Flanking Moves; Afghanistan needs Pakistan if it is to achieve anything like internal stability!

Within weeks of the fall of the Taliban in 2001, India had three consulates up and running in Afghanistan. In the decade since India has consolidated its position in Afghanistan using a mixture of diplomacy and development, culminating in the signing on Tuesday of a strategic partnership between the two states. Whilst Afghanistan and India as sovereign states can forge partnerships with whoever they like, this latest move is bound to cause concern here in Pakistan. There is now no doubt that India is an established player in the Afghan imbroglio. There is equally little doubt that President Karzai and his sponsors view Pakistan as part of the problem rather than part of the solution; and as the western nations begin a ragged retreat from another lost war new alliances develop. India is a significant donor to Afghanistan, and has invested two billion dollars to build roads, schools and hospitals as well as the highly symbolic national parliament. By international aid standards this is almost small change, but it buys India a place at the table that Pakistan needs to be sitting at as well.
The Karzai view of Pakistan was clear from the press conference subsequent to the signing of the agreement. Without naming Pakistan, he said…“terrorism was being used as an instrument of policy against our citizens” which does not need a cryptographer to decode. The agreement now signed is the first by Afghanistan with any other nation, and is a waymarker for future development. A significant element of it refers to the training and equipping of the Afghan security forces, hardly a move designed to allay any of Pakistan’s latent fears. Whatever the message both governments seek to give to Pakistan, the ground reality is that Afghanistan needs Pakistan if it is to achieve anything like internal stability, and it does not and never will need India in the same way. For its part India is uneasy that a weak Afghanistan will become a safe heaven for terrorists that would, they assume, have easy passage through Pakistan en-route to whatever mischief they can make in Held Kashmir or elsewhere. India has also positioned itself to take best advantage of the post-Isaf and US environment and post-Karzai as well. He will not be running as president next time around and has no obvious successor. The US will undoubtedly be engaged on the sidelines of the new strategic partnership as it adjusts to an India emerging as a regional superpower, and China will be keeping a close eye on the ball. Ultimately, Karzai or his successor is going to have to move back to a centrist position that includes Pakistan, but Pakistan needs to be much clearer about what it is that it wants from and with Afghanistan. Protestations of ‘twin brotherhood’ such as that made by President Karzai on Wednesday mean little unless backed up by something a little more tangible. Both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan brotherhood are going to have to ‘do more’ and soon.


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