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India’s Iraq Problem

The turmoil in Iraq – which has deepened with the rapid advance of the militant Islamic State in Iraq and Syria – is now threatening to spread to Afghanistan and Pakistan. For India, this amounts to a serious security challenge – and demands that the country transcend the role of silent spectator.

NEW DELHI – Iraq seems to be falling apart, with the rapid advance of the militant Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) threatening to lead to the country’s division into Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish entities, while blurring its border with its turbulent western neighbor. Moreover, the tumult is now threatening to spread to two more nearby countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan, which already are facing myriad internal challenges. For India, the message is clear: its national security interests are at risk.

After almost four decades of war, Afghanistan is, once again, teetering on the edge of a precipice. Just last week, following allegations of massive fraud during the country’s recent presidential election, thousands of protesters marched on the presidential palace. Given that the aggrieved candidate’s constituency comprises mainly ethnic Tajiks, the events have revived Afghanistan’s deep-seated ethnic tensions.

Pakistan’s internal struggles – from inter-communal conflict to relentless terrorist activity – are well known. In fact, the country recently experienced a major terrorist attack, which not only led to more than 29 deaths, but also rendered Karachi’s international airport – the country’s largest – dysfunctional for nearly 12 hours. Just a couple of weeks later, gunmen fired at a Pakistan International Airlines plane as it was landing in the northern city of Peshawar, killing one passenger and injuring three crew members.

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