By: AZAM KHALIL
“Friends are like melons. Shall I tell you why? To find one good, you must a
Hundred try.” –Claude Mermet
Policy makers in Pakistan may not like to admit that friendship with Afghanistan is going to be as difficult as it has been to forge a normal relationship with India. The Afghan government led by Mr. Hamid Karzai continues to play the game that suits the regional interest of India. It is also responsible for conniving with the Indian intelligence agencies that are active in fomenting trouble in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province and certain areas in FATA.
On their part the American administration has been looking the other way in spite of being provided with evidence of Indian mechanisms and methodologies that has resulted in serious acts of subversion and sabotage in various parts of this country. While the Americans in their wisdom have been trying to cultivate the Indian government in their so-called policy of containing China and to exploit the vast Indian market for economic gains they have failed to understand the dynamics of this region and the ultimate strategic importance of this country.
Mr. Hamid Karzai is well aware of the fact that the Americans are now in no position to play a role that would jeopardize their desire to obtain a security agreement with his landlocked country. This was the reason that the Americans abandoned what they used to call pre-pull out talks with different militant groups in Afghanistan that would have created conducive conditions for a peaceful and orderly American pullout from Afghanistan in 2014. The Americans now want permanent presence in Afghanistan so that they can have a foothold in a region that can provide them with vast economic benefits considering the amount of oil and gas that is available in some countries surrounding Afghanistan. The presence of Americans in Afghanistan will also allow them to monitor certain strategic developments in China and also keep in check the resurging role of Russia in this region.
As far as Pakistan is concerned it wants peace and stability in Afghanistan and is not prepared to accept refugee influx in case civil war once again erupts between different warlords who remain a force to be reckoned with. As if this uncertainty was not enough, the call by the Afghan president for a loya jirga has been condemned and rejected by Taliban leader Mullah Omar which means that both the Americans and the Pakistanis will now have to wait for a permanent solution for different issues in Afghanistan after a new setup emerges through elections or otherwise. This would have an adverse impact not only on Pakistan’s security but also could leave American plans for this region in total disarray. Therefore it is imperative that the American administration instead of pursuing a security arrangement with the present Afghan rulers only should concentrate on efforts that would involve all the major stake holders in Afghanistan and take into consideration Pakistan’s fears about Indian interference in this area before it becomes too late.
Pakistan had suggested a very pragmatic solution by supporting the Doha talks between the Americans and the Taliban that unfortunately fizzled out but then another serious effort is now required to initiate dialogue with the representative forces in Afghanistan otherwise total chaos can be seen in that country. The Americans must understand that their desire for a security arrangement with Afghanistan has not only misgivings in Russia and China but both Pakistan and Iran also remain skeptical of this formula and therefore want a solution that will ensure not only a peaceful transition but also help install a truly representative government in Afghanistan. This can only happen if Mr Hamid Karzai is convinced about what is in store for him.
Finally, it is expected that Pakistani Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif will be ready with a contingency plan after consulting the service chiefs so that this country remains prepared for the turmoil and instability that is likely to follow the American pullout from that country without a proper peace agreement with various warlords of that country. While Pakistan must pursue a policy of negotiations and peaceful settlement in Afghanistan it would be foolish on their part not to have a proper plan ready in case some Afghan militant groups try to foment mischief in this country.
The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist.