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January 23, 2015



We will have to return the favour

The change that has come about in Pak-Afghan relations is drastic. This is the first time in history that the ‘informed’ sections in Pakistan are chanting slogans of a long life for the Afghan government. And this is the very reason behind the state of mourning in Delhi.
The closeness that can be seen between Islamabad and Kabul today has never been witnessed in the past 13 years. The same can be said about the distance in relations between Delhi and Kabul. If you don’t believe this, you can refer to the latest edition of the Delhi Policy Group report on this topic. Titled ‘Afghanistan`s New National Unity Government: What can India expect?’, the report begins with these mourning remarks:
“(A big concern for India). First, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani has told India’s Advisor to National Security that Afghanistan will no longer take military aid from India. Second, Ashraf Ghani has started giving Pakistan some big concessions. Third, (due to this stance of Ashraf Ghani) now Pakistan will host the next ‘Heart of Asia Conference’ in place of India. Fourth, Afghanistan, China and America have accepted the fact that Pakistan will never allow India to trade with Afghanistan through its transit trade facility.
The concern among Indian think-tanks and the contentment of their Pakistani counterparts is not without reason. India was expecting that the US would further increase India’s role in Afghanistan after 2014. In fact, Hamid Karzai had been giving indications of that to India. India had made sufficient arrangements as well in this regard.
Because of Ashraf Ghani and Dr Abdullah Abdullah’s past, Indian policymakers were under the illusion that Afghanistan’s new leadership would follow in Karzai’s footsteps. They failed to take note of Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah’s contacts with Pakistan in the last three years and Pakistan revising its policy on northern Afghanistan in the same period.
They also didn’t realise

that, being pragmatic leaders, Ashraf Ghani and Dr Abdullah Abdullah’s first priority is peace in their country and they have realised that Pakistan’s reservations with their country are based on India’s role in Afghanistan. Therefore, both these leaders had, before forming government, assured Pakistan that India will not be preferred over Pakistan at any cost. On the one hand, a transition process was in place in Afghanistan and on the other a vital shift was taking place in Pak-US relations.
Before leaving, the Americans agreed to give Pakistan another chance and both parties even started the process of confidence-rebuilding. The initiation of the military operation by Pakistan in North Waziristan, the US targeting Hakeemullah and Latifullah’s arrest from Afghanistan were some of the signs of the confidence-rebuilding process.
Before the Afghan elections, the US persuaded Pakistan into removing its reservations in relation to India’s role in Afghanistan In turn Pakistan had ensured serious cooperation with regard to the drawdown process and managing the Taliban. Hence, instead of placing hurdles, for the first time the US is helping Pakistan and Afghanistan form close ties and not forcing Afghanistan towards India. That is why Ashraf Ghani, addressing the Heart of Asia Conference in Beijing as Afghanistan’s president, clarified the boundaries of his country’s foreign policy, which were quite different from the past boundaries:
“Our immediate six neighbours form our first circle. The Islamic world forms our second circle. North America, Europe, Japan, Australia, and members of Nato-Isaf form our third circle. Asia, being transformed into a continental economy, forms our fourth circle and international development organisations, the UN, multinational firms and international civil society and non-developmental organisations form our fifth circle”.
So Ghani put India in the fourth circle of Afghanistan’s foreign policy – although earlier it was part of the first circle. On the other hand, Pakistan is not only a part of the first circle but also a part of the second one – the Islamic world’s circle. Hence the new Afghan government has put India’s role even below that of Europe and Japan. These policy guidelines were given at the Beijing conference (which was held under the Istanbul Process). It had been decided that the next Istanbul – Heart of Asia – will be held in Delhi in 2015 but Ashraf Ghani snatched this honour from India and gave it to Islamabad.
He did not end there; while addressing the Saarc conference, and in the presence of the Indian prime minister, he said that he would not let anyone use his land against any other country and will also not tolerate if Afghanistan’s land is used for any kind of proxy war. After coming to power the Afghan president agreed to send his army to Pakistan for training. It is noteworthy that Hamid Karzai had never agreed to that in his 13 years in power.
The important point for Pakistan is that President Ghani is not alone in this. Abdullah Abdullah is even two steps ahead of him in this regard and his relations with Pakistan have become more stable than before. Ustad Atta, Rasheed Dostam and Ustad Muhqiq etc are also of the same opinion. This is why Pakistan’s military leadership is more passionate about the new Afghan government than Pakistan’s political leadership. The warm welcome Ashraf Ghani received in Pindi was a display of these sentiments.
The governments of Afghanistan and the US are not being nice without a reason; Pakistan has also promised a lot in return and will have to give what it can in return. The question is: is Pakistan prepared to satisfy the US and Afghanistan? And does Pakistan have the ability to meet their expectations? If we do not meet their expectations and are unable to fulfil the promises then how will we face the challenges that will arise out of these two countries’ fury? In the same manner, India has also invested heavily in Afghanistan and it was expecting to reap the benefits this year but all its expectations proved vain.
It is obvious that India – wounded that it is – will not sit quiet. Perhaps, that is why it has increased pressure on our eastern border. On Afghanistan’s front, it is partnering with countries like Iran to increase its role and setting a trap to dent Pakistan. Are our policymakers aware of India and its allies’ new plans? And have we planned to counter them or are we satisfied with celebrating our renewed ties with the US and Afghanistan, and with relying on reciting the dubious National Action Plan?
The writer works for Geo TV.
Email: [email protected]