Recent developments in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India have created an optimistic scenario. Uninterrupted visits from the leadership of the three countries have melted the ice to a great extent.
Why was this important? Because these countries are likely to face a tough time in the years to come. There is a thin line between a disastrous and a prosperous future. Statesmen in Pakistan and neighbouring countries have to decide to choose either way. There are opportunities which if not handled properly could end into chaos.
Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India were recently (December 13, 2015) knitted into a single pipeline project – Tapi – which is likely to be completed in 2018 and become operational in 2019. Unlike other projects, it is not just a developmental package but may be a game changer in the region. The project will connect three (Pakistan, Afghanistan and India) out of the four nations into a single wire – full of beads that are most of the time hitting against one another.
This was possibly the reason that India and Pakistan – particularly the former – reshaped its foreign policy (in the backdrop of the Bangkok talks between the two countries) in no time while sending its Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj (December 9, 2015) to Pakistan to participate in the Heart of Asia Conference with some positive gestures delivered from her government back at home.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, despite huge pressure from within the country, took part in the same conference and received a warm welcome here.
They all probably know that each and every partner can’t afford any mishap in the project due to the absolute phenomenon the personal interest, as every country would have its share from the project. And where there is a common interest, there must be a common loss.
The recent stopover of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Lahore is clear indication that India wants to boost its economy in the back drop of the Tapi project.
Another recent development is General Raheel Sharif’s visit to Kabul on the 27th of this month. His visit was followed by a statement from the ISPR about a road map for bringing peace into the region. The road map includes resumption of talks with the Afghan Taliban under a quadrilateral framework also comprising China and the US.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, worth $46billion and formally signed on April 20, 2015, is another landmark for Pakistan to fuel its economic stature in the region. But its success is again conditional on a tranquil environment as most of the projects will be stretched from northern Pakistan to the southern and western parts. The project’s success remains necessary as the country urgently needs to get rid of its economic crises. In other words geo-politics is shaping into geo-economics.
With this kind of situation, survival is possible only with a conducive atmosphere; otherwise it will be nothing but a futile exercise with unbearable repercussions.
The moral is simple, Pakistan cannot afford to avoid or waste this opportunity. Otherwise, the country may suffer from irreparable loss. Pakistan is already facing other threats (apart from terrorism) like climate change, water, energy crises, population bomb etc in near future.
To exploit this opportunity and keep the momentum on (in context of the recent slight policy shift by Pakistan, Afghanistan and India), Pakistan and Afghanistan need to solve this problem once and for all. Both countries can’t afford any alternative; there is just one master key: ‘Give peace another chance’.
The writer is bureau chief at Mashaal Radio/Radio Free Europe for Pakistan
stationed in Islamabad.