The South-Central Asian Region (SCAR) is again hogging headlines all over the world. Two events of great geopolitical and geostrategic significance, seemingly unrelated yet connected, are taking place simultaneously; on the western and eastern flanks of Pakistan. While one war is on the threshold of closure in Afghanistan yet another potential one in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK), ominously threatens the world with a nuclear winter!

Are both events intrinsically linked together?

In Afghanistan the US and Afghan Taliban are approaching closure on a Peace Agreement, while in IHK the Indians have made a rather reckless land grab, to “annex” and change the political status of the UNSC mandated, disputed and illegally occupied territories of Kashmir. Is it a gargantuan strategic blunder by the Indians or a deep manoeuvre to take advantage of evolving strategic environments at the domestic, bilateral, regional and other international levels? Is it a wholly RSS-BJP Combine driven agenda or does it have international patronage as well? It will be revealed, sooner than later!

As per Kabir Taneja (Raisana debates, orfonline.com) quoting the Hindustan Times, RAW’s Chief recently informed PM Modi that his government had a waning window of about a month to orchestrate such a plan in Kashmir, as the US and Taliban were about to finalize the Afghan Peace Agreement. Ominously, a day later US Special Envoy to Afghanistan, Mr Zalmay Khalilzad landed in Delhi. Did the potential success of the Afghan Peace Process force the BJP Government’s hand to impetuously “annex” IHK or did they do so despite Zalmay Khalilzad’s visit? Are the strategic partners acting in cohorts or is there a clash of strategic interests brewing between them?

The Indians have reasons to be wary of peace in Afghanistan and the Taliban getting into power. They have always considered them as terrorists and have never engaged them meaningfully. They have always hedged all their bets on the Northern Alliance and the National Unity Government. Now it looks like a lose-lose proposition for them. Their decades’ long investments in Afghanistan’s political, military, intelligence, economic, social and infrastructure sectors, all seem to be coming to an embarrassing and resounding naught. It is a major foreign policy failure and defeat for the Indians and a massive loss of face, influence, clout, prestige and a setback to their regional/extra regional ambitions as well. Furthermore, India’s ability to militarily engage Pakistan on both flanks will no longer be possible as the Taliban will not allow the RAW-NDS Combine to continue exporting India-sponsored terrorism into Pakistan from Afghan soil. Apparently, it is India’s policy to maintain status quo in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Region (APR), keep it permanently destabilized and the Pakistan military irretrievably fixed on its western border. Failing which, the Indians feel, that Pakistan and its military would be free to concentrate wholesomely on its eastern border and Kashmir - much to their detriment! The Indians will pursue this policy regardless of the clash it generates between US and Indian interests in Afghanistan.

Is India then trying to act as the spoiler in the Afghan Peace Process? It is aware of the geopolitical, geostrategic and geo-economic ramifications of this process - and also that it is largely irrelevant to it.

India’s “annexation” of IHK has clearly distracted Pakistan from single-mindedly facilitating the Afghan Peace Process. Undistracted, Pakistan would have maintained its force levels along the Pak Afghan border, ensured a safe and secure egress for the US-NATO forces from the region and guaranteed a successful closure to the Afghan Campaign for the US. However, Pakistan is now facing an existentialist threat from India and will be forced to denude its western border and redeploy troops to reinforce its eastern border. The resultant vacuum will create vital space for the moribund and dormant terrorist groups milling astride the Pak-Afghan border to resurface and become proactive again. This will destabilize the APR, the area astride the Pak-Afghan border, distract the Taliban from the peace process and leave the withdrawing US-NATO forces vulnerable to violent and lethal terrorist attacks.

The Afghan Peace Process might thus be seriously disrupted, delayed and even derailed!

However, a rejuvenated and empowered Afghan Taliban will have to deal with a very potent Terrorism Central, plonked rather ominously in the eastern stretches of Afghanistan. Al Qaeda will feel reinvigorated, while the restructured IS will emerge as a serious threat to regional peace. There are rumours too of a split amongst the Taliban. The renegades are likely to join Al Qaeda and/or the IS and may start operating independently. Terrorism Central will thus threaten not only the Taliban government in Kabul but also the CARs, Pakistan and India. Where they strike will be a function of their strategic reach, capacity and degree of motivation. The RSS-BJP Combine however, has created a dire strategic environment in IHK which gives them a “just and righteous cause” to pursue!

India is now following a two-pronged policy in the SCAR. On the one hand its interests, as opposed to US interests, lie in maintaining the destabilized and volatile strategic environment in the APR while on the other it wants the world to acknowledge and legitimise its annexation of IHK. It is trying to kill two birds with one stone! By making a wild, reckless attempt at annexing IHK, India has clearly threatened Pakistan’s most vital national interest and simultaneously generated an existentialist threat for it. Pakistan would respond by redeploying troops from its western to the eastern border to meet this critical threat; which would in turn threaten the implementation of the Afghan Peace Agreement and thus ensure status quo in the APR!

The US and the world must see through this vile Indian duplicitous manoeuvre and move towards decisive de-hyphenation of both events of such great geopolitical and geostrategic significance. They must be dealt with in isolation of one another. The Afghan Peace Process and the US-NATO egress from the APR must come to a successful closure while India’s land grab in IHK must be acknowledged by the world for its blatant illegality, its diabolical HR violations and be resolved, now, as per the UNSC Resolutions on Kashmir.