News & Views
After transit agreement with Iran for trade through Chahbahar, India and Afghanistan axis is ‘gathering momentum’. India has promised $ 1 billion development assistance to strengthen defence and security ties to end, what they called, state-sponsored terrorism in a veiled reference to Pakistan. After talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Afghan president Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday, India announced its development assistance that will be formalized at a donor meet in Brussels in October. A joint statement said: “The leaders expressed grave concern at continued use of terrorism and violence in the region for achieving political objectives and stressing that elimination of all forms of terrorism without any discrimination is essential,” and called upon the concerned to put an end to all sponsorship, support, safe havens and sanctuaries to terrorists, including for those who target Afghanistan and India.”
There was no mention of Pakistan and neither side specified it, but the reference was obvious. Both leaders reaffirmed their resolve to counter terrorism and strengthen security and defence cooperation as envisaged in the India-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement. India also decided to supply more defence equipment to Afghanistan. The same day, President Ashraf Ghani addressing the seminar at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) titled ‘Fifth Wave of Political Violence and Global Terrorism’ said: “The Pakistan military is waging a war on its provinces of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.” It is unfortunate that India and Afghanistan have ganged up to malign Pakistan. It is height of political and intellectual dishonesty, as on one hand they want Pakistan to eliminate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and on the other they show sympathy for terrorists and dissidents in KPK and Balochistan.
Of course, they are working on the agenda of isolating Pakistan, but they are bound to fail as Pakistan has excellent relations with China and is also building bridges with Russia. In an effort to contain China and sabotage China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) India and the US had announced the start of trilateral cooperation to strengthen and stabilize Afghanistan. In his last visit to India, US Secretary of State John Kerry also talked tough with Islamabad asking it to rein in terror emanating from its territory. According to reports, the three countries would start the trilateral cooperation on the sidelines of the 71st UN General Assembly, where Pakistan is poised to raise the Kashmir issue. During her joint press conference with Kerry, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said Pakistan should stop terrorism and dismantle the Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and the D-Company networks. “I briefed Secretary Kerry on the continuing problem of cross-border terrorism that India and the larger region face from Pakistan.
Afghanistan is already in the throes of a multidimensional civil war, and with the rift between the partners of Unity Government and intensified Taliban attacks, the country is adrift to more uncertainties, chaos and anarchy. In an August 11 speech in Kabul, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah had criticized President Ashraf Ghani for taking unilateral decisions on various issues including the appointment of ministers. He accused President Ashraf Ghani of not implementing the power-sharing arrangement, his failure to hold a Loya Jirga and amending the constitution to create the position of prime minister. The deadline for implementation of political agreement brokered by Secretary Kerry that formed the current coalition government is September 21. But nothing has so far been done in this regard. President Ashraf Ghani perhaps feels that with the amendment of the Constitution, he will become only figure head of the government.
The dispute had also figured at a State Department news briefing when a journalist asked for comments on a videoconference between President Obama and Afghan leaders. The journalist quoted media reports as claiming that President Obama asked Afghan CEO Abdullah not to interfere with the Afghan president’s constitutional powers. A fourth meeting was held last week, in an attempt to break the deadlock between the two leaders, who reportedly agreed to create a commission to amend the constitution and create the position of prime minister. After that, parliamentary and provincial council elections will be held and a Loya Jirga will discuss transformation of Afghanistan’s political system. However, amid this bickering and debating, According to Tolonews, Taliban militants are making advances in the north; some districts are being contested while others have already fallen to the Taliban. To cover up its failures and inability to fight and eliminate Daesh and Taliban, Afghan government blames Pakistan.
Despite India directly and the US indirectly opposing China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Chinese leadership remains well-composed. China Pakistan Economic Corridor is indeed part of a much bigger Chinese initiative known as ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR), which envisages new land and sea routes connecting China to Western Eurasia and East Africa. Many in India have been vocal in their opposition to China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which epitomizes the spirit and strength of Pakistan-China friendship and cooperation for regional peace, progress and prosperity. One Corridor and four dimensions pattern of cooperation was agreed by both sides for CPEC. The four key areas include Gwadar Port, Energy, Transportation Infrastructure and Industrial Cooperation. Initially, some USD46 billion were estimated for CPEC. Of this $ 34 billion were envisaged for the Energy Sector, $6.1 billion for roads, $ 3.7 billion for Rail Network and $793 million for Gwadar Port.
Anyhow, political landscape of world is changing fast; in the arena are arrayed the European Union and the United States against Russia, which has already taken Crimean peninsula and is now eyeing the Russian speaking eastern Ukraine, where the natives agitated for joining the customs union with Russia. China has dispute over islands in the South China Sea with West’s allies, but in July 2016 the Permanent Court of Arbitration rejected China’s claim over it. “The landmark arbitration ruling in July, which is binding, helped clarify maritime rights in the region,” President Barack Obama had told a summit of Asian leaders in Laos two weeks ago. Beijing has vowed to ignore the verdict. However, both China and Russia appear to have a desire to limit American power; and one can infer from the changing political landscape that the world is moving towards new Cold War and multipolar world.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.