India’s Changing Approach towards Central Asia and the Caucasus after the Afghanistan Debacle
By: Gulshan Sachdeva
India’s ambition to raise its profile and connect with Central Asian neighbourhood was reflected through its ‘Extended Neighbourhood’ and ‘Connect Central Asia’ policies. Prime Minister Modi further elevated these policies through India’s SCO membership and other institutional mechanisms. India’s strategy towards the region has been linked to its Afghanistan, China and Pakistan policies as well as Russian and U.S. designs. With the Afghanistan debacle, the earlier connectivity strategies are no longer valid as a Taliban-Pakistan-China axis will further strengthen the BRI profile, in which India has not participated. In coming years, New Delhi will work with Central Asian partners to safeguard the region from negative repercussions of the Taliban takeover in terms of radicalization, increased terrorist activity and drug trafficking.
Central Asia and the Caucasus have long been part of the Indian imagination because of old civiliza-tional linkages and cultural connections. After the Soviet break-up, new geopolitical realities and geo-economic opportunities further influenced Indian thinking in the 1990s. The emergence of new independent states opened opportunities for energy imports as well as trade and transit. There were also worries of rising religious fundamental-ism. Therefore, developing political, economic and energy partnerships dominated New Delhi’s “ex-tended neighbourhood” policy in the 1990s. Alt-hough India established close political ties with all countries in the region, economic ties remained limited. An unstable Afghanistan and difficult India-Pakistan relations created problems for di-rect connectivity. New Delhi tried to resolve the issue through working with Russia and Iran via the International North-South Trade Corridor (IN-STC) and its tributaries. Due to the U.S.-Iran ten-sions and stagnating India-Russia trade, this op-tion did not prove very effective. In the mean-while, the Chinese profile in the region increased significantly.
By Stephen Blank
October 6, 2021, the CACI Analyst
The U.S. withdrawal and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan should force American policymakers to rethink America’s position and goals in Central Asia. For years U.S. policy in Central Asia was subordinated to the goal of winning the war even though Washington never fashioned either a satisfactory definition of what winning meant or an Afghan government capable of standing on its own and acquiring the legitimacy and capacity it needed to survive. Despite a more regionally inclusive white paper by the Trump Administration, neither it nor its successor have been able to overcome the primacy of military factors in regional policy and the insufficiency of economic and political means to conduct a truly robust regional policy in Central Asia.
By Farkhod Tolipov
August 20, 2021, the CACI Analyst
In April 2021, Washington began the long-awaited withdrawal of its military forces from Afghanistan, a process that is expected to be completed by September this year. This is being done in the wake of an agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban as a condition for reaching peace in Afghanistan. However, the “victorious” Taliban began a sudden offensive in some northern provinces bordering Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The Afghan military surprisingly retreated instead of resisting the insurgents. Some even crossed the Afghan border with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. As the Taliban have swiftly moved to take control of most Afghanistan, including Kabul, Central Asia is facing strategic uncertainty.
By Richard Weitz
July 14, 2021, the CACI Analyst
A century ago, the Italian author Luigi Pirandello wrote a three-act play entitled “Six Characters in Search of an Author,” which explored the difficulty of differentiating between illusion and reality. The analyst of the recent border clash between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan faces the same challenge. The event, which saw the most serious fighting between independent Central Asian republics, offers several plausible explanations with divergent policy implications.
By S. Enders Wimbush
February 18, 2021, the CACI Analyst
Both Russia and the United States are advertising new strategies for dealing with Central Asia, but each is deficient in its own way. While Russia seeks to exclude Afghanistan from its vision of Central Asia, the U.S. explicitly and wisely incorporates Afghanistan as organic to its vision. Neither vision links Central Asia strategically to a larger Eurasian concept that embraces the South Caucasus. To the contrary, both explicitly (the Russian version) or implicitly (the American version) isolate Central Asia geopolitically from the larger emerging political, economic, and security dynamics that Central Asians themselves seek to encourage to establish their region as the connective tissue between Asia and Europe.
The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.