News & Views
DESPITE the fact, India has failed to isolate Pakistan; it has had many setbacks during the last few months, and its frustration is obvious. Pakistan held naval exercise in which 37 countries took part including the US, Russia and China with the theme ‘Together for peace’, which is reflective of the trust in Pakistan’s role to fight terrorism and efforts for peace. Anyhow, for peaceful Afghanistan, India has to recognize the role and importance of Pakistan. India and Iran are developing Chahbahar Port, but it cannot be successful unless there is peace is southern Afghanistan. But instead of accepting the eidetic reality, India continues with its propaganda campaign against Pakistan. In his article, Dr Subhash Kapila, Consultant International Relations Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group (RAW’s propaganda arm) tried to provoke the US Administration by stating that the US has stake in Afghanistan.
He wrote: “The US incoming Trump Administration’s highest priority task on assumption of office should be not to abandon Afghanistan. On the contrary the United States should ensure that the machinations of the China-Pakistan-Russia Troika, by what initially appears only as a ‘pious’ political intervention, is not allowed to morph into an eventual some sort of quasi-military Troika intervention.” Assuming the role of a self-styled advisor, the author reminded US Administration of the dangers if it decided to abandon Afghanistan. It has to be mentioned that India was in the Soviet camp throughout the Cold War era, whereas Pakistan had cooperated with the US in latter’s proxy war against the Soviet Union. It was only after the demise of the Soviet Union that India sought to build strategic relations with the US. Anyhow, India is frustrated as it failed on many counts.
It has failed to prove Pakistan’s involvement in Uri army base attack. Last week, India’s National Investigative Agency (NIA) decided to file a closure report after failing to find any evidence against two men from Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) whom it accused of facilitating the Uri attack. The decision also belies New Delhi’s claims of Pakistani involvement in the attack. India’s Ministry of External Affairs had earlier claimed to have “proof of the cross-border origins of Uri attacks” on September 18 last year. There is yet another setback for India. Though interests of India and the US converge in Afghanistan, the US treads carefully as it understands importance of Pakistan. At his confirmation hearing at the Senate Armed Forces Committee on January 17, US Defence Secretary James Mattis underlined the need to stay engaged with Pakistan while asking it to do more to eradicate terrorism from the region.
“If confirmed, I will work with the State Department and the Congress to incentivize Pakistan’s cooperation on issues critical to our national interests and the region’s security, with focus on Pakistan’s need to expel or neutralise externally-focused militant groups that operate within its borders,” James Mattis said. Responding to a question, he also stated that the Taliban control at least 50 per cent of Afghanistan’s territory, which means that earlier US and NATO forces and now Afghan army could not stem the tide of the Taliban. One can infer from his statement that the US or for that matter no country in the world can ignore Pakistan due to its strategic position. China and Russia also understand importance of Pakistan. Despite Iran’s soft corner for Northern Alliance, which dominates Afghan government, Iran is poised to support the Taliban because it realizes that Afghan government cannot rein in Daesh.
On December 27, 2016, officials from Russia, China and Pakistan had met in Moscow for the third Trilateral Dialogue on Afghanistan, where all three states deliberated on the deteriorating state of affairs in the country, the stalled Afghan peace process and the growing threat of the so-called Islamic State (IS) in the region. In a joint statement, representatives from all three countries reaffirmed their support for Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process, and underlined the importance of intensifying efforts in this regard. They also suggested to remove the names of certain Taliban members from the sanctions lists in order to encourage peace talks. The inclusion of the Afghan government in future talks was also affirmed. There is another feather in Pakistan’s cap. The leaders of participating countries in the 13th ECO summit emphasized the importance of connectivity for prosperity of the region and exchanged views on regional and global issues.
It resolved to double intra-regional trade in the next five years through implementation of the ECO Trade Agreement. The summit was attended by all 10 ECO members; and Afghanistan was represented at a lower level unarguably at the behest of India. Anyhow, the successful holding of the ECO summit is emblematic of trust in Pakistan. However, Afghanistan continues to be a country that Pakistan has a stake in because of being a next door neighbor. Pakistan’s ports – Karachi and Gwadar – being the only viable and logical route, Afghanistan should benefit from facilities for trade and commerce Pakistan can offer. The situation in Afghanistan is changing. The Taliban, who previously considered Russia an enemy, welcomed the trilateral initiative, and expressed satisfaction to see that regional countries understood that the Taliban are a political and military force and can help bring peace and security in Afghanistan.
While Russia’s outreach towards the Taliban appears to be political, the apparent deepening of ties between the two former adversaries has been a matter of concern for Afghanistan, as they believed Russian support may lead to or include weapons or funding to avenge the Soviet Union’s defeat in Afghanistan. The United Sates had expressed concern over the meeting, as well as over being excluded, but at the same time stated “it welcomed any talks to discuss the secure, safe, prosperous Afghanistan that we all want to see.” In fact, it is only Afghan government dominated by the Northern Alliance elements who do not wish to see peace in Afghanistan because they will have to share power with the Taliban. There is a perception that Iran may cooperate with Russia and China and support the Taliban accepting it a force to reckon with.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.