Sta­bil­ity & Peace in Afghanistan

The Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion pos­si­bly is look­ing for an all-in­clu­sive frame­work un­der the aus­pices of the UN that should help Afghanistan in post-2014 era. Thus, at the cur­rent junc­ture, prospects for a re­gional so­lu­tion do not look bright.

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Bri­gadier (Retd) Vinod Anand

The Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion pos­si­bly is look­ing for an all-in­clu­sive frame­work un­der the aus­pices of the UN that should help Afghanistan in post-2014 era.

EVEN THOUGH THE BISHKEK sum­mit of the Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion (SCO) held in Septem­ber 2013 was over­taken by the Syr­ian cri­sis, Afghanistan con­tin­ued to be a ma­jor con­cern for the SCO mem­ber and ob­server coun­tries. Afghanistan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai has been a reg­u­lar at­tendee at the SCO sum­mits since 2004 as a guest and last year, Afghanistan was ad­mit­ted as an ob­server.

At­tend­ing the 2005 SCO Sum­mit in Bei­jing and un­der­scor­ing the rel­e­vance of Afghanistan as an im­por­tant link be­tween Cen­tral Asia and South Asia, Karzai had then ob­served that “Afghanistan be­longs to the re­gion where also lies the SCO. Afghanistan has no other ways and can’t be out­side the re­gion.”

Geostrate­gic Salience of Afghanistan

The geostrate­gic salience of Afghanistan is un­der­scored by the fact that it is a land bridge be­tween Iran, Cen­tral Asia and South Asia; Iran lies to its west; Pak­istan on the east and south, and the Cen­tral Asian re­publics of Turk­menistan, Uzbek­istan and Ta­jik­istan to the north. With con­trol of Afghanistan comes con­trol of the land routes be­tween the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent and the re­sourcerich Cen­tral Asia, as well as of a po­ten­tial cor­ri­dor to Iran and the Mid­dle East. Thus sta­bil­ity and peace in Afghanistan of­fers tremen­dous po­ten­tial for in­tra-re­gional trade and eco­nomic pros­per­ity.

When Amer­i­can forces launched Op­er­a­tion En­dur­ing Free­dom against the Tal­iban regime in Oc­to­ber 2001 con­se­quent to Septem­ber 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks on New York and Wash­ing­ton, the step was largely wel­comed by Rus­sia, China, Cen­tral Asian re­publics (CAR), In­dia and oth­ers. Rus­sia and China raised no ob­jec­tions to the US be­ing granted air­bases and lo­gis­tics fa­cil­i­ties in CAR na­tions since it suited their short-term strate­gic in­ter­ests. Pak­istan was forced to do a U-turn in its poli­cies, how­ever, till now, it re­mains a re­luc­tant part­ner in the US and Western na­tions’ global war against ter­ror­ism and its at­ti­tude to­wards ter­ror­ism con­tin­ues to be am­bigu­ous.

The SCO had formed an Afghanistan Con­tact Group in 2005. How­ever, it was only in 2009 that a plan of ac­tion for com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism, il­licit drug traf­fick­ing and or­gan­ised crime was signed. Yet, other than some bi­lat­eral aid from in­di­vid­ual mem­bers of the SCO group­ing, there is lit­tle ev­i­dence to show that any mean­ing­ful ef­forts have been di­rected by the or­gan­i­sa­tion to­wards achiev­ing sta­bil­ity and se­cu­rity in Afghanistan. The US and western na­tions, even when they talked about a re­gional so­lu­tion were not ready to give a ma­jor role to the SCO. Con­cerned with drug traf­fick­ing and pos­si­bil­ity of ter­ror­ists in­fil­trat­ing into CARS, the SCO mem­bers have car­ried out some counter-nar­cotics and counter-ter­ror­ism ex­er­cises amongst them.

