Lynn Ockersz, in The Island, 2 September 2021, where the title is “Power and sovereignty issues come to the fore in Afghanistan”
“More and more strength to those women and other vulnerable groups that are mustering for their rights in Afghanistan right now.” This is likely to be the wish of progressives everywhere. The enormity of their courage could be gauged from the fact that they are in direct confrontation with the Taliban who are no champions of fundamental rights. Now more than ever before, women’s organizations the world over and international progressive opinion need to rally round these protesting sections in Afghanistan.
Such support is crucial in consideration of the fact that sovereignty-linked questions are coming to the fore in Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s return to the country as rulers, thanks to the US’s scruples over withdrawing from Afghanistan regardless of the human costs it entailed. As pointed out in this column last week under the heading, “US-China Cold War intensifies in the wake of Taliban return”, countries are not obliged to scramble to accord recognition to the Taliban regime in view of the fact that it did not come to power through democratic processes.
This rule applies in particular to countries of the South and South West Asian regionsthat are claiming democratic credentials. This is in consideration of the fact that it is the countries of these regions that would be interacting most closely with the Taliban regime from now on. As said in last week’s column, those countries claiming to be democratic that do recognize the Taliban regime currently run the risk of exposing themselves as fake democracies.
However, the Taliban could gain some legitimacy by first forming an inclusive government and by thereafter going for a free and fair election, where the onus would be on the Taliban to prove that the majority of the Afghan people are supportive of it. In the absence of these basic requirements there is no way in which the militant organization could claim that it is the legitimate government of Afghanistan. Power to rule or sovereignty cannot flow from the barrel of a gun in the world of democracy. Accordingly, the Taliban lacks the sovereign right to rule right now.
In this connection, it was most intriguing to hear a Sri Lankan “expert” going on record as saying, among other things, that an effort by Sri Lanka to recognize the Taliban regime “could give a wrong signal to both the Tamil and Muslim communities in Sri Lanka as well as the international community”. No explanation has been given by the speaker as to what this “signal” is. Besides, it is both daft and dangerous to refer to communities in their totality in consideration of the fact it is only microscopic armed formations within the communities in question that have opted for armed militancy against the Lankan state.
As commonsense would dictate, the vast majority of the members of the relevant communities are living in peace with the rest of the Sri Lankan people. Such “experts” should restrain their tongues lest they aggravate Sri Lanka’s ethnic and religious tensions.
Meanwhile, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan has opened a power vacuum in South West Asia. The possibility is strong of China filling this vacuum before long but that could have India in particular worried. This accounts for India making diplomatic contact with some members of the Taliban leadership in Doha recently. India is compelled to strike some sort of working relationship with the Taliban on account of its need, among other reasons, to ensure that China does not warm up excessively towards the Taliban. As a principal state of the South and South West Asian regions, India is facing the challenge of staving off moves by another notable world power in the form of China to infiltrate the regions concerned.
Given its instability, Afghanistan would be exceptionally coveted by China since external economic assistance would be high on the Taliban’s foreign policy agenda. Such moves by China would compel India to redouble its efforts to go to Afghanistan’s assistance in the area of nation rebuilding in particular. Accordingly, India and China would be in a degree of intense competition to wield influence in Afghanistan in the days ahead.
US military incursion into the global South has, no doubt, been a principal trigger to intensified conflict and war in the hemisphere over the decades but such armed involvement has been only one principal trigger in the chronic instability of these invaded states. With regard to South and South West Asia in particular the observer is obliged to come to grips with the extremely slow pace of progressive political change in these countries. Specifically, democratic development has been notoriously snail-paced. It is these realities that should have the democratic world worried in relation to the Taliban return.
An interesting poser that surfaces at the moment is what formations of the powerful, such as the G7, would be doing in the days ahead with regard to developments in Afghanistan. For instance, would the grouping be attaching strings, such as the adherence to democratic principles by the Taliban, for the extension of economic assistance to Afghanistan. The G7 would need to hurry because, besides China, other notable powers, such as Russia, Iran and Pakistan, would be redoubling their efforts to bolster the Taliban regime. Accordingly, big power games in Afghanistan are unlikely to end in a hurry. As pointed out in this column on previous occasions, Afghanistan’s strategic location has been making her the cynosure of the eyes of the powerful over the decades. This interest cannot be expected to dim in the foreseeable future.
Equally interestingly, how would the foremost agencies of the UN be reacting to developments in Afghanistan? Would the Taliban be expected to tread the path of democracy as a condition for crucial UN development assistance? What would be the stance of the UN Security Council members to these events? Could they muster a united policy among themselves on Afghanistan? Would Afghanistan be allowed by them to drift in the direction of Myanmar?
These questions and more cry out for answers. The hope of most progressives is likely to be that the wellbeing of the Afghan people would be attached top most priority by all the relevant stakeholders. That is, the legitimate interests of the powerless majority in Afghanistan should be made to prevail over all else.
Fair Dinkum’s Assessment of Lynn Ockersz’s Essay, 3 September 2021