Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

What does US departure from Afghanistan mean for South Asia?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- US withdrawal from Afghanistan and its implications for the region

The article highlights the important role played by the US in the geopolitics of the region and the impact of the US retreat on the region foreign policy landscape.

How the US shaped the regional politics of South Asia

  • Since it replaced Britain as the major external power in Greater Middle East half a century ago, America has been the pivot around which the regional politics has played out.
  • Many regional actors sought alliances with America to secure themselves against ambitious or troublesome neighbours.
  • Others sought to balance against America.
  • Israel’s security, ensuring oil supplies, competing with other powers, making regional peace, promoting democracy, and stamping out terrorism are no longer compelling factors demanding massive American military, political and diplomatic investments in the region.

Region now has to learn to live with neighbours

  • As America steps back from the Middle East, most regional actors either need alternate patrons or reduced tensions with their neighbours.
  • Although China and Russia have regional ambitions, neither of them bring the kind of strategic heft America brought to bear on the Middle East all these decades.
  • Turkey has figured that its troubled economy can’t sustain the ambitious regional policies.
  •  After years of challenging Saudi leadership of the Islamic world, Erdogan is offering an olive branch to Riyadh.
  • After years of intense mutual hostility, Saudi Arabia and Iran are now exploring means to reduce bilateral tensions and moderate their proxy wars in the region.
  • Saudi Arabia is also trying to heal the rift within the Gulf by ending the earlier effort to isolate Qatar. 
  •  These changes come in the wake of the big moves last year by some Arab states — the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — to normalise ties with Israel.

How India’s approach helped maintain ties in the region

  • India’s emphasis on good relations with all the regional actors without a reference to their conflicts has been vindicated by the turn of events.
  • Barring Turkey, which turned hostile to India under Erdogan, India has managed to expand its ties with most regional actors.
  • Hopefully, the new regional churn will encourage Turkey to take a fresh look at its relations with India.

Effect on India-Pak relations

  • The regional reset in the Middle East has coincided with efforts by Delhi and Rawalpindi to cool their tensions.
  • The ceasefire on the Line of Control in Kashmir announced at the end of February appears to be holding.
  • The US withdrawal from Afghanistan poses major challenges to the Subcontinent.
  • India and Pakistan, for very different reasons, would have liked to see the US forces stay forever in Afghanistan.
  • For India, American military presence would have kept a check on extremist forces and created conducive conditions for an Indian role in Afghanistan.
  • For Pakistan, American military presence in Afghanistan keeps the US utterly dependent on Pakistan for geographic access and operational support.

Challenge of terrorism

  • The prospect of trans-border links between the Taliban and other extremist forces in the region is a challenge that South Asian states will have to confront sooner than later.
  • Soaring levels of violence in Afghanistan and attack on the former president of Maldives, underlines South Asia’s enduring challenges with terrorism.
  • Unless the South Asian states collaborate on countering extremism and terrorism, every one of them will be weakened.

Consider the question “How US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan will influence the regional geopolitics of the region?”


The region needs to focus on the peace and harmony in the region while resolving the bilateral issues through dialogue.

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