In 2009, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama had un­veiled his new Afghan strat­egy and there­after was able to get Rus­sia and Cen­tral Asian coun­tries to pro­vide tran­sit routes to Afghanistan. Obama had also stated that he would move to­wards press­ing the ‘re­set’ but­ton in its re­la­tions with Rus­sia, a ma­jor driver of the SCO. In fact, Pa­trick Moon, the US rep­re­sen­ta­tive at SCO sum­mit of 2009 in Yeka­ter­in­burg, had com­mended the SCO’s joint ac­tion plan on Afghanistan. How­ever, over the years, the re­set ini­tia­tive of Obama seems to have lost steam, es­pe­cially so af­ter the re­turn of Vladimir Putin as Pres­i­dent. Nev­er­the­less, safe pas­sage of with­draw­ing troops from Afghanistan re­mains the chief con­cern of the US and its al­lies.

Cur­rently, even though the US and NATO forces use sup­ply lines to Afghanistan through Rus­sia and Cen­tral Asian coun­tries, dif­fer­ences be­tween the US-NATO com­bine and Rus­sia con­tin­ues to ex­ist.

SCO to Sup­port Kabul’s Sta­bil­ity

In 2011, at the SCO’s As­tana Sum­mit, Pres­i­dent Karzai had ob­served that Afghanistan “ex­pects real co­op­er­a­tion with the SCO coun­tries in com­bat­ing the threat of ter­ror­ism and traf­fick­ing in arms and drugs”. He was look­ing for­ward to SCO mem­bers for in­vest­ments in his coun­try for ex­ploita­tion of min­eral re­sources. Kaza­khstan Pres­i­dent Nur­sul­tan Nazarbayev, the host, had ob­served, “The SCO be­lieves with good rea­son that Afghanistan holds the key to the fu­ture of the en­tire re­gion.”

Again at the SCO sum­mit of 2012 sim­i­lar for­mu­la­tion was ar­tic­u­lated. The SCO meet stressed on step­ping up bi­lat­eral and mul­ti­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion to jointly com­bat ter­ror­ism, sep­a­ratism and ex­trem­ism, bat­tle il­licit traf­fick­ing in drugs and weapons and other transna­tional crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties, ad­dress il­le­gal mi­gra­tion and meet the new threats and chal­lenges in other se­cu­rity fields.

The Thir­teenth SCO sum­mit held in Septem­ber this year at Bishkek again un­der­lined the sig­nif­i­cance of sup­port­ing Kabul’s ef­forts in bring­ing peace and sta­bil­ity in Afghanistan. Pres­i­dent Al­mazbek Atam­bayev of Kyr­gyzs­tan who chaired the sum­mit while speak­ing about the Afghanistan sit­u­a­tion ob­served that the ac­tiv­i­ties of ter­ror­ist and ex­trem­ist groups are still on the rise in Afghanistan and called on the SCO mem­ber states to con­tin­u­ously sup­port Kabul in its ef­fort and de­ter­mi­na­tion to re­vive the coun­try. Karzai in his speech stated, “We know that while our friends may come from all cor­ners of the world, our true se­cu­rity and pros­per­ity fun­da­men­tally de­pends on the re­gion that sur­rounds us. There­fore, we are com­mit­ted to fur­ther strength­en­ing our re­la­tions with the Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion and to work con­struc­tively with all the mem­ber states to­wards a com­mon vi­sion for peace, se­cu­rity and pros­per­ity.” He went on to stress that the re­gion must not ex­pect that North At­lantic Treaty Or­gan­i­sa­tion (NATO) or In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity As­sis­tance Force (ISAF) or the United States will de­liver us from all the chal­lenges that we face. It was im­por­tant to recog­nise that fight­ing ter­ror­ism and rad­i­cal­ism in the re­gion is pri­mar­ily the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the re­gion.

Dur­ing the sum­mit, In­dia ex­pressed its con­cerns that arise out of evolv­ing sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan. Sal­man Khur­shid at­tend­ing the SCO meet­ing stated that “In­dia strongly be­lieves that Afghanistan can suc­cess­fully com­plete the se­cu­rity, po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic tran­si­tions in com­ing years and re­gain its his­tor­i­cal place as a hub for re­gional trade and tran­sit routes.

