Hope after ‘Heart of Asia Conference’
On December 9, this year, the fifth ministerial Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process Conference was held in Islamabad in which high-level representatives of supporting regional and international organizations from over 30 countries including especially the US, China and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj participated. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani addressed the opening ceremony of the conference.
The participants realized the importance of the conference as an important regional platform aimed at a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan which was not only in its own interest, but also vital to peace, stability and prosperity of the ‘Heart of Asia’ region as a whole—it was collective responsibility to help Afghanistan in combating the challenges it faced.
In the joint declaration, the participants reaffirmed the respect for each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and reiterated their commitment to refrain from the threat or use of force against each other’s territorial integrity and reaffirmed the objectives, aimed at promoting regional peace and prosperity and enhanced cooperation for countering security threats collectively.
And a series of meetings were held in Islamabad between Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US to develop an understanding of the earliest possible resumption of stalled talks between the Afghan government and Taliban. A trilateral meeting was also held among Pakistan, Afghanistan and the America. Besides, President Ashraf Ghani, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj also met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. In a brief news conference, she said that India and Pakistan have decided to restart composite dialogue. According to the joint statement, all issues like Kashmir, Sir Creek, Wullar Barrage, economic and commercial cooperation, counterterrorism, anti-narcotic efforts etc. will be discussed in the comprehensive dialogue.
Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Raheel Sharif also met Afghan President Ghani and ensured full support for peace and stability in Afghanistan. He stated, ‘We are committed to work together with Afghanistan on the basis of mutual interest and respect…both the countries should pursue a strategic relationship that could enhance the security and mutual prosperity.”
President Ghani vowed to work together to eliminate the common threat of terrorism, which Pakistan and Afghanistan are facing, and emphasized on the need to enhance bilateral relations between the two countries. Earlier, both the countries acknowledged the need to undertake confidence-building measures to engender trust and agreed to enhance the continuing Pak-Afghan security cooperation.
However, much hope has been created for regional peace after the Heart of Asia Conference. Question arises about the implementation of the joint declaration. In this regard, there are a number of obstacles.
In this respect, in the recent past, cordial relations were established between Pakistan and Afghanistan when Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had realized that Afghanistan and Pakistan were facing similar challenges of terrorism and would combat this threat collectively. They also set up a mechanism to check infiltration of the militants through Pak-Afghan porous border.
While, it is misfortune that on direction of New Delhi and like the former regime of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s present rulers have also started accusing Pakistan of cross-border terrorism. In this context, after hours of the Taliban captured Kunduz city, on September 28, 2015, during his address to the UNO General Assembly, Afghanistan’s chief executive Abdullah Abdullah blamed Islamabad for carrying out cross-border attacks and destabilizing Afghanistan.
Differences exist between chief executive Abdullah Abdullah and President Ashraf Ghani, as the former wants cordial relations with New Delhi at the cost of Afghanistan and the latter prefers Islamabad, because Pak-Afghan stability is interrelated.
It is notable that on December 10, President Ghani accepted the resignation of Rahmatullah Nabil as director of the Afghan intelligence agency, National Directorate of Security (NDS), after developing differences of the spymaster with him over Ghani’s move to attend the regional conference in Islamabad. In his statement, Nabil said President Ghani had asked him to relinquish charge of the NDS.
In fact, in collusion with Afghanistan’s spy agency NDS, Indian secret agency RAW has well-established its network in Afghanistan, and is fully assisting cross-border incursions and terror-activities in various regions of Pakistan through Baloch separatist elements and anti-Pakistan groups like Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA), Jundullah (God’s soldiers) and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). In this connection, on September 18, this year, the TTP militants attacked a Pakistan Air Force camp in Badaber area, Peshawar and martyred 29 people including army personnel. In this regard, Pakistan’s civil and military sources pointed out that those TTP terrorists came from Afghanistan, having connections with Indian RAW.
On December 13, 25 people were killed in a bomb explosion in Parachinar, headquarters of Kurram Agency. RAW was behind this subversive act.
Notably, RAW is making efforts to weaken Afghanistan, Tibetan regions of China and Pakistan, especially Balochistan by arranging the subversive activities, promoting acrimonious sense of dissent, political volatility, sectarian violence and arousing sentiments of separatism.
It is mentionable that New Delhi which has already invested billion of dollars in Afghanistan, also signed a wide-ranging strategic agreement with that country on October 5, 2011. And, the then President Karzai had also signed another agreement with India to obtain Indian arms and weapons. While, under the cover of these agreements, India has further strengthened its grip in Afghanistan. By taking advantage of lawlessness in Afghanistan, India is up to its usual tirade to foment an environment by conducting terrorist attacks in that country to prove that Pakistan is creating trouble for Afghanistan.
Besides, Prime Minister Sharif and President Ghani also showed their determination that their countries would cooperate in fighting the threat of ISIS (Daesh). But, RAW agents are well-penetrated in ISIS and are weakening both Afghanistan and Pakistan through this terror-outfit.
It is worth-motioning that Gen. Raheel accompanied by the DG of ISI went to Kabul on December 17, 2014. During his meeting with his Afghan counterpart, President Ashraf Ghani and the ISAF commander, he presented the evidence of linkage between the massacre of children at Peshawar school and TTP sanctuaries in Afghanistan. He also asked about action against the TTP and handing over of its chief Mullah Fazlullah to Pakistan.
Nevertheless, Indian desperation in Afghanistan is increasing in the backdrop of growing engagements of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and US. Therefore, by arranging terror-assaults in Pakistan and Afghanistan, India is also thwarting the peace process between the Afghan officials and representatives of Tehreek-e-Taliban Afghanistan, which started in Murree, Pakistan, on July 8, 2015 through a meeting, hosted by Islamabad, and in it, Chinese and American representatives, also participated. While, the US, China and Pakistan are jointly working to facilitate the process so as to bring peace both in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the whole region.
Moreover, New Delhi is also trying to sabotage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and is targeting growing Pak-China-Afghanistan relations.
Furthermore, on the instruction of the Indian leader of the fundamentalist party BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Indian forces have accelerated unprovoked shelling across the Line of Control and Working Boundary, while creating war-like situation between Pakistan and India.
Meanwhile, Pakistan raised the question of Indian cross-border terrorism and RAW involvement in Pakistan at the UNO forum, with strong evidence in light of open statements of Indian defence minister and prime minister who recently confirmed assistance to anti-Pakistan elements including separation of East Pakistan. Islamabad also raised the issues of Indian cross-border shelling and human rights violations in the Indian occupied Kashmir.
It is of particular attention that waging a prolonged war in Afghanistan, the US and other NATO countries have realized that after the withdrawal of foreign troops, Afghanistan would be thrown in an era of uncertainly and civil war. They realize the fact that there is a co-relationship of terrorism or stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Therefore, US-led developed nations which also spent billions of dollars for the development of Afghanistan have repeatedly agreed that without Islamabad’s help, stability cannot be achieved there. Unfortunately, India does not intend to see peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Hence, India is undermining Pak-Afghan stability by creating unrest, and by sabotaging their cordial relations.
So, the US-led developed countries must also show realistic approach by realizing that unlike India, Pakistan shares common geographical, historical, religious and cultural bonds with Afghanistan, while Pak-Afghan stability is inter-related, which is essential for their global and regional interests. Especially, America must abandon its faulty strategy in this region and double standard, and must check Indian secret strategy against Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, America, Russia and other Asian countries. Otherwise, hope created for regional stability at the Heart of Asia Conference will fail, as in order to obtain its cover aims, India has been destabilizing South Asian security which is equally essential for American and other major powers’ global interests.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations