The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, recently visited New Delhi. His tour after the election of Biden as the US President bears significance. He held elaborate discussion not only with the Prime Minister but also with Foreign Minister Jaishankar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and others. Starting from QUAD to Afghanistan, Indo-Pacific events and above all Biden’s technology-based foreign policy were discussed most significantly during the tour.
Antony Blinken visited India at a time when the US troops are supposed to be withdrawn from Afghanistan on August 31. Taking advantage of this, Taliban are gradually advancing towards Kabul and a situation like capturing Kabul administration is imminent. This time the issue that concerns India is much wider in scope than the loss likely to occur as a result of US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Narendra Modi always wanted to take an aggressive stance against terrorist militants of Kashmir or Afghanistan rather than holding talks with them. Now the Modi administration has to hold talks with the Taliban. Ajit Doval is giving opinion on the formation of a Taliban government following discussion with Taliban.
Afghanistan was under India’s influence for a long time. India even rebuilt Afghanistan’s parliament building after its collapse. As far as I remember, during his regime Karzai used to meet with Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani quite frequently. Once Advani praised a jacket of Karzai who became glad enough and later brought cloth from Afghanistan to make a jacket of similar design and presented the same to Advani. Karzai also brought a tailor with him to take measurement of Advani’s jacket.
Now, what about the Indo-Afghan amity? Karzai still remains an important leader and Imran Khan too is in touch with him. Imran Khan has invited him to visit Pakistan with a team of delegation. India is witnessing the entire situation; but yet to decide what course it would follow? India deems it necessary to maintain cordiality with the US to a greater extent. But China is a big issue here.
During his talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Biden’s Secretary of State Blinken time and again tried to make it clear to Modi administration that the US would not only withdraw troops from Afghanistan, but also from Iraq. That means Biden intends to follow a new policy where Afghanistan or Iraq is not a priority for the US. Instead, Biden is more concerned about China. The US has initiated a fresh tussle with China but this scuffle is not going to tread Trump’s way. Trump was engaged in late-night tweets. Virtually, he was advancing towards a confrontation with China. He even followed a path of intense conflict with North Korea. It seemed a war was imminent.
But, Biden evaded the path. In his new China policy, he too follows Trump’s policy of conflict. It is not that after the ‘Republican’ era, Biden as a ‘Democratic’ leader would offer love to China. He is shifting the spearhead towards a ‘technological’ and ‘trade’ war. And, the US wants India to be with it over this issue. The US intends to adhere to a path of ‘strategic technology’ to tackle the strange Chinese policy of ‘civil-military fusion’ or an admixture of both military and administration. This is because China has advanced much along the path of technology.
The US asked India to immediately form a separate ‘technological’ division in order to confront China under US-Japan leadership. The problem is of terrorism on one side. India is telling the US time and again not to stop ‘surveillance air strike’ but to stick to the same.
As long as Trump remained in the White House, he created many problems. Trump virtually divided the US. During his period, ‘racism’ rose to the extent of frightening Europe. The Middle East remained in an uncertainty. Trump even almost ousted Africa from the globe. Of course, in case of Russia, there remained a mixed feeling. It was a period of uncertainty as to who was a friend and who was a foe.
Whatever it be, Trump never went to the extent of making an adversary out of India through his night long Tweets. Over the question of Pakistan and China, Trump was largely beside India. Narendra Modi and Trump were quite close over the question of terrorism. Now, a situation has arised where a feeling of lack of security overwhelms India following withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. On the other side, a new cold war began after India came closer to the US and signed a technological deal with it. Once there was a cold war between the US and the Soviet Union. Presently, a cold war is underway between China and the US. In such a case, if India totally sides with the US then there looms a danger.
So, Indian foreign policy is now faced with a major challenge. In the midst of this state of affairs, Bangladesh has become much more important to both the US and India. Despite being a small country in size, the importance of Bangladesh is immense due to its ‘geo-strategic position.’ As to why, both India and the US are doing a great job by maintaining amity with Bangladesh.
Sheikh Hasina government has made its stance completely clear in the international arena; she is against terrorism and militancy and in favour of protecting the ‘sovereignty’ of Bangladesh. In such a situation, it is imperative for India to maintain good ties with Bangladesh and follow a policy of neutrality in the ongoing cold war.
The writer is a senior journalist based in New Delhi
Translated by Z. A. M. Khairuzzaman