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

By Siddiqui, Azhar Javed; Butt, Khalid Manzoor | South Asian Studies, July-December 2014 | Go to article overview

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


Siddiqui, Azhar Javed, Butt, Khalid Manzoor, South Asian Studies


Abstract

Afghanistan's relations with the erstwhile Soviet Union began to take a specific direction in the wake of the British departure from the Subcontinent and with the creation of Pakistan in consequence of the partition of the subcontinent. The new orientation in Soviet-Afghan relations was due to the United States' reluctance to play the role which the British had been playing before its exit from the Subcontinent. Most of the ruling elites of Afghanistan were more inclined to the United States and very early sought to develop a nexus with America. However, US preferred Pakistan over Afghanistan and continued the policy during Cold War. Secondly, Pakistan played a significant role in pushing Afghanistan towards the Soviet Union as it exploited the Pashtunistan issue to its advantage. The Soviet Union utilized American reluctance, and alienation between Pakistan and Afghanistan and enhanced its political and military influence in Afghanistan so much so that the Soviet inspired communists managed successfully to overthrow the government of President Daoud in April 1978. The entry of Soviet military in Afghanistanpaved the way for the involvement of US which made Afghanistan a battlefield for prolong wars.

Key Words: Cold War, Durand Line, Pashtunistan, Mujahideen, Rentier State, Porous Border, Saur Revolution, Frontline State, Soveitization, Geneva Accords, al-Qaeda, Taliban.

Introduction

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. …

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