The Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS) held a roundtable with Laurel Miller, Director of Crisis Group’s Asia Program, on Washington’s Perspective on South Asian Security on 14 February, 2020. Laurel Miller’s talk focused on ongoing peace talks for a political settlement of Afghan conflict and Pakistan-India tensions, which have exacerbated since the post-Pulwama situation and the revocation of article 370 by the incumbent government in New Delhi.
Talking about Afghanistan, Miller said the debate in America has witnessed a change with scholars, policy analysts, and government officials regarding it more of a tactical question than a strategic issue. There exist two schools of thoughts on the military role of America in Afghanistan. One extreme calls for immediate and complete withdrawal of American forces, and the other extreme supports an indefinite presence and footprint of American troops till the Afghan security forces are capable of sustaining law and order independent of foreign forces. She added, both sides tend to cheery-pick evidence to support their respective positions and claims.
Sharing her own reading of the current Afghan talks, Miller said the US would likely withdraw from Afghanistan. But it would potentially lead to destabilization and Washington would look to Islamabad and seek its support to stem a disastrous civil war in Afghanistan with ramifications for the region.
On the Pakistan-India tensions, she said there was some interest in Washington on this issue, but it was not considered urgent enough to push America to mediate between the two rivals, notwithstanding President Trump’s desire to mediate between them. The assessment on this question in American was that situation there was ‘simmering, not burning.” She added, any possible initiative on the question of Pakistan-India tensions and India’s policy on Kashmir would most likely emanate from the US Congress.
Talking on India-US relations, Miller was of the view that there existed an ‘expectations gap’ between Washington and the New Delhi. The US sees the strategic partnership with India through its rivalry with China, whereas India is more focused on its own strategic imperatives, immediate geography and internal problems. And the US tends to exaggerate the viability of this partnership in a way that serves its geopolitical interests in the region.
Laurel Miller’s talk was followed by an interactive session, in which participants shared their ideas about the given topic and asked the speaker different questions.