Academic journal article South Asian Studies

Afghanistan-Soviet Relations during the Cold War: A Threat for South Asian Peace

Academic journal article South Asian Studies

Afghanistan-Soviet Relations during the Cold War: A Threat for South Asian Peace

Article excerpt


International relations are predominantly a study of relations of powerful states. Smaller or weaker states, by virtue of their status, do not have much significant impact on the course of international politics. Therefore, their relations evoke marginal interest of scholars and experts. Such states become significant if they are strategically located. The big or powerful states prioritize their relations with weaker states in proportionate to latter relevance to their interests. That is why, it is perceived that the relations among states is not a zero-sum game, i.e. states relations are subject to permutation inasmuch as state's relations with a set of states at any given time do not preclude it from establishing relations with other set of states later on.But at any particular time in world politics, one region assumes more importance than others. In a geographical context, the region is called epicenter of international relations. "A state's proximity to an epicenter can be a vital determinant of its significance on the geostrategic map of the world." (Shah, 1997) Smaller state's relations with powerful states assume vital dimension and go a contributory way in shaping the course of international politics if they become part or situate in proximity to the "epicentre'. Only then do their relations attract the scholars and experts' interest; their relations are explored with a view to evaluating their impact on international politics.

The World War II was a phenomenal episode in the sense that two ideologically antipode states, the United States and the Soviet Union, collaborated against the common threat of Axis alliance. Their cooperation is referred to as a period of "entente' between the two great powers. The pressures of War resulted in teeth-gritting compromise between Communists and anti-Communists. However, the period of entente between the coalitions of the antiAxis was destined to be of short duration. The post-WW II era rapidly degenerated into the "Cold War', dividing the AntiAxis Allies into two antagonistic camps. The period was characterized by "rising tension between the Soviet Union and the United States, tensions that were being termed a Cold War." (Lindermann, 2013) In terms of Structuralism, it is the period of Cold War that provides the context to analyze the relations of a weaker but strategically located Afghanistan and one of the great powers, the Soviet Union. But it is equally significant that ruling elites of a state observe international politics through the prism of their position in the domestic power structure. And they map out response to international politics in such a way that ensure their status in the domestic power structure. Any miscalculation on their part could cost not only big loss to their status but also to the state.


The United States' preference to Pakistan over Afghanistan enabled the Soviet Union to gain a foothold in Afghanistan. Same time the successive governments in Afghanistan were merely instrumental in allowing Moscow to penetrate deeply in Afghanistan. Thus, it moved further and further into the Soviet sphere of influence, and this led to the Communist coup of 1978 and the Soviet military entry into Afghanistan in 1979 which eventually kepAfghanistan a battle ground for a longer period of time.

Significance of the Study

The study highlights how limitations of a weaker state in an international milieu dominated by two great powers affected its internal and external politics. The leadership of the weaker state has to conduct foreign policy in a way as to secure its national interests without over committing its state to one country or a bloc. The political leadership of Afghanistan in pursuance of its policy of playing one great power against the other with a view to maximizing its interests committed a misjudgment, i.e. over committing Afghanistan to the Soviet bloc. The implications of Afghan leadership's indiscretion were so intense that Afghanistan has not been able to escape their effects hitherto. …

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