Time To Come Out Of Shadows

The transformation of power in Kabul has brought the analysts to believe a transformation in foreign policy of the Afghan government particularly towards Pakistan. Unlike the Ex­- President Hamid Karzai, the new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani have inspired a change of minds (at least apparently) both in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the civil and military leaderships of both the countries have made positive overtures to cooperate in areas of their common interests.

Ghani is wisely using his cards to gather a worldwide and regional support for his peace initiative in Afghanistan. He has been active since he took the office of the new President of Afghanistan to persuade the stakeholders  to help bring the forty years war in his country to its logical end and to make it a hub of regional connectivity and global trade

The complex relations characterized by mistrust between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ashraf Ghani define as an “undeclared war” which impedes the two countries to resolve their issues and live together peacefully. Apart from the divergences the neighbors have with each others, there are potentials, if exploited, can brings them together and inspire economic prosperity and political stability in South and Central Asia. But the question remains that can these opportunities be worked out and how? At first glance it seems not as difficult as it was during the last few years as both Islamabad and Kabul are approaching each other. But it needs not only the change of hearts on both sides but considerable changes in policy mechanisms as well. Though the changing global and regional realities demands new approaches and attitudes, and some compelling factors are bringing the two countries closer to each other, yet the nature of their relationship is highly uncertain. Pakistan has to abandon its expansionist motives in Afghanistan and its overall unreasonable and persistent revisionism if it wants to eliminate terrorism which threatens its own national as well as regional security; to contribute and benefit from regional economic integration; and to maintain a healthy profile in the community of nations.

Among the global realities after the end of the cold war, globalization- the integration of states and markets into a single global village; the emergence of new powers in South and South East Asia; and the rise of transnational terrorism and religious extremism have prompted the regional countries to seek new strategies to meet new challenges and grab uneven opportunities of trade and capital multiplications. Afghans were the witness of Taliban regime been dismantled and a new government through national consensus was formed by the Loya Jirga held in Bone in December 2001. The new government enjoyed the support of the international community. Since then the extremists Taliban have kept their struggle continued against the US- led NATO forces in Afghanistan and the Afghan government led by Hamid Karzai.

For most part of the last fourteen years, Pakistan has been criticized by the Afghans and international community for its alleged role of supporting militancy in Afghanistan and double crossing the US to which it is a “frontline partner” in the war on terror. Apart from that, Pakistani spy agencies have countered Indian growing influence (though economic and political) in Afghanistan through covert strategies. Islamabad is seeing Indian role in building the Afghan infrastructure and institutions with suspicious eyes even knowing the fact that Afghanistan needs help, assistance to stand on its own feet. Afghanistan as an independent state has the right to choose its friends for its own national interests. It has every reason to have strong relations with India; a country with fastest growing economy in the world and a regional partner with which Afghanistan have historical economic, political, religious and cultural ties based on thousands years, where there was no Pakistan. But as far as Pakistan continue with its Indo- centric policies, as far as it see every political and economic move in the region through the lenses of fear and security, and as far as the locus of authority remains Rawalpindi instead of Islamabad, the prospects of regional cooperation and economic integrity will be overshadowed by the reluctance of Pakistan to abandon its notorious past as a rogue state. The temporary and half hearted romance will result in deepening the mistrusts even further in the region.

Last week while participating in an international conference on the “NATO drawdown from Afghanistan: Challenges and opportunities”, at Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan, one thing that I had observed was the evident pessimism and realist generalizations of the speakers hailing from Pakistan’s military, and the optimism and liberal explanations of the post NATO withdrawal scenario by the scholars belonged to civil institutions and organizations. To generalize this one observation to the decision making in Pakistan (largely defined by Khakis), one can easily understand the security- centric foreign policy of the country with lack of vision and willingness to live in peace with neighboring states. Thus simple argument can be that, that changes in the domestic political structures of Pakistan and reconsideration of its strategic ideation is a long-lasting solution, not only to the internal problems of Pakistan but to the long held  misunderstandings and issues with its bordering states too. Pakistan has to moderate its behavior as a responsible member of the international community. The re-evaluation of its foreign policies particularly regarding Afghanistan and India will create new avenues of cooperation and will help on taking the road for a prosperous South Asia and Central Asia. Afghanistan needs sincere efforts from Pakistan in bringing the Afghan Taliban on negotiating table, and for that purpose the Ashraf Ghani- led government has invested enough trust in Pakistan to do so. Pakistan shouldn’t loose this opportunity to win the hearts of the Afghans. Otherwise the new warmth in the relations of the two countries will be transient and this marriage of convenience would not last longer. Any failure or insincerity from Islamabad to play a constructive role in the Afghan peace process will bring unimaginable consequences not only for the two countries but for the whole region.

Abdullah is a student of Politics at Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan.

He can be reached through: abdullahabdullah124@gmail.com

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the CSA BUSINESS.