We’ve Learnt Nothing from History
Regional powers will have to make a serious commitment to Afghanistan, if they wish to move from an era of war to a scenario of greater economic cooperation and diplomatic collaboration.
The role of regional countries in collaboration with the international community will become increasingly important in the developing Afghan scenario. The politics of dialogue and creating an environment conducive to a win-win situation for all stakeholders takes the center stage in today’s energy hungry and resource depleted world.
The endgame in Afghanistan will be a continuing process that will shift gears from one stage to another. Afghanistan not only sits on huge reserves of natural resources but is also the future energy corridor for the Central Asian natural reserves that run through Pakistan into the warm waters of the Arabian Sea.
The Chinese dragon continues to dig its claws deeper into strategic locations to contain the West and its efforts will certainly provoke the U.S to increase its presence in the region. The “Port Enhancement Project” in the Indian Ocean and investment in the development of the mining sectors in Afghanistan have already rung alarm bells. However, the withdrawal of multinational troops does not guarantee an open pasture for everyone to graze in. It certainly underlines fears of a new set of proxy wars in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, with external forces trying to contain each other in a bid to control natural resources as well as the emerging energy corridor. Given this development, regional and international interests will stay and continue to grow in Afghanistan.
Easing the Indian pressure on Pakistan’s eastern border is also
of prime importance, given the historical animosity that prevails between the two neighbors. The uninterrupted success of growing Indian investment in the development sector in Afghanistan has thrown the Pakistani establishment in a flurry. However, the issue would remain marginal as long as Indian interests are confined to Afghanistan’s development sector and Pakistan is guaranteed some form of involvement in the security and political sectors.
The delicate equilibrium of this complex chemistry of a nuclear flashpoint will come to rest when the roles of India and Pakistan are clearly determined, demarcated and guaranteed in Afghanistan. The role of a nuclear-ambitious Iran in Afghanistan is so far obvious, particularly with reference to the dari speaking Shi’a Hazara community in the north of Afghanistan that draws its religious inspiration from Iran.
As international troops gear up for withdrawal and the global community prepares to identify the next steps, the energy corridor and the issue of terrorism thriving on the Western border of Pakistan – often referred to as the epicenter of terrorism -- have captured the imagination of international strategists and policymakers.
Military-to-military contact and collaborative intelligence cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan is imperative in order to move forward. However, transforming a previously invisible role of intelligence agencies into a culture of transparency and accountability is a feat unto itself.
A trilateral process of discussing issues plaguing Afghanistan and Pakistan was initiated by the German political foundation – Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany. The emphasis of the trilateral dialogue process was truly reflected in the views of the German Ambassador to Pakistan, Dr. Cyrill Nunn, who stressed on exploring similarities between the Afghan and Pakistani polity as an effective remedy to combat their ailments.
A sparkling cluster of high level, middle cadre and budding leaders from a broad spectrum of politics, civil bureaucracy, media, academia, civil society, economics and social sciences from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Germany met to review and build upon the policy recommendations tailored in Berlin earlier this year. The recommendations are meant to serve as a roadmap for the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, particularly in the backdrop of the emerging 2014 scenario.
The thrust of the policy recommendations was to put an end to the blamegame, reduce the trust deficit and expand economic and development activities in order to cool down the war mechanism and turn the wheels of prosperity in the region.
Under the leadership of the eminent Afghan political leader and former Senator, Pir Sayed Hamid Gailani, the working group on Afghanistan presented the document – “An Olive Branch for Regional Integration” highlighting seven different interdependent areas covering an entire range of issues. These include areas of economics, social and political structures, culture, peace, indicators of accountability and transparency, as well as the security sectors.
The group that presented an elevenpoint agenda and brainstormed recommendations for the Government of Pakistan worked under the direction of eminent diplomat and bureaucrat, Dr. Ross Masood Husain. It emphasized on adopting a more meaningful approach rather than a symbolic one, in order to pressurize policymakers and governments in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A re- laxation of visa policy, active pursuance of the trade agreement negotiations, accelerating the reconciliation process and founding the Afghanistan-Pakistan Friendship group in the Parliament of Afghanistan, were all discussed.
While the working group recognized that looming fears (mostly on security related issues) haunting Afghanistan do exist, the reality is yet to be officially recognized in Pakistan. Experts on both sides also recommended adopting a more practical, rational and meaningful approach beyond mere visits and exchange programs.
Both sets of recommendations identified that the friction between the two neighboring countries was political in nature while there were generally no issues at the people-to-people or the community level.
The Pakistani military is also undergoing a successful image building exercise and appears to have tuned to the going trend, appreciating the paradigm shift in South Asia from the conflict approach to economic cooperation and mutual collaboration. Pakistani military chief, General Pervez Kayani’s speech on August 14, 2012 set the tone for the future course of action for Pakistan in countering terrorism and regarding the future of non-state actors.
The next stage is of course reconstruction, development and accelerated economic activity. With dialogue as the only valid currency in the upcoming 2014 scenario, all players would be compelled to shape a better future for both Afghanistan and Pakistan, in order to safeguard and guarantee their own economic and strategic interests in the region. Syed Moazzam Hashmi is a political and security analyst, a senior journalist and former Political Affairs Advisor to the US Consulate General in Karachi, Pakistan.