Trilateral approach – a recipe for disaster
Last month, India and the United States agreed to hold formal trilateral consultations with Afghanistan to explore opportunities to promote the war-torn country’s development.
“We agreed to move forward with a formal trilateral consultation among our three nations – India, Afghanistan and US,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had said at a joint news conference with External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna at the end of the Indo-US Strategic Dialogue. Later, in a joint statement, the two leaders said: “They intend to explore opportunities to work together to promote Afghanistan’s development, including in areas such as mining, agriculture, energy, capacity building and infrastructure.”
By assigning India a greater role in Afghanistan, the US has failed to realise that Indian presence in that country would destabilize the region. Resultantly, peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan would not produce the desired results, as India would certainly engage in anti-Pakistan activities, while Iran and China would also feel threatened.
There is a widespread perception that the US garnered Indian strategic dominance in Afghanistan runs contrary to the international peace efforts in Afghanistan. Immediately after agreement of trilateral approach reached on 14th June, Republican Senator John McCain in an interview with the PBS channel’s programme News Hour said that the administration’s encouragement of India taking a more active role in Afghanistan while simultaneously criticising Pakistan could be a recipe for disaster.
“To further antagonize Pakistan unnecessarily is not something I would particularly think is appropriate,” said the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. It is unfortunate that despite Pakistan’s tremendous sacrifices in men and material first during Afghan jihad and then during war on terror after 9/11 events, the US believes that Pakistan is obstructing the peacemaking efforts. American leadership accuses Pakistan of not using its influence over Quetta Shura and Haqqani network, whereas Pakistan says that there is no Quetta Shura and no safe havens for Haqqani group. How can Pakistan use its influence over them?
It is due to some misperceptions or pernicious designs that instead of being seen as a peace facilitator and a stabilising agent, Pakistan’s role is negatively viewed as a peace spoiler in Afghanistan by the US. Currently, there is a deadlock in the Afghan endgame and the way out of this deadlock lies in acceptance of the ground realities. It should be borne in mind that without some sort of political reconciliation and giving the majority Pakhtuns their due share in the government the atmosphere will not be conducive to a pro-development/economic approach. Originally, the idea of the Afghan endgame was premised on two fundamental principles: security transition and political reconciliation. The Bonn Conference held on 27th November 2001, which had totally sidelined the Afghan Taliban from the political process, laid the foundation for this prolonged phase of violence and conflict in Afghanistan. After being routed by the invading US forces, the Afghan Taliban re-emerged in 2004-05 and to date they continue to wage a robust insurgency against the US and NATO forces.
Pakistan is not averse to peace in Afghanistan; in fact it advocates the approach that all groups should be taken on board; and no matter who leads the peace process and no matter where the negotiations take place. It only reminds all the conflicting parties to tone down their rhetoric and reconcile to the existing ground realities in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, Pakistan views the US-Afghanistan and Indo-Afghan strategic partnership agreements as detrimental to Pakistan’s interests. As a matter of fact, after the withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan in 2014, firm commitments of economic assistance and investment plans by regional economic powers like China, Russia and India to fill the vacuum is viewed positively in Islamabad. Pakistan indeed strongly opposes the policy of pitting one regional state against the other in Afghanistan, for advancing narrow strategic objectives, which is a dangerous trend. The policy of awarding one regional actor a bigger role at the cost of the other is fraught with the danger of turf battles and proxy wars in Afghanistan. Such a trend is a recipe for further instability and chaos, which will further complicate matters instead of solving the existing ones.
A stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan not only guarantees regional peace and stability but by virtue of its unique geographical location – at the crossroads of South, Central and West Asia – it also holds the key to full utilization of the economic potential of this region. There are no easy answers to the existing situation in Afghanistan. Instead of going for quick fixes and short-term stabilising measures, Afghanistan requires a muddle-through approach that looks for tangible solutions to Afghanistan’s jigsaw puzzle. An exit in undue haste will push Afghanistan toward another phase of protracted civil war, which is in no one’s favour. Despite Pakistan’s strained relations with the US, it participated in first large-scale international Tokyo conference on Afghanistan in a decade. There is a consensus in experts that any current or future discussion related to the solution of Afghan imbroglio, the pivotal role of Pakistan cannot be ruled out. Indo-US propagandists project Pakistan as a country which is not sincere in bringing peace in Afghanistan.
They also propagate that Pakistan/FATA-based foreign terrorists are actually being provided with safe havens by Pakistan. But this is blatant lie, as Pakistan has killed and arrested scores of foreign terrorists and handed over to the US. Such propaganda deeply hurts Pakistan, as sacrifices made by Pakistan in GWOT have been so significant that even NATO/US occupation forces cannot match.
Pakistan is fully committed to fight the menace of terrorism using all available force despite being the target and victim of terrorism. Pakistan has suffered heavy casualties at the hands of terrorists who attack our security forces, intelligence agency and other vital institutions, causing damage to economy and destroying business worth millions of dollars. Foreign investment has been reduced to a considerable extent due to the fear of terrorism.
This is a great loss, and the US, NATO and other countries must not forget or ignore. In fact, they should share the losses incurred by Pakistan, because it is fighting the war on terror to make the world safer place to live in.