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.

Southasia - - Cover Story - Syed Moaz­zam Hashmi

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.

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