The nervousness of the Arab world could mean that these states could begin to look at other options or cultivate alternatives to balance out Iran. In any case, the Arab states are getting increasingly nervous with the idea of being abandoned by the US. The manner in which Hosni Mubarak was abandoned by Washington or the fact that the US and the Western world at large will have reduced dependence on Middle Eastern oil reserves may result in various uncomfortable scenarios. One situation, which is likely to have disastrous consequences for South Asia in particular, pertains to the Arab engagement with the various non-state actors, particularly those that offer to propagate a religious ideology deemed friendly by the Arab world.
Reportedly, the number of Saudis engaged in the Syrian conflict has increased. These non-state actors may not limit themselves just to Syria but will also find their way into South Asia, especially if they find hosting agents in the form of proxies that seem to be planning to expand their options in Afghanistan and Pakistan after the US pullout from Kabul in 2014. Although there appears to be some form of tacit agreement between the US and Pakistan to eliminate some proxies, it is still not clear if what we are looking at is a consensus on complete elimination of all kinds of violent non-state actors. The continuation of any strategic engagement in South Asia between the state and non-state actors will encourage an environment which will attract a lot of frustrated elements from the Arab world. Indeed, traction towards jihad does echo through higher educational institutions of some of the Arab states.
The Iran-Saudi Cold War never bode well for South Asia and its continuation will be even more disastrous. Though the sectarian ideological rift has spread, it is still not a popular agenda, at least not as popular as some other causes. For instance, the sectarian violence on its own is still not a proverbial ‘crowd-pulling’ agenda or something that would help raise funds and human resources. An issue like Kashmir, water or India continues to be more attractive. This is the case because the desire for peace has not materialised into something concrete and policymakers have been unable to generate a positive propaganda such as the impact of economic cooperation and similar issues. Under the circumstances, we can continue to have a condition where violent extremist NGOs will continue to use the India factor to draw resources to be diverted towards other issues such as sectarian violence. Many analysts tend to make separate categories for groups that engage in sectarian violence versus those that use Kashmir as a core agenda or others that fight in Afghanistan. Such categories only apply as far as marketing a particular organisation is concerned. Militant organisations that fight in India have fought in Afghanistan as well and subscribe to a sectarian agenda too. These lines will sadly get fuzzy in the coming months or years.