In the complex tapestry of South Asia, Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan inherit rich heritage and culture along with complexity. Diverse as well as similar within and without; we seem to be the same as Gog from Magog, evil at times and embracing emotions at other times.

The region is historically empirical, relates to old civilizations, and transformed over the period through graduated events into present-day ‘heterotopia’ and ‘metropolises.

We are caged in our own confirmation biases; we fight with each other and then blindfold ourselves from the irony of what have we done to each other. We have been the good, the bad, and the ugly of our time as were our ancestors. We are the ‘peaky blinders’ of our time. An Eskimo asked a priest “if I didn’t know about God and sin, would I go to hell?”, Priest replied “no, not if you didn’t know” and Eskimo politely argued, “then why the hell did you tell me”.

So were we told about each other as tangled bearded, cows and curries, opium warlords. We act like “I’ll keep the money and you can have the rope.” Yet, we are the good, the bad, and the ugly at the same time. It is the trilemma, where we can label each other with two of these but can’t fit in all three. Pakistan may say that Afghanistan is the good and the bad but ugly it is, it has to shun away with its strategic depth concept.

Whereas, for India, Pakistan can label the bad and the ugly, but is it possible to upgrade them to the good, not possible in contemporary times. The same may be the case with the other two nations as far as their perception of others is concerned.

Three brothers, daunting to explode on the doorsteps of others with few backdoor alliances, conspiracies, manipulation, taking advantage of others (especially in the case of Afghanistan, which is being used by two elder brothers), and teaching a lesson to others. This brotherly, complex, dangerous, and bloody web is leaving no one at peace. As someone said “normal is an illusion. What is normal for a spider is chaos for a fly’.

What rationality means for India in statecraft; Pakistan sees irrationality as a stabilizing factor in regional politics. And for Afghanistan, fly and spider both are an illusion with four decades of instability. Wars, proxies, hate speech, threats, strategic communications, CBMs, dialogues, backdoor diplomacy, reproachment, and whatnot; all seem to fail when these three brothers can’t see beyond their noses. We are not married; we are neither divorced. We are neighbored by each other as a sandwich.

India sees its west as invaders, and irrational barbarians and calibrates them as ‘Panipat Syndrome’ in its strategic thought.

Afghanistan, the ‘graveyard of empires’ is a notoriously difficult country to govern. Empire after empire, nation after nation has failed to pacify it. It has become a ritual for now and then for other international and regional players to take a bottom-up, comprehensive look at its Afghanistan policy and propagate it accordingly; whoever does it, it has and will always have strands that impact Pakistan and the larger Sub-continent.

Afghanistan has long over with its graveyard of empire peril and now it is itself a graveyard, waiting and wanting to see others to come and beat it. It has lost its ability to stand on its own feet in the near future. Pakistan, a land of pure, where the ricochets of primeval cultures complement with the bustling beats of modern life is trying to maintain strategic balance on its eastern side and wanting to dominate its western side.

It is a horizontal stepping ladder, where it gradually ascends from west to east. Moving downwards is easy (east to west), and upward is an uphill task (west to east). Empirically, invaders were the western hemisphere in sub-continent areas, now the desire has spun in other directions.

Now same three brothers, let’s equate its brotherhood. I know, there are no brothers and friends in international relations, it is always the national interest which is prime and accordingly pursued. However, when seen from a regionalist perspective, it provides more goods than uglier (ugly) and worse (bad) outcomes.  Shared rich cultural heritage is a treasure trove waiting to be traversed; offers a glimpse into diversity amongst chaos and centuries of history and artistry.

As we imitate our voyage through Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan, it becomes clear that these homelands are distinct not by their contests alone, but by the resilience and spirit of their people. Despite the complications they face, Pakistanis, Indians, and Afghans endure to strive for a better imminent, steered by a shared sense of individuality and drive. It is through empathy and identification that we can circumnavigate the densities of South Asia, recognizing the mortality that hitches us all.

By recognizing the good, confronting the bad, and challenging the ugly, we can work together to build a more peaceful and prosperous future for generations to come.

In this God’s region, where geopolitical stiffness texture is as ample as memes on the internet, it’s crucial to take a step back and see the progressive side of this region. This region can offer a tapestry of experiences, more diverse and productive for the rest of the world if they start thinking from their heads rather than egoistic approaches.

Every rose has its thorns, and this area is no exception. If Kafka were alive today, he’d set his next novel about this place. Navigating the labyrinthine corridors of power in Three Brothers is like threading a camel through the eye of a needle seems like a child’s play. And let’s not sugarcoat it; we must invest in our strategic thought, which needs to alter from anxieties to shared values and culture for which we must brainwash our future generations for the GOODS, we have.

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