all volatility and instability in the region was squarely the responsibility of the trajectory of Pakistan's development since 1947, and what the Indian intelligentsia saw as a virtually inevitable slide towards Islamic radicalisation harvested in and exported from Pakistan. The consternation caused by the actual display of Islamic radicalism in action in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, followed by the murderous militancy of Islamists inside Pakistan, seemed to reinforce the worst auguries put forward by Indian scholars about the subversive nature of Pakistan.

Given India's experience of Pakistan's waging of proxy war first in Khalistan and then Kashmir fomenting fissiparous tendencies, it was perhaps not an altogether unreasonable appraisal of the issue. However, such essentialist understanding of the problem(s) cannot withstand the serious and hard questioning quite frequently put forward by specialists working on the region. Essentialism does not explain, for instance, why realism — considered a very important explanatory paradigm in the study of international relations — should stop at the frontiers of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Why would it appear to be more important for Islamabad that the regime in Kabul is Islamist than one which preserves order and stability after a period of foreign occupation and civil war? Or is it? Was the situation in Afghanistan wrecked by the 'tribal' character of the state? If so, would establishment of order necessitate 'detribalisation' of the state? How is that to be accomplished, if at all?

Even more significantly, the voices that emanate from the unstable neighbourhood itself also indicate a far more complex scenario than any essentialist reading would seem to put forward. If Islamist propensity is essential to the Pakistani psyche, why does it not afflict all the people of Pakistan? Does the appeal of Islamic radicalism run along tribal fault lines, and if so, why does it do so? If tribalism is intrinsic to Afghan society, could the international attempts at managing the situation be successful at all? Or would it require necessarily solutions that come up from the ground, rather than those imposed on the region from outside, by people who are not sensitive to the manner in which Afghanistan has evolved?

India cannot afford to neglect the matter of volatility in its neighbourhood, not simply because it involves its bête noire, Pakistan, but also because any long drawn conflict in the region could destabilise the larger neighbourhood in a way that would make its reverberations felt even in India. Indeed, India has been a victim of Pakistan's export of Islamic terrorism, and has been involved from quite an early date in trying to stabilise Afghanistan. Nevertheless, most of India's responses have often tended to be reactive, responding to situations that have already evolved rather than helping then to evolve. If a more durable solution has to be sought for the region, it requires to be continually assessed whether the region warrants greater and more sustained intervention. And for that, it is crucial for subtle and nuanced questions of the sort indicated above to be raised in a bid to understand the complexity of the situation that makes India's neighbourhood to the west as volatile and unstable as it actually is.

The Institute of Foreign Policy Studies, Calcutta University, has set itself the task of promoting better understanding of the contexts in which foreign policy is formulated, and means to feed into the academic and bureaucratic discourse that evolves on India's foreign policy. The Centre for Pakistan and West Asian Studies, by contrast, is essentially an Area Studies unit, meant to work towards the same objective as that of the IFPS. The present volume comes for all practical purposes out of a seminar held by the IFPS in collaboration with CPWAS at Calcutta University in March 2012. The volume comprises of eight essays, highlighting on various approaches to the question of instability in India's western neighbourhood, and what it could mean for India.

In the first paper, Shibasish Chatterjee and Shreya Maitra Roychoudhury examine the relevance of realism as an analytical paradigm to understand the War on Terror, which has heavily conditioned the trajectory of Pakistan and Afghanistan in the last decade. The paper argues that while realism can offer a cover for military intervention, it provides no explanation for the root conflict as yet. Against realism, 'securitisation' can be pitched as a superior theoretical explanation of the ensuing conflict in Afghanistan that now also involves Pakistan directly. Chatterjee and Maitra Roychoudhury argue that the conventional theoretical formulation of realism is inadequate in analysing multiple political entities operating at both international and sub-national levels. They recommend overcoming this inadequacy by introducing the dynamics of securitisation instead. They argue that the conflict needs be viewed primarily through the lenses of identity and security rather than the standard canons of realism.

Kingshuk Chatterjee's paper tries to attempt just such a synthesis, although not entirely following the theoretical model recommended in the first essay. Looking at the Pakistani entanglement in Afghanistan as a question not of identity heavily conditioned by the realist tools of analysis, the paper purports to raise a few questions about the nature and reason behind Pakistan's involvement in Afghanistan. Unlike most other commentaries on the matter, the paper aims to plot Pakistan's involvement in Afghanistan not merely as a factor of its strategic vision and foreign policy, but also to explore the extent these were occasioned by the dynamics of Pakistan's domestic situation. The paper means to cast doubt on the hope that the Afghanistan problem could be resolved simply by throwing more resources into the region, leaving untouched some of the core structural problems that have come to characterise it.

