2014 marks a year of tremendous uncertainty in South Asia. Critical national elections will be taking place in Afghanistan and India, and Pakistan struggles to maintain security and encourage economic growth. Carnegie–Tsinghua’s Zhao Kejin hosted Daniel Markey, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations, to discuss how the internal affairs of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India will affect the future dynamic of South Asia.

Discussion Highlights

  • Elections in Afghanistan and India: It remains to be seen whether Narendra Modi, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party in India and current frontrunner to be the next Indian prime minister, would be an effective leader in spurring economic growth or a divisive leader unable to bring India together, Markey said. Meanwhile, despite a cleaner election process in Afghanistan, many doubt that significant change is possible, no matter who is elected. Both candidates, added Markey, are tied to Afghani warlords and power brokers. 
  • Afghanistan’s NATO Transition: Markey explained that the Afghan government is primarily concerned about its ability to provide security to construction projects after the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces. He added that there is significant support in Afghanistan for Operation Resolute Support, which would have NATO forces stay in Afghanistan for several more years on an advisory basis. Such a resolution would give Afghanistan more time for a smooth political and economic transition, he said.
  • Domestic Tensions in Pakistan: Pakistan is facing mounting pressure from the international community to curb the spread of terrorist networks, Markey said. There is also widespread international concern over its nuclear weaponry and tactical warheads. The country is also struggling with division in its leadership. While officially allied, Pakistan’s military and civilian leadership are privately at odds over key issues such as the trial of former Pakistani president and general Pervez Musharraf. If Musharraf is executed by civilian leaders, Pakistan’s military leaders may retaliate, Markey warned. 
  • Four Faces of Pakistan: Markey described how Pakistan has four faces on the international stage: the basket case, the garrison state, the terrorist incubator, and the youthful idealist. Pakistan is a weak and corrupt state ruled by a small economic elite. The military is the dominant power and the nation faces a terrorist problem that goes beyond al-Qaeda. This combination has led to a state that is in crisis and nearly ungovernable. However, Pakistan’s youth want to engage the international community and raise Pakistan’s potential for productivity and growth. 
  • Strengthening Ties: Markey explained that the current state of U.S.-Pakistan relations is fragile, and a number of factors, especially Pakistan’s nuclear program, have strained relations further. However, he emphasized that the world is too small for the United States to fully abandon ties with Pakistan. In addition, Markey explained that a more regionally connected Pakistan, especially if linked up to India, would bring greater opportunity for economic growth in the country. However, an increase in its regional ties could also lead to a more geopolitically dangerous Pakistan.