Afghanistan's political elite and the 'landbridge' concept

PhD thesis

Arya, V. 2014. Afghanistan's political elite and the 'landbridge' concept. PhD thesis Middlesex University School of Law
TypePhD thesis
TitleAfghanistan's political elite and the 'landbridge' concept
AuthorsArya, V.

“Landbridge” is a concept and a policy in the Afghan foreign policy objectives and rhetoric. The idea is that the country turns into a bridge that can connect the three surrounding regions of South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East for trade, transit, and energy as well as for culture and politics. This thesis is to study the views of the Afghan political elite in this regard and to what extent this concept is realistic given the internal and external obstacles, with the main research question of whether Afghanistan can become a landbridge linking the surrounding regions, and the seven ancillary questions of: what is the definition of ‘Landbridge’ generally and in the Afghan context and what are the threats and opportunities?; what are the current foreign policy objectives of Afghanistan and are they helping the country transform into a landbridge?; how could the disputed “Durand Line” be resolved with Pakistan?; what are the implications of Iran becoming a regional power for Afghanistan as a landbridge?; what are the obstacles in Central Asia for the main research question and can Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India (TAPI) gas pipeline, which is a litmus test for the concept of landbridge eventually materialise?; as the key obstacle for the landbridge concept is insecurity in Afghanistan, what are the root causes of security problems and how could they be tackled?; and how can the politics of centralisation and decentralisation be explained in relation to the main research question?
The methods included literature review, field research in Afghanistan, interviews with political leaders and government officials, and interviews with academia and experts. I was able to use connections to senior government officials in Afghanistan as well as Afghan and regional experts in the UK, US and Europe that allowed me to make fresh contributions to the discipline. Numerous International Relations theories have been applied within the framework of analytical eclecticism. The thesis also includes a historical overview and a section on the current political economy of Afghanistan.
There is no doubt that the country is naturally strategically positioned to become a regional landbridge, but in order for this to happen, there must be lasting security, the issue of the Durand Line must be finally resolved by recognising it and getting certain concessions from Pakistan in return which would call for compromise on the part of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Relations with Iran must be continuously developed, in the sense that Iran should not feel threatened by the presence of Western forces on the Afghan soil. Afghanistan should have friendly and cordial relations with all its neighbours and the West. These requirements are vital for domestic security, whether or not landbridge status is to be acquired. TAPI would make a strong contribution to the landbridge idea and will be a very good indicator to measure the development of the country into a landbridge, but the obstacles are currently many. Decentralisation and in the long-term federalism would appear to be more conducive to an active regional role on the part of Afghanistan and will be accompanied by a strong national identity which incorporates and transcends ethnic differences. Afghan foreign policy should be very active and proactive and must continue to learn from the findings of this thesis if progress towards Afghanistan becoming a landbridge for the region is to be made, and work to develop a consistent and stable regional and international identity for the country. This thesis takes a contextualist stance to the issues of national and international identity alongside international behaviour to understand how Afghanistan can achieve its aim of becoming an economic, commercial, cultural, and political landbridge in Asia. It concludes that an international identity of a ‘stable’ state requires national unity, which will in turn depend on the development of a strong national identity or sense of nationhood. It is then that the country will be ready to become a regional hub or a landbridge.
This thesis looks at the period 2001 to 2010 and, therefore, covering any literature from the last three years does not seem essential. Moreover, the key arguments of the thesis are still valid. Some of them have become even stronger, given the developments that have unfolded since 2010 such as the increased ethnic tension amongst the key groups.

Research GroupLaw and Politics
Department nameSchool of Law
Institution nameMiddlesex University
Publication dates
Print30 Jun 2014
Publication process dates
Deposited30 Jun 2014
Output statusPublished
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