Afghan Peace Process

Image source: Zameer Global Issues & World Politics. By Brig® Mehboob Qadir Afghanistan Government and Afghan Taliban Talks Facilitated by Pakistan

S. Sadia Kazmi

Even though the efforts to bring Peace in Afghanistan have brought in a lot of international players from time to time, it remains a lingering problem. This provides a convenient “justification” as to why eventually Afghan government took the initiative to take the matter exclusively in its own hands and kick started the “Kabul Process” early last month. The punchline again is the same, but apparently with a renewed conviction for an “Afghan-led, Afghan owned” peace process. While the intention seems to be noble, i.e. for the cause of peace in Afghanistan and the region, one can’t just ignore the blatant as well as subtle grievances reflected in various statements by Afghan leaders showing distrust against the other simultaneous peace efforts. What is precisely unusual is the fact that Pakistan has shamelessly been implicated not only in different instances of terrorist activity in Afghanistan but has also been suspected of double-dealing. While the biggest part of the blame has been put on Pakistan, the gripe is quite evident against other actors and their efforts too. The rationale and greater relevance of “Kabul Process” were highlighted in contrast to the Russia-China-Pakistan tri-lateral efforts. Such kind of trilateral efforts is seen as attempts to eliminate or sideline Afghanistan with some other interests of their own, most probably enhancing regional influence. Nonetheless, it is a fact that the trust deficit has largely at play rendering most of the peace efforts redundant. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani conveyed that through Kabul process, the government will directly try to engage the Taliban to hold meaningful negotiations. The Afghan government is already celebrating on achieving the first major milestone of making peace with Hezb-i-Islami led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. To their credit, it was made possible after 40 years only through the sincere efforts which presumably were lacking in the efforts invested by other stakeholders. Afghan President also pitched the International community to get united against the menace of Terrorism which is a mutual threat faced by all. However, here again, the transnational financing and training of terrorists in Afghanistan have been blamed on Pakistan. President Ashraf Ghani has unabashedly stated that he soon after taking office as a President he offered an olive branch to Pakistan, but was snubbed. He even went to the extent of asking “What will it take to convince Pakistan that a stable Afghanistan helps them and helps our region?”

It is unfortunate that despite all the initiative that Pakistan has taken and the sufferings it had to bear and continues to face, the distrust has been allowed to tarnish all the hard work. It is not just the skepticism but skepticism that has been fueled by Indian sponsored propaganda coupled with proxy wars being waged in Baluchistan, again supported by India. This overdependence on India is also evident from the recent reports that India is planning to send 15,000 troops to Afghanistan. Before that, only last year, India gave four MI-25 helicopters to Afghanistan. It is only natural for Pakistan to feel concerned about the growing Indian security assistance to Afghanistan and their ever-increasing strategic partnership. The Afghan leaders fail to consider that such an approach is only going to foil all the peace efforts further and will raise insecurities among the stakeholders. Pakistan is in a perpetual state of fighting off the separatist elements in Baluchistan. The porous border that the two countries share makes it easy for the terrorists from Afghanistan to pass through Pakistani territory and carry out their heinous activities. To keep this from happening, Pakistan has employed various measures including the closing of the border, laying of barbed wires. But every time there has been a huge hue and cry from the Afghan side against such measures. One fails to understand if the Afghan government is sincere in curbing terrorism, why is it non-supportive of practical steps that Pakistan is taking. Time and again Pakistan has stated that it is open to any mechanism that may work for bringing peace in Afghanistan. It strongly backs the “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.” The Afghan government should also realize that Pakistan acknowledges that peace in Afghanistan is pivotal to peace in Pakistan. If peace in Afghanistan becomes a reality, Pakistan would be the biggest beneficiary. Hence instead of suspecting and implicating Pakistan and shifting blame on Pakistan, the need of the hour is that both the countries should work together to defeat the common enemy i.e. terrorism.

Terrorism surely is not just a problem that is being faced by Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is rather a global issue and requires comprehensive global efforts. In this regard, China has been quite active. Even though it has always stood by the policy of non-intervention and non-interference in other’s internal affairs, but it is always committed to maintaining regional peace, enhancing stability with the aim of promoting shared security, development and prosperity. Recently the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi visited Afghanistan and explicitly expressed that his shuttle diplomacy was to not only revive an effort to bring peace in Afghanistan but is predominantly aimed at mediating between Afghanistan and Pakistan and help the reconciliation process. Beyond any geopolitical competition, China has never shied from lending a helping hand. Chinese foreign minister expressed satisfaction regarding the progress on reconciliation between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The visit resulted in the consensus on having a crisis management mechanism with the aim of maintaining timely and efficient communication in case of emergencies. The three countries also agreed to establish China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Minister’s dialogue mechanism to cooperate on issues of mutual interest, especially the economic benefits.

This positive development was further augmented by the fact that the Kabul Process has been appreciated and endorsed by all the three states collectively. Such a collective approach and trust in each other’s intentions is the need of time. Simultaneously it is important to contemplate as to why the previous efforts have not been successful and haven’t yielded the desired results. The renewed efforts with serious conviction are needed. Trust building is another area that continuously needs to be worked upon. Last but not the least, the blame game needs to be done away with. Now that the process has been resumed, it should be made to keep moving forward, addressing inevitable hurdles along the way.

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