The impending US exit from Afghanistan has generated a huge debate about its likely profound fallout on the region. However, much of this debate has focused on the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan and little beyond it. For example, there has been little commentary on the impact of the US exit on Indo-Pak relations and the possible spillover of the violence into India, particularly Kashmir.
In fact, Kashmir was directly affected by the Soviet withdrawal. In February 1989, while USSR was leaving Afghanistan, Kashmir was getting ready for armed resistance against New Delhi. And by the end of that year, Valley was awash with weapons and every nook and cranny of the Valley was booming with gunfire.
Now, with US on the way out of Kabul, more or less under similar circumstances, there is again a sense of de javu in Kashmir. Will the state again erupt? This is a big question that has found little resonance in the evolving media and intellectual discourse over the fallout of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan. To a point, this is understandable. Even in 1989, Kashmir was never part of any analysis and commentary of the post-USSR South Asia. But if any place was completely transformed in the region by the Soviet defeat, it was Kashmir.
This is not to contend that the history will repeat itself in Kashmir. But there is also little reason to rule it out. The way the situation in Afghanistan is shaping up, bears with some due exceptions an uncanny resemblance to the run up to the Soviet withdrawal. This time again, Taliban, the modern version of mujahideen, remain undefeated, forcing US to make a last ditch effort to involve the religious militia in talks and find them a place in the government.
However, what one fails to understand is why would Taliban seriously negotiate for a place in the government when it has for all practical purposes fought US to a standstill. One has every reason to believe that Taliban would bide its time until US leaves or significantly reduces its troop presence and then aims for conquering the Kabul. It is this likely prospect that will not only throw Afghanistan into a renewed chaos but also bring regional powers into picture, with India and Pakistan which have the biggest stakes, slugging it out to consolidate their influence over the country. This is at least what is being already adumbrated in some influential writings on the post-US Afghanistan.
In a recent article, Sarah Chayes, a senior associate in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has termed a roadmap for post-US Afghanistan released recently by Afghan government sponsored High Peace Council “a sad end to a process that has been driving Afghanistan—at great cost—back to pre-9/11 conditions”.
In another article, she describes the post-2014 world in following words: “Most Afghans and experienced observers I know say a plausible scenario upon the large-scale departure of international troops in 2014 is either disintegration into civil conflict or a de facto division of power along ethnic lines, with a Pakistan-backed Pashtun bloc in the south and east lining up against one or more northern non-Pashtun blocs that might well gain military support from India and Uzbekistan, if not Iran. Recent signs indicate that many key players are already rushing to consolidate their positions within this framework, already operating, for all intents and purposes, in a post-2014 world”.
And if the situation indeed shapes up along these lines, will Kashmir remain unaffected. Indeed not.