Much of the international security agenda since the end of the Cold War seems to have been shaped by developments and the course of events in Asia. Indeed, the whole idea of a 'new world order' tabled by President George Bush had its origins in the US-led international response to Iraq's invasion and attempted annexation of the tiny state of Kuwait in the south west corner of Asia in 1990. 1 In the Asian context, therefore, the drama of '9/11' has created a new backdrop for an already complex and dynamic situation in which states have learnt to regulate their relations with each other with an acute awareness of the volatility of the environment surrounding them. Before the events of 11 September 2001, the formulation of the USA's 'war on terrorism' as a new foreign policy doctrine, and the dismantling of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, Asia had already undergone huge strategic changes. The last two decades of the twentieth century had seen the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet superpower, both causing major movements in regional relations. It is in fact not too farfetched to suggest that the final collapse of the Soviet superpower itself may have been linked to the regional developments in south and west Asia which followed its military occupation of Afghanistan in December 1979. This act, to become known as 'Russia's Vietnam', enabled the US strategically to open accounts with a number of Asian countries and to draw closer to Moscow's main Asian rival, China, and to a number of Muslim countries bent on punishing Moscow for its invasion of Muslim Afghanistan.
The American covert support for the Afghan Mujahedin fighters from the late 1970s to the late 1980s, which was only made possible by technical, financial and logistical assistance from such countries as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt (amongst others), and the presence of a large number of Muslim volunteer fighters from the Arab world, kept the anti-Soviet alliance together until the collapse of the Soviet Union. This loose alliance not only facilitated the rise of the Mujahedin factions to power in Afghanistan in 1990, but also created the conditions for the coming to power of the Taliban in 1996. Many Muslim actors, such as those linked to Islamic groups in