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Regional Roundup: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India & Sri Lanka

CGP’s Kamran Bokhari talks with Dr. Christine Fair, a Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor in the Security Studies Program within Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. , about the rapidly evolving geostrategic situation in South Asia. Dr. Fair is the author of “In Their Own Words: Understanding Lashkar-e-Tayyaba.”

On Afghanistan, Fair says, the Trump administration is continuing talks with the Taliban but is looking for a way to disengage in Afghanistan in order to fulfill one of the president’s campaign promises. Fair says the United States is more interested in an exit than in negotiating a lasting peace; therefore, Washington has shown itself to be willing to give up many gains that had been made by Afghan youths and women in its talks with the Taliban. Moreover, if financial support from the United States ends, the Afghan government could find itself in danger — especially if China or India does not step in.

Tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan are likely to linger as both countries continue avoiding a reckoning about bad decisions they have made, Fair says. She notes that Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is getting educated on what it means to be prime minister, particularly in his dealings with the Pakistani military. She also posits that foreign aid might actually be bad for Pakistan because as long as it receives bailouts from other countries and bodies like the International Monetary Fund, the country will never be forced to solve its own problems. Yet so many people are concerned that Pakistan will fail, it keeps receiving aid.

The perennial tensions between Pakistan and India are also likely to last, Fair says. In discussing the Pulwama attack and the Indian government’s response, she notes that both Pakistan and India have made unsubstantiated assertions. She also says that because Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government aggrandizes its own actions, Indians had an inflated expectation of what would happen after the Pulwama attack. She says the magnitude of India’s response is unclear.

Fair also notes that India is experiencing a wave of right-wing hate mongering targeting non-Hindus. The sentiment includes theories similar to white supremacist ideologies found in the United States, such as the “Love Jihad” theory stating that Muslims in India are outbreeding Hindus in order to make Hindus a minority.

The Easter Sunday attack in Sri Lanka, Fair says, was a waste of resources for the Islamic State. The group gained nothing by the attack, other than bragging rights to its followers, and Muslims in Sri Lanka are the ones that will bear the brunt of any blowback.