Binoda Kumar Mishra's essay is essentially from a hard realist position, looking at the extent to which Chinese involvement in Afghanistan and particularly its proximity to Pakistan has heavily vitiated the security landscape in the subcontinent. Mishra argues that Chinese diplomatic and material support for Islamabad is one of the principal factors encouraging Pakistani adventurism in China. He accounts for such risky behaviour on Chinese part not in terms of any attempt to cock the snook at India, rather in an endeavour to boost its own well-defined national interests of keeping India hemmed in. Mishra however goes on to argue, the strategic rationale has of late been supplemented by Chinese hunger for resources, which has taken it into Afghanistan, climbing on to the back of Pakistan. Most interestingly, he concludes that China might eventually have to rethink its policy lest the rise force of political Islam produces undesired outcomes in Xinjiang — something that might compel Beijing to help address the matter of instability in the neighbourhood.

Pramit Palchaudhuri's essay is meant to give a sense of the thinking in the Indian establishment on the question of Afghanistan. He contends that as Afghanistan was becoming Pakistan's quagmire, India gained a degree of leverage it had not had since 9/11. He moots the point that India has increasingly come to exploit the situation in Afghanistan to push forward its agenda regarding Pakistan. India, he suggests, has had a policy that has been 'AfPak' from the very beginning. Palchaudhuri identifies three distinct phases to India's policy to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2002. The first was defined by what was an effective military partnership with the US designed to overthrow the Taliban regime, reduce Pakistani influence in Afghanistan and undermine the use of Afghanistan as a base for terrorist activity against India. The second phase ran between 2008 and 2010 defined by Indian fears of a US military withdrawal from Afghanistan and the degree it would affect the security gains that New Delhi had harvested with the fall of the Taliban regime. The last phase resulted from the collapse of US-Pakistani strategic ties following the assassination of Al Qaeda leader and terrorist, Osama bin Laden, inside Pakistan. India came to accept that a US withdrawal would not be as sweeping as originally thought, that a Taliban takeover of Kabul was not imminent and the costs this would impose on Pakistan could be useful to India's own policies regarding Pakistan.

Arpita Basu Roy's essay deals with the manner in which Afghanistan's urban transition is precipitating a crisis in local governance. Against an analysis of peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction, the paper argues that Afghanistan's urban poor has little or no access to basic services and social infrastructure because of a result of limited resources, combined with the authorities' unwillingness and lack of capacity to serve effectively. It analyses situation in the different urban spaces in Afghanistan and shows that there are determinants that shape and differentiate the situations of the poor and the vulnerable. By interpreting the various vulnerabilities as human security threats, it shows how exclusion from basic services adversely affects the capacity of the urban poor to earn adequate income and acquire the necessary human assets to have quality of life. By highlighting the crises of urbanisation, the paper argues for democratic representation and efficient urban management.

The erection of a democratic apparatus in a semi-modern polity atop a traditional society, however, is not exactly a cakewalk. Structures of traditional society frequently impede the process of such an endeavour. Anwesha Ghosh's essay concerns itself with one of the mores of traditional society that might actually strengthen a modern democratic polity in Afghanistan. The paper aims to bring back into the discourse the factor of Pashtunwali — a system of values and rules of behaviour, which for a rather long time before (and after) the rise of Taliban has been an integral feature of the Pashtun way-of-life. The paper means to explore its significance in the present-day. Even today, it has arguably a substantial hold among the Pashtun majority provinces of Afghanistan and tribal areas on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line. The paper finally chooses to examine if it can play a role in the Afghan insurgency, as also the reconciliation efforts in contemporary Afghanistan.

The paper by Anindya Sengupta and Anshuman Tiwari takes an unusual approach to the issue of instability in subcontinent. They present a preliminary analysis of the damage caused by terrorism, a phenomenon that has become almost a part of the security scenario of the subcontinent. They examine the extent to which the South Asian experience could be analysed through methodology established in the West in a bid to understand the long run and more invisible costs extracted by uncertainty and insecurity both in the realms of economy, and secondarily also in issues pertaining to restrictions in the public space. The paper confines itself to study mostly the direct economic consequences of terrorism, and the extent to which changes are brought about in economic behaviour in a local or regional setting.

