Sultan M Hali
AFGHAN obduracy and its leadership being prone to corruption and letting the US and India walk all over it is driving the war-torn country towards doom and destruction. The US won’t accept defeat and discourages the Afghan Government from inviting the Taliban leadership to peace talks, while India is using Afghan soil to launch proxy terror attacks in Pakistan while poisoning Afghan minds against Pakistan. China has taken the initiative of trying to bring Pakistan and Afghanistan closer to peace talks but neither India nor the US would like to see the Chinese play an influential role in Afghanistan. Let us look at some recent developments. On 29 October 2017, a shipment of 15000 tons of wheat arrived at Afghanistan from India via Chabahar Port which was received in the Afghan City of Zaranj with jubilation. The consignment was the first out of the 1.1 million tons wheat committed by India for the people of Afghanistan on grant basis and was projected in the media mainly to celebrate the launching of the newly reconstructed Chabahar Port.
It is worth-mentioning that a huge quantity of wheat being supplied to Afghanistan in the name of grant was from the old stock, infected and injurious to the health. Due to administrative mismanagement and bureaucratic red-tape in India, a large amount of wheat stocks got unnoticed for years and ultimately its life expired. The Indian government’s recent move of demonetisation of currency notes in the country also added to further infect these already expired stocks of wheat as the Indian farmers did not have new currency notes to purchase seeds which were earlier being provided to them from these old stocks hence they ultimately used the fresh yields as seeds.
The issue of hasty launching of Chabahar Port came to ahead in the wake of Gwadar becoming a focus of global attention due to being the junction of CPEC. Thus, in order to fulfill its so-called strategic agenda with maximum projection, India provided the wheat from its expired stocks giving it the name of grant to not only project the launching but trying to create a softer Indian image, ignoring the health of millions of Afghanis who would be using this wheat as their basic food. The issue can have serious implications for the health and lives of Afghanis who have already been suffering from food and health crisis since long due to continuous crisis and displacements.
It may be recalled that earlier too India announced the establishment of an air bridge to Afghanistan. After a few flights, delays started occurring and Afghan fruit and vegetables meant for Indian cities began rotting while food packets due to arrive from India got spoilt and the delays added to the woes of the traders and Afghan consumers. Afghanistan being in the phase of transition from crisis to stability expressed a strong desire to join the multi-billion economic opportunity in October 2016, when Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan, Dr Omar Zakhilwal, emphasized his country’s interest in joining CPEC. However, a year later Afghan President Dr Ashraf Ghani’s disappointing statement regarding his country’s joining of CPEC, followed by his joining of the Indian venture Chabahar Port, gave a setback to the earlier progressive and pragmatic approach of the Afghan nation.
As a landlocked, terrorism and militancy prone nation, Afghanistan is in desperate need of infrastructural development and uplifting of its economy. Thus by joining CPEC, an ideal environment of trilateral cooperation can be developed in the region which can benefit all parties involved. Afghanistan can particularly gain enormously by not only benefiting from this Chinese investment but also can have active role of both China and its strategic partner Pakistan in bringing stability and peace in Afghanistan. CPEC is predicted to bring industrialization and investment to Pakistan, the carry-over effects of which will obviously benefit neighboring Afghanistan also. The project will enable Afghan businessmen and investors to access the enormous consumer markets in South Asia, thereby increasing Afghanistan’s exports and reducing the costs of imports.
CPEC can bring the three nations under a common economic, commercial and industrial umbrella which, in turn, can ensure joint efforts for peace, security and stability in Afghanistan. China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) project could provide hope and opportunities for the war-torn Afghanistan. However, for the aspirations to take shape, Afghanistan must cooperate with Pakistan and China in order to make its inclusion into CPEC a reality. Kabul is 1237 km away from Gwadar whereas the distance between Kabul and Chabahar is 1840 km thus Gwadar is more suitable for Kabul because it is over 600 km nearer to it as compared to Chabahar. Gwadar is much more a commercially and economically viable route for Afghanistan with suitable logistic expenses.
Meanwhile, CIA is exploiting private militia like Khost Protection Force (KPF), Afghan Security Guards (ASG) and Kandahar Strike Force (KSF) and others to hunt and kill Taliban. These kill teams have remained involved in perpetrating crimes and HR violations against civilians and detainees. All such private militias comprise Afghan nationals but due to having special links with CIA, they are above the law in Afghanistan. NATO forces are also using them to avoid the direct blame of human rights violations in Afghanistan. We can see that while Afghanistan continues to spurn Pakistan’s extended hand of friendship, its so-called well wishers the US and India are giving it the kiss of death.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.