The United States is facing some interesting diplomatic choices in South Asia. Washington is no doubt cheered by Turkmenistan’s recent commitment to ship natural gas via Afghanistan to India and Pakistan.
India would seem to have built-in advantages in trying to forge close relations with Central Asian states. It has a huge, growing economy, and, geographically, it is a neighbor. It also has historic ties dating back centuries; the Mughal Empire originated in what is today Uzbekistan.
When Leon Panetta, the new United States defense secretary, declared on September 6 that it was only "a matter of time" before an Arab Spring-style revolution came to Iran, it seemed to smack of wishful thinking.
A few years ago, the Indian Embassy in Kabul entertained a curious request. Afghan counter-narcotics officials, despairing that poppy-eradication efforts weren’t working, came up with a novel idea. They proposed to hire an Indian soap opera star, Smriti Irani, to record anti-poppy public service announcements for television and radio.
Insurgency? What insurgency? Setting aside concerns about Islamic militants, the presidents of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, along with India’s petroleum minister, Murli Deora, have signed an inter-governmental agreement pledging to construct a 1,735-kilometer natural gas pipeline connecting all four states.