ISLAMABAD - Participants of a discussion, organised by the Institute of Regional Studies on Tuesday, called for addressing Pakistan’s genuine concerns with regard to the impending withdrawal of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afghanistan.
Ole Kvaernoe, the director of the Institute for Strategy at the Faculty of Strategy and Military Operations of the Royal Danish Defence College, expressed his concern over the situation in Afghanistan. He warned though a premature withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan could lead to even further destabilisation in the region.
Kvaernoe said the Danish government chose to maintain diplomatic mission in Pakistan and worked on expanding cooperation with the latter after the terrorist attack on its embassy in Islamabad in 2008. He added that his delegation was in Pakistan to explore avenues of future cooperation between the two countries and their people.
Prof Nazir Hussain of the School of Political and International Studies at the Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) maintained that Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan had been grossly misunderstood by the west, adding that Pakistan wanted a stable and prosperous Afghanistan.
He cautioned against any policy that would not take into account the internal dynamic of Afghan state and society. Prof Hussain argued that Afghanistan and Pakistan were closely interlinked and even interdependent, which should not be compromised for a greater Indian role there. He criticised the overemphasis on the military strategy at the cost of political reconciliation in Afghanistan.
Prof Salma Malik of the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies (DSS) at the QAU said instead of emphasising the strengthening of the Karzai regime in Afghanistan, the NATO countries must focus on evolving a broad-based and inclusive political reconciliation programme for Afghanistan.
Prof Shabana Fayyaz, also from DSS, said since the Danish government’s image was badly tarnished by the blasphemous cartoons issue, it should to come up with a strategy to improve impression in Pakistan. She suggested a student exchange programme for image-building of Denmark in Pakistan. She added that the cartoon issue was not being exploited by the clergy in Pakistan, rather that it was a matter close to the heart of a great majority of Muslim Pakistanis. Brig Bashir Ahmed, a senior fellow at the IRS, was of the opinion that the relations between India and Pakistan were stabilising. He said the domestic socio-economic compulsions of both the countries were compelling them to evolve a negotiated solution to their disputes. He added that the Pakistanis respected the Chinese and the Scandinavian countries for their commitment towards development and social welfare.