“The history repeats itself, “first as tragedy, then as farce.”
These profound quotes, irrespective of the source, are often repeated – but then we see them unfolding right in front of our eyes.
PoliTact has been observing the connection of the affairs of the Middle East and South Asia, while contending that what transpires in the Middle East region will have a profound impact over South Asia, especially Pakistan and India. Moreover, we had pointed out last year that the Gulf region is slowly moving out of Pakistan’s sphere of influence and into that of India.
The present Kashmir crisis has exposed and highlighted this fissure more than ever, where other than Qatar, the other Gulf Nations have come out in favor of India. The rationale is that under the nation-state structure – the state has to protect its national interest, and economic interests trump religious inclinations. However, there is much more sinister global trend at play and that has to do with the rise of racism and right wing extremism. This is a boomerang impact of the War against Extremists, when thousands of uprooted Muslims headed to the economically struggling Europe to seek refuge – meanwhile escalating ethnic tensions and reinforcing the fears and the message of the right-wingers.
Core versus Periphery Dynamics
There is obviously the internal dynamics of the Islamic World, what we term as the ‘Core versus Periphery’ dynamics, on who stands up and represents the held over Umma grievances from Palestine to Kashmir. As the Core regions represented by the Arab world abdicates the role, the Peripheral powers of Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan have attempted to fill the vacuum.
These nations of South Asia and Central Asia, Middle East, and North Africa emerged from the ashes of WW I and II – when the tussles of the colonial powers had boiled over. However, even after attaining their nationhood, some of these states remained aligned with the West, as they switched from the British to the American sphere of influence.
However, after the cessation of the Cold War, and as the Global War on Terror (GWOT) evolved, the established and emerging power dynamics resurfaced will full swing. By the time, this campaign entered Syria and Libya, it transformed and has become a full fledge proxy war. Presently, it’s moving from the stage where the non-state actors were the primary targets – to becoming an inter-state conflict, which it had narrowly escaped up to now. Nonetheless, the war against terror and the tussles of the emerging and established powers are fully intertwined now.
While the low level conflict related to war against extremism played out, China has gradually made inroads into many of these former Western allies. Meanwhile, the US ties have deteriorated with peripheral powers of Pakistan and Turkey, which is also a NATO member. While an attempt was made during the Obama administration to ease tensions with Iran, the scraping up of the Iran nuclear deal, has rekindled the tensions. Meanwhile, the Syrian crisis has indicated that Russia never left the Middle East.
To counter these dynamics, US has developed strategic ties with India and the Gulf States. While Europe has served as the source of global power projection since the end of World Wars, India and the Gulf States are serving that purpose in these regions.
On the other hand, as the two-state solution is on a trajectory of slow death, the Gulf States have been aligning themselves with Israel and India, at the cost of both the Palestinian and Kashmiri Muslims. Instead, the rich Gulf States, with the exception of Qatar, have focused on fighting Iranian proxies in Yemen, and to counter the Iranian influence in places like Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. And in this they have convergence with Israel and the US.
On their side, both India and Israel have exploited the war against terror by linking the Palestinian and Kashmir cause with extremism. Irrespective, the Arab States will find it very difficult to manage the street as this transition unfolds, and even the peripheral powers will have a hard time sitting back – when India ruthlessly subjugates its Muslim citizens from Kashmir to Assam.
Post GWOT Era
With close to two decades of involvement in GWOT, in its new defense strategy, the US has finally shifted to focus on what it calls the strategic adversaries, such as China and Russia.
However, the post GWOT era is characterized by the weakness of Europe, growing ethnic nationalism, trade wars, and diminishing effectiveness of multilateral institutes such as UN, whose purpose was to prevent future wars and maintain peace.
Then there is the challenge of security versus economic dynamics. Meaning, should security affairs take precedence over economic matters, or vice versa. One thing is clear, that economies truly flourish in secure and peaceful environments. At the same time, when economy and fiscal conditions deteriorate, it gives rise to the blame game, xenophobia, ethnic nationalism, and civil strife. If religion is added as a variable to this dynamics, it results in a really combustible situation.
While the end of World Wars resulted in the cessation of empires and the emergence of nation-state structure, any future war of such magnitude is likely to spell the end of nation-state framework. And it’s not clear at this point what will replace the nation-state structure.
When it comes to India and Pakistan, the religious premise on which the division of India and Pakistan came about in 1947, appears to have been vindicated. But the history has not run in its course yet. While the politics, economics, and security of the region, and beyond, has evolved; people do try to settle scores when the timing is right, and in this sense history is always being rewritten.
India up to now represented the epitome of secularism and democracy, something it proudly shared with the West. A dramatic Indian turn to the right perhaps is matching the trend that is emerging in the West and the US as well. While this is by no means a done deal in the West, India seems to have chosen a direction that will be fought vehemently by the liberals there, as it is being in the West and Israel.
For right now, the vision of economic interdependence laid out in the post World War landscape, to prevent wars and prohibit ethnic nationalism from spreading its lethal tentacle in the future, is faltering right in front of us. The very powers that laid out the lofty aspirations are themselves turned inwards – from Brexit to America First. Once again, the world is entering a bleak phase where there is more reliance on military might and ethnic superiority to resolve issues – than negotiating and coexisting.