With con­trol of Afghanistan comes con­trol of the land routes be­tween the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent and the re­source-rich Cen­tral Asia, as well as of a po­ten­tial cor­ri­dor to Iran and the Mid­dle East

How­ever, this pre­sup­poses ful­fil­ment of pledges made by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity for se­cu­rity and civil­ian as­sis­tance to Afghanistan and non-in­ter­fer­ence in Afghanistan’s in­ter­nal af­fairs. We see SCO as an im­por­tant body that can of­fer a cred­i­ble al­ter­na­tive re­gional plat­form to dis­cuss the chal­lenges re­lated to Afghanistan.”

Given the na­ture and char­ter of the SCO, the group­ing is more com­fort­able in deal­ing with threats and chal­lenges em­a­nat­ing from Afghanistan that do not in­volve mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion or send­ing of troops to Afghanistan. Rise of drug traf­fick­ing that has been af­fect­ing CARs, Rus­sia and now even China, has been viewed very se­ri­ously by the SCO mem­bers. It has also been re­ported that some of the rad­i­cal groups like Is­lamic Move­ment of Uzbek­istan and oth­ers are con­gre­gat­ing in North­ern Afghanistan wait­ing to take ad­van­tage if the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan de­te­ri­o­rates fur­ther.

In all the SCO sum­mits held so far, counter-nar­cotics and anti-ter­ror­ism dis­cus­sions have re­ceived pri­or­ity even while eco­nomic and other is­sues find their due place. China, which is one of the ma­jor play­ers in the SCO has again this year stressed on the need to fight three evils of “ter­ror­ism, ex­trem­ism and sep­a­ratism”. Last year, China had signed a strate­gic part­ner­ship agree­ment with Afghanistan. China has also formed a tri­lat­eral group­ing of China, Afghanistan and Pak­istan, to ad­dress its con­cerns about deal­ing with chal­lenges of a post-2014 sce­nario in Afghanistan. Even Rus­sia has formed a quadri­lat­eral group­ing of Rus­sia-Ta­jik­istan-Afghanistan-Pak­istan to ad­dress con­cerns about Afghanistan sit­u­a­tion. The moot point is that whether all such plethora of group­ings and sub-re­gional di­a­logues help the process of mov­ing to­wards se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity in Afghanistan. While as a prin­ci­ple, any ef­fort to ame­lio­rate the sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan should be wel­come. Such en­deav­ours would more likely have the ef­fect of diluting the uni­fied re­sponse un­der the aegis of the SCO. Fur­ther, such ef­forts also re­flect the com­pet­ing agen­das of the re­gional play­ers which would mil­i­tate against mov­ing to­wards a re­gional so­lu­tion.

No So­lu­tions Yet

De­spite many years of de­lib­er­a­tions on Afghanistan is­sue, the SCO has not come out with any con­crete plans or strate­gies to deal with the post-2014 sit­u­a­tion. In fact it has failed to evolve any suit­able struc­tures, pro­cesses or mech­a­nisms to deal with in­sta­bil­ity and in­se­cu­rity in Afghanistan which has the po­ten­tial to threaten the mem­ber na­tions. Other than some lim­ited civil and mil­i­tary aid and de­vel­op­ment of some in­fra­struc­ture, no long-term plans for bring­ing peace and sta­bil­ity in Afghanistan have been un­veiled. Even though Rus­sia and China would like to see the US and other for­eign troops leave Afghanistan yet they are con­cerned with ‘Zero Op­tion’ of the US forces. Fur­ther, SCO is un­likely to in­ter­vene mil­i­tar­ily de­spite the fact that it is ap­pre­hen­sive of spill over of ex­trem­ism, rad­i­cal­ism and ter­ror­ism from an un­sta­ble Afghanistan in post-2014 sce­nario. SCO pos­si­bly is look­ing for an all-in­clu­sive frame­work un­der the aus­pices of the UN that should help Afghanistan in post-2014 era. Thus, at the cur­rent junc­ture, prospects for a re­gional so­lu­tion do not look bright.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: Wikipedia

Afghanistan Pres­i­dent Hamid

Karzai has been a reg­u­lar at­tendee at the SCO sum­mits since 2004 as a guest and last year, Afghanistan was

ad­mit­ted as an ob­server

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.