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Keep foreign hands off Afghanistan June 22, 2015

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Afghanistan, Guest authors , comments closed

Gabriela Marin Thornton and Arwin Rahi

For much of its history, Afghanistan has been a battlefield for conflicts over regional influence in what has been called the Great Game. Now a weak state with deep ethnic divisions, located in a challenging security environment, Afghanistan is a key front in the pushback against terrorism.

Once again, the country has turned into a battleground for great powers, mainly in the form of proxy wars.

But if the goal is to build lasting peace in the region, the rules of the game must change. As the US withdraws its forces, regional powers such as India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and (a more recent aspirant) China should stay out of Afghanistan politics.

The Afghan government, for its part, needs to reclaim its sovereignty and oppose foreign interference in its internal politics.

An Afghan girl looks out of a damaged window of a shrine. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail


India’s Iranian sanctions predicament February 17, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, India , comments closed

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

First published in Future Directions International on 8 February 2012

The implementation of the tough new US and EU sanctions against Iran has encountered practical challenges, with India, an important Western strategic partner, voicing its concerns. Given that India is a major recipient of Iranian oil, a major investor in Iran’s energy sector and has other vitally important strategic interests at stake in Afghanistan and Central Asia, its quandary encapsulates the difficulties   involved in the full implementation of sanctions.

In a press conference on 29 January, India’s Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, clarified India’s position on sanctions targeting the sale of Iranian oil: ‘It is not possible for India to take any decision to reduce the import from Iran drastically [emphasis added by author] because, after all, the countries which can provide the requirement of the emerging economy, Iran is an important country amongst them.’ From this statement, it is clear that India has emphasised its willingness to cooperate with the US and EU sanctions regime, but with certain limitations in mind.


China-Comoros ties: ‘A pragmatic cooperation of 36 years’ December 18, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, India , comments closed

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

Key Points

Evolution of the Relationship

After the former-French colony declared independence in 1975, China was the first country to recognise the new nation and establish diplomatic relations. In the years that followed official two-way visits by senior Chinese and Comorian officials became a notable feature of the expanding ties. Bilateral institutions have since been formed to facilitate greater co-operation and exchanges, such as the Comoros-China Friendship Association and the Sino-Comoros Friendship Association. China began to dispatch medical teams to the Comoros in 1994, as part of its diplomatic strategy.

Strategically, there have been suggestions that, initially, China cultivated relations with the Comoros to counterbalance Soviet, Western, and now, growing Indian influence in the Indian Ocean region. The investments by China have secured the continued support of the Comoros for the one-China policy and also encouraged the Comoros to extend its support to China in 2001, when tensions escalated after a US surveillance plane collided with a Chinese jet fighter.


‘Greater deterrence power': Iran’s evolving blue-water naval ambitions December 7, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, South Asia - General , comments closed

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

This posting first appeared here on Future Directions International

The fallout over Iran’s uranium enrichment programme, and the threat of war with the US and its allies, continues to give impetus to the expansion and modernisation of Iran’s military, particularly the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy. Today, the Navy forms an essential part of Iran’s foreign policy. It is considered by some to be Iran’s best-equipped, trained and organised armed forces institution – one which seeks to extend Iranian influence in seas far outside the Persian Gulf.

Iran has two dedicated naval forces, the first being the older 18,000-strong Islamic Republic of Iran Navy and the second the 20,000-strong and much-vaunted Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, formed in 1985. Subjected to a strategic review in 2007, followed by a major reorganisation, both naval forces have since developed clearly defined roles. The Iranian Navy has developed blue-water capabilities, to operate in the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, while the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy specialises in asymmetrical warfare and operating in the Persian Gulf.

Iranian Kilo class submarine


Karzai visit further strengthens Afghanistan-Iran ties July 8, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International , comments closed

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

This article first appeared in Future Directions International on 6 July 2011.


In another sign of growing ties between Afghanistan and Iran, Afghan President Hamid Karzai attended the Iranian-sponsored conference on counterterrorism co-operation in Tehran on 25-26 June, which was also attended by the Presidents of Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan and Tajikistan. The visit was indicative of the strengthening relations between Afghanistan and Iran, which share a 936-kilometre border, and see themselves as increasingly important to each other’s long-term interests.