Shaping the Future? The Role of the Regional Powers in Afghanistan & Pakistan”


Panel Presentation at Wilson Center Washington DC, June 9, 9.00am-10.00am

Roberto Toscano, Emma Hooper

In a panel co-hosted by Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, Director of the Middle East Program and the Director of the Asia Program, the presenters noted that half way through 2014, the role of the five most-implicated regional powers in Afghanistan and Pakistan (Iran, India, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China) is more important than ever, given the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan, the upcoming new president, recent elections in India and how this will play out across the region. The domestic sources of tension in both Afghanistan and Pakistan that have regional implications – and which are central to stability - include governance, society and the economy, ethnicity and sectarianism, radicalisation, militancy and the conflict in Afghanistan itself. The regional powers may even act as “brokers” of the West´s new relationship with both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The panellists discussed the key interests of each regional power, noting that Iran, India and Saudi Arabia have the most influence, despite the economic importance of China and Russia´s fears of instability in Central Asia spilling over its borders, and the apparent desire for influence of President Putin. Contrary to what might be expected, in relation to Afghanistan,Iran appears to want “recognition (by the US) via inclusion”, rather than trying to further the Shi´a agenda. However, the changing power relations in the Gulf, the Levant, the activities of the Pakistani Taliban and how these may spill over into the broader region, will have far reaching consequences internationally.

The panel was attended by approximately 45 people, and was broadcast via live link from the Wilson Center.