A South Asian Grand Bargain
NEW DELHI – South Asia is riddled with multiple antagonisms and mutual suspicions. India mistrusts Pakistan, and vice versa. Afghanistan and Pakistan are at loggerheads. On the sidelines, China, Iran, and Russia look to Afghanistan for opportunities to help themselves, and crimp the United States. The Americans, meanwhile, are preparing to retreat from a decade of war in the Afghan hills and valleys.
Given all of these rivalries, I believe that the only path to regional peace and stability runs not through incremental agreements, but through a “grand accord” that reconciles all of the powers’ deepest national-security interests. But is such an accord feasible?
On the surface, one would not think so. US-Pakistan relations have turned poisonous, with blunt statements proliferating from both governments. In Istanbul, a recent gathering of Afghanistan’s concerned “neighbors” produced only a rather anodyne statement in preparation for a meeting in Bonn later this year.