Afghanistan: history's crossroads
The US' war on terrorism is not just that - Afghanistan is also a crucial access to the Central Asian oil reserves, concludes Varghese K George, considering the country's strategic position and its consequently violent history
New Delhi, September 22
The echo of soldiers marching through the rough terrain of Afghanistan is a sight and sound familiar to the land. From the beginning of the recorded history, virtually no invader has left Afghanistan untouched. These expeditions were never to capture Afghanistan itself - Afghanistan had nothing that attracted invaders to it. It was the gateway for those wanted to plunder the rich Indian subcontinent: this strategic location made the country the theatre of many wars that changed the course of this region's history.
As a historian of Afghanistan writes, "The list of people and conquerors who have touched or influenced Afghan history reads like a roster of nearly every aggressive force that has been set loose in Asia over the past 4,000 years."
Even today, Western countries have strategic and economic interests in controlling Afghanistan. It is the only access to Central Asia, the calculated oil reserves of which will be largely required in the immediate future, given the fact that the West Asian oil wells are fast drying up. The battle that the US will fight on this terrain will not be aimed solely at eliminating "Islamic fundamentalism" but also to ultimately gain access to the oil fields of Central Asia.
Historically, Afghan was a gateway to India. For those who looked with lustful eyes on India's riches, Afghanistan was the entry point for their exploits. Once the British established their empire in the subcontinent, they also wanted control over Afghanistan to prevent the entry of others to the subcontinent. But no invader could, and in many cases did not want to, hold on to the barren mountains of Afghanistan. Scythians, Persians, Greek, Seljuk, Tartar and the Mongols plundered India through the Afghan door. After each wave of fresh invasion subsided, the Afghan territory remained with the Afghans.