welcome to Foreign policies In short, South Asia.
The highlights of this week: turkey Seeks to play a larger role in Afghanistan after US withdrawal, NATO is exploring the possibility of training Afghan troops in Qatar, and Pakistan unveils its budget for the next fiscal year.
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The Turkey factor in Afghanistan
Much of the debate on which countries will seek to supplant US influence in Afghanistan when it withdraws completely has focused on its rivals: China, Iran, and Russia. Analysts have said less about Turkey, which clashes with the United States over Russia and Middle East policy but remains a NATO ally. But recent developments suggest Ankara may have future roles in diplomacy and security in Kabul.
In addition to train Afghan soldiers, Turkey has a long history of providing security at Kabul airport and Free continue to do so if it receives financial support from the United States. US President Joe Biden and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the issue when they met at a NATO summit in Brussels this week, but they failed to come to an agreement.
Turkey’s airport security offering may be in part a goodwill measure convince Washington to relax the sanctions on Ankara after its acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile defense system and allow it to return to a F-35 fighter aircraft program. In a Tuesday briefing, an anonymous official in the Biden administration denied any connection between the S-400 agreement and the security of the Turkish airport in Kabul.
The Taliban have rejected a Turkish security presence at the airport following the withdrawal of the United States. However, this week NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ad the alliance had agreed to transitional funding for the airport and hinted at a key role for Turkey, suggesting negotiations continue.
Securing Kabul airport is a key post-withdrawal objective for NATO: the airport is a key entry point for diplomats and aid workers, and the spikes in violence that are expected to follow the full withdrawal of the troops. United States emphasizes its essential role as an evacuation point.
Turkey’s insecure role in Afghanistan has more legs. It is well positioned to take on a third party role in the floundering peace process, as it has already done. hosted meetings between the Taliban and Afghan political leaders. In 2010, then Afghan President Hamid Karzai approved the idea of Turkish-sponsored peace talks.
Ankara also maintains warm relations with Kabul and the Taliban. He accepted a request from the Biden administration to host a peace conference with the Taliban in April, though it was canceled when the group refused to attend. Turkey also maintains close ties with key regional players China and Pakistan, and helped found the Heart of the Asia-Istanbul process, a regional organization focused on Afghanistan launched in 2011.
As part of a trilateral forum with Islamabad and Kabul, Ankara could also arbitrate the tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, allied with the Taliban. The United States has sought to play a similar role, seeing strengthening Afghan-Pakistani ties as the key to assisting the Afghan peace process.
There are limits to Turkey’s future role in Afghanistan. Continued tensions with Washington over the S-400 deal could limit its diplomatic efforts, and the Taliban will limit Turkey’s security role. More urgent priorities closer to home, especially in Syria and Iraq, will limit the political space that the Turkish government is prepared to allocate to Afghanistan.
But for the United States, any increased role after the withdrawal of a NATO ally would have consequences, even with which it collides.
NATO is pursuing the Qatar base. Kabul airport security is not the only item on NATO’s agenda in Afghanistan this week. Reuters reported alliance members called on Qatar to provide NATO with a base to train Afghan forces, with the participation of the UK, US and Turkey. NATO has already expressed its willingness to continue its training and advisory mission in Afghanistan via remote channels and in third countries.
Qatar is home to the Taliban’s political office and the site of recent discussions between the insurgents, the US government and, more recently, the Afghan government. A spokesperson for the Taliban told Reuters We will not trust Afghan soldiers trained abroad. But the Taliban 2020 deal with the United States says nothing about training Afghan forces abroad, so the group has no reason to reject such a deal.
Pakistan unveils its budget. Pakistani Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin last Friday present encouraging new economic data. Despite the pandemic, the country’s GDP grew by almost 4% in the first nine months of the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which ends this month, significantly higher than previous targets of 2.1%. Siskin attributed this success the strong performance of Pakistan’s industrial and service sectors.
Tarin also unveiled the government budgets for the next fiscal year, setting a GDP growth target of 4.8%. Budget strong points include increased development spending, 10 percent increases for government employees, and emergency farm spending. But such generous spending is not guaranteed, given that Pakistan’s participation in an International Monetary Fund rescue program may require more austerity.
Pakistani economics experts also to warn this budget will not resolve the country’s long-standing structural constraints, including its inability to generate tax revenue.
Anniversary of border clashes between India and China. Monday marked a year since 20 Indian soldiers and five Chinese soldiers were killed in a clash in the disputed Ladakh border region, the deadliest conflict between the countries in more than 40 years. The incident exposed India’s vulnerabilities in the region, likely prompting New Delhi to pursue a border truce with Pakistan in February to focus on its border with China.
Sunday, Hindu reported Chinese soldiers remain mobilized along the disputed border even months after the Chinese military disengaged from areas close to the clash. Indian government sources fear they may remain squatting during the winter.
If you weren’t aware of a high-level call earlier this month between the U.S. Department of Defense number two and the Maldives’ foreign minister, you are not the only one. But the exchange between Colin Kahl and Abdulla Shahid, who dealt with US pandemic aid and common interests in the Indo-Pacific region, may allude to an emerging policy of the Biden administration in South Asia.
So far, most high-level government engagements in the region have been with Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, with the exception of a trip to Bangladesh by climate czar John Kerry. But South Asia is emerging as a major battleground for Indo-Chinese rivalry, with several small South Asian states including the Maldivescaught up in strategic competition. Washington has every interest in engaging more with them.
These plans were announced at the end of the Trump era: one of the last major political decisions of administrations in Asia was to announce its intention to establish the first US embassy in the Maldives.
It’s very close to a nuclear disaster, which happened here. This is not a problem only in Sri Lanka. In the coming weeks, this will become a regional problem.
Muditha Katuwawala, coordinator of a group of volunteers who protect marine life, assess damage caused by the sinking of a container ship full of toxic materials off the coast of Sri Lanka earlier this month
In one Dawn editorial, Maleeha Lodhi, former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States and the United Nations, wrote Islamabad’s decision to shift the focus of its foreign policy from geopolitics to geoeconomics lacks clarity to be effective. As these official statements have yet to be worked out or specify the means by which politics should be pursued, change is, for now, a desire and not a strategy, she wrote.
The former Pakistani senator Afrasiab Khattak wrote for Afghanistan Tolo News on how the US withdrawal from Afghanistan could change and destabilize politics in Central Asia. He argued that Turkish nationalism combined with Islamic fervor can be a deadly political tool in Central Asia, saying militant groups could benefit from it.
A editorial in Bangladesh Star of the day laments that the government has not allocated enough pandemic aid to impoverished border areas, where COVID-19 test positivity rates are around 30%. He noted that the regional health care infrastructure is under great pressure. Unless immediate action is taken to increase the number of healthcare workers in these hospitals, things could soon get out of hand, he warned.
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