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In Anticipation

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America’s planned retreat from Afghanistan is obviously a matter of concern for the entire region. It is, undoubtedly, a factor that went into abrogation of Article 370 and implementation of direct rule from the Centre. Otherwise, J&K could have been made a state straightaway, instead of a Union Territory. Incidents over the past couple of days, such as the killing of a Taliban leader in Quetta and the suicide bombing at a wedding in Kabul, also indicate that all hell is planning to break loose in anticipation of the US-Taliban deal. (Those declaring that ‘all is hell’ in Kashmir instead of the government’s claim of ‘all is well’, should sojourn in the interiors of Afghanistan for some time to reset their understanding of ‘peace and normality’.) Those who believe that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a ‘goodwill’ tour to Bhutan must ask themselves why it is taking a full two days, a period of time he does not allocate even to the capitals of some major countries. He is obviously planning strategy with the Bhutanese leadership on possible adventurism by China on the back of the instability that is likely to hit the region. Pakistan has been hoping that its support in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table would give it clout with the US in obtaining economically lucrative deals, but this has not served very well. The US plan for it is different and not linked with obtaining the Taliban’s agreement to its face saving withdrawal plan. What is more likely is that the elements that have fought an inter-ethnic war for decades under the garb of Islam will continue with their ways. There is absolutely no guarantee that they will be willing to stay under the umbrella of the Taliban. Since most of them live in and operate from Pakistan, new goals will be established. There is a very real danger that before it moves towards Kashmir, as the ISI wishes, the new jihad will hit Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan. Only this time, the jihadis will be based on the Afghanistan side of the border. China has a number of irons on the fire, particularly regarding the ongoing CPEC project. The presence of an increasing number of Chinese in Pakistan has riled a number of local groups who are being divested very rudely of power and land in their traditional areas. It will have to calibrate its tactics very carefully if it has to negotiate through the maze successfully. India moved early, what the others do remains to be seen.