The final essay does not deal directly with the question of instability in India's neighbourhood. Swati Bakshi's essay deals instead with the impact on the Indian mentalite of this ever-increasing ambience of insecurity, through the case study of one particular matter in one particular medium — representation of Muslims as the unwitting 'other' in mainstream Bollywood films. Approaching the question from the stand point of culture of representation, Bakshi argues that the principal change in representation of the Muslims as an almost unconscious equation with Pakistani, Afghan or secessionist enemies of the Indian 'self'. Bakshi indicates that this depiction was largely at variance with the initial depiction of Muslims in Indian film as integral to the nation-building project. She marks 9/11 and the arrival of the War on terror in the Indian subcontinent as crucial milestones in this process.


Theorising the War on Terror: The Limits of Realism

Shibasish Chatterjee and Shreya Maitra Roychoudhury

Realism and the War on Terror

Why did the US and the West wage 'war on terror' in Afghanistan? Was their military action based on power calculations? This paper examines the relevance of realism, among conventional international relations theories, in seeking answers to these questions and explaining the conflict. The paper argues that while realism can offer a cover for military intervention, it provides no explanation for the root conflict. Against realism, 'securitisation' can be pitched as a superior theoretical explanation of the ensuing conflict in Afghanistan that now also involves Pakistan directly. It is, therefore, critical that we admit the theoretical limits of realism and pursue the dynamics of securitisation in this case. This paper submits that the conflict be viewed primarily through the lenses of identity rather than the standard canons of realism.

Realist theories explain state behaviour by power and/or security considerations within an anarchical environment either by invoking meta-psychological cognates or structural variables. The realist ontology is overwhelmingly pervaded by the state and fundamentally static. The only change it countenances is over the distribution of power. The realist view of world politics is configured in terms of inter-state rivalries. Realists are however divided over the modalities of power calculations and the relation between power and security. Most forms of realism, therefore, do not offer sociological explanations of conflicts. We need to elaborate this a little more.

Although realism remains the most powerful paradigm in International Relations, it does not represent an undifferentiated and consistent body of thought. Realism, despite its popularity in conventional International Relations scholarship, has become a much-divided approach. This is not the place to engage in debates with realism. However, before moving to the controversy between defensive and offensive varieties of realism, certain basic or core premises of the approach will be identified. To begin with, the realists of all shades are primarily concerned with the question of war and peace in the international system, their causes and conditions, variations and possibilities of transition from one condition to another. Despite the difference between classical realism and structural realism, with the former being more unit-oriented (state-based) and the latter distinctively structural, all forms of realism take the structure of the international relations as a necessary condition to explain various trends in world politics. Both classical and structural varieties of realism believe in the idea of structural anarchy, although their definitions and formulations of this notion vary. Realism remains committed to the idea of security dilemma, according to which, the international system being a self-help system is perpetually unstable and risky, for the search for security of one becomes the cause of insecurity for its adversaries.


Excerpted from Pakistan and Afghanistan by Kingshuk Chatterjee. Copyright © 2013 Institute of Foreign Policy Studies (IFPS) and Centre for Pakistan and West Asian Studies (CPWAS). Excerpted by permission of KW Publishers Pvt Ltd.
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Table of Contents


List of Contributors,
1. Introduction,
2. Theorising the War on Terror: The Limits of Realism Shibasish Chatterjee and Shreya Maitra Roychoudhury,
3. Pakistan and Afghanistan: Of Instability and Umbilical Ties Kingshuk Chatterjee,
4. Dragon Splashing the Muddy Water: China in South Asian Region Binoda kumar Mishra,
5. India's Afghan Policy: America's Victory to Pakistan's Quagmire Pramit Palchaudhuri,
6. Urban Vulnerabilities in 'post-conflict' Afghanistan Arpita Basu Roy,
7. Pashtunwali and its Impact on Insurgency and Reconciliation Efforts in Afghanistan Anwesha Ghosh,
8. Economic Impact of Terrorism: Case of South Asia Post 9/11 Anindya Sengupta and Anshuman Tiwari,
9. Cinematic Interpretations of Terrorism-Images, Identity and Impressions In Hindi Cinema Swati Bakshi,

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