Let us talk again. Talking can not only break the status quo but also ensure a change, mostly good and positive. However, declining such an opportunity coupled with doubts and blame game is nothing else but deception. The ground realities demand not to be trapped in the danger zone of deception by the so-called friends conspiring to devastate this region. As one has the option of changing friends and foes but not the neighbours.
With this positive thinking the three neighbuors, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran are sitting across the table in Islamabad for the next two days to find out practicable solutions to the various challenges these Muslim countries are confronted with. The three had met earlier as well and this consultative process is expected to lead them to wider and greater cooperation in various fields. The centre of gravity of talks would be future of Afghanistan vis-à-vis the role of the neighbours.
The proposed agenda on the table includes, 1) counter-terrorism, 2) militancy, 3) economic cooperation in the areas of energy, transport, industry, mining, agriculture, infrastructure development, 4) cooperation against human trafficking, 5) money laundering, 6) arms smuggling, 7) return of the Afghan refugees, 8) trilateral mechanism to strengthen bonds of friendships, 9) establish peace and security in the region, 10) alleviate poverty through economic development.
No doubt it’s the most comprehensive agenda for peace and prosperity of the region, however, lot of difficulties are attached to this ambitious list of items. No economic development or energy cooperation is possible until there is sustainable peace and stability in the region, particularly in view of the so-called war on terror.
External forces and factors play an important role in the region. The US, for instance, wants to achieve success in Afghanistan by arm-twisting both Pakistan and Iran. As for as Afghan government is concerned, it’s already under the US pressure.
Similarly, the US has issues with Iran its nuclear programme, as it has recently imposed fresh sanctions against Tehran. The US has also threatened it of an attack. The real test of the three states lies in how far they could resist the American influence in their internal and regional policies and decisions.
The tri-literalism is connected with the bilateralism, and this is how the three states will go about the process. During this engagement the three will also have their separate bilateral meetings on various agenda items.
Under the counter-terrorism cooperation, Afghanistan and Pakistan are expected to take up the issue of US-Taliban negotiations. Though the two countries very much support any negotiated settlement of the Afghanistan conflict, both have expressed their reservations on the Qatar talks between the US and the Taliban. The two nations have recently expressed their concern on being ignored and left out by the US. The US must understand that there can be no progress for the lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan without the inclusion of Afghanistan and Pakistan in any negotiation process.
Pakistan has claimed, many times, that any solution to the Afghan problem must be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, and that it is ready to facilitate or help as much as it can. Moreover, it does not want to interfere in the internal matters of Afghanistan.
Recently, when Foreign Minister Hina Rabani Ghar visited Kabul she met with all Afghan leaders across the political and ethic divide. For Pakistan, Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbaks, Hazara, Taliban or well-known Northern Alliance are all Afghans and they as nation have all the right to decide their future.
Pakistan wants friendly and brotherly relations with Afghanistan on the basis of mutual respect and interest. It also supported the Afghan Peace Council led by late Burhanuddin Rabbani. But at the same time, Pakistan expects from its friend Afghanistan to stop blaming Pakistan for its every ill. It should not allow its land to be used by anti-Pakistan forces including NATO, India or terrorists having their safe havens along the Pakistani borders.
The Pakistan-Afghanistan border issue should be addressed in a more serious manner. There have been a number of attacks in settled areas of Chitral, Lower and Upper Dir districts of Pakistan by the Taliban crossing over Pakistani border from Afghanistan. Pakistan has established more than 800 security check posts on its side of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border to stop terrorists’ infiltration, now it’s the responsibility of the Afghan government to guard its side of the
border too. It should not be left to the NATO and terrorists creating confusion among the two brotherly nations.
As for as Iran-Pakistan bilateral relations are concerned, the two countries are interested to move forward expanding their economic and commercial relations, including the already agreed IP gas pipeline. However, there is pressure on Pakistan regarding this gas pipeline.
Both Pakistan and Iran want to go ahead with the project and complete it by the end of 2014. Pakistan, time and again, has made its position clear that the Iran nuclear issue should be resolved through negotiation and any misadventure will further destabilise the volatile region. With all difficulties in sight, we hope the three nations will realise the importance of peace and stability in the region.
The writer hosts a primetime talk show on a TV channel and can be contacted via email: [email protected]