As the decade and half long war waged in the name of combating terrorism in Afghanistan, spearheaded by the US falls short of fully realizing the objectives of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the threat of ISIS looms large over the war-torn, landlocked country, some major developments have surfaced, arguably for the larger benefit of Afghanistan.
First, Afghanistan’s top envoy to Pakistan has been reported as saying Kabul is ready for unconditional talks with Taliban insurgents. This important breakthrough comes on the heels of three-nation Afghan peace talks held in Moscow. Thus, this new troika consisting of Pakistan, Russia and China, with prospective inclusion of other regional states like Iran, which has already expressed its willingness to join the group, is another vital shift in the strategy to improve the security situation in Afghanistan,
With the due withdrawal of US troops and its growing indifference towards the volatile situation in Afghanistan, mainly attributed to the preoccupation with power transition in US, there was a conspicuous vacuum to be filled and laps in the efforts to be reinvigorated for stabilizing Afghanistan. Though there is no dearth of forums dedicated solely for charting out future strategy for restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan, such forums failed to yield desired objectives due to multiple reasons. For instance, the Quadrilateral Cooperation Group established to facilitate peace talks between Afghan Taliban and Kabul was beset by various factors including but not limited to the killing of Taliban Leader Mullah Akhter Mansoor in a US drone strike. Lack of flexible approach and trust deficit characterized the Afghan peace negotiations held up till now. Last but not least, conflict of interests of states involved in the New Great Game in Afghanistan and Central Asia was yet another factor that seriously undermined peace initiatives for Afghanistan.
Pakistan assumes centrality when it comes to Afghan peace process due to socio-political, cultural, demographic and geographic interconnectedness. Ironically, the same has often proved to be a burden instead of blessing due to the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and the evil games played on Afghan landscape by competing forces inimical to Pakistan. Pakistan has been bearing the brunt of this war for decades now and it is the raison d’être of Pakistan’s sincere efforts for restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan because it realizes peace and stability in Afghanistan is inevitable for peace and stability in Pakistan and vice-versa.
But Pakistan’s arch rival India which eyes on the status of a regional hegemon misconstrues Pakistan’s centrality in Afghan peace initiatives as a strategic blow to Indian interests. This is partly attributable to India’s tendency to interpret Pakistan-China friendship in purely security terms. To put it differently, India’s response to Pakistan-China cooperation is shaped by its strategic-culture that is marked with fear and distrust of the two. Moreover, India is also wary of Russia’s increasing friendly overtures to Pakistan. For instance, rejection of Indian allegations directed at Pakistan by Russian representative Zamir Kablov at Heart of Asia conference was eye-opener for India. Thus, any potential machination by anxious India to thwart the newly emerging dialogue forum aimed at reviving Afghan peace process cannot be ruled out.
Modi’s aim of isolating Pakistan in the region has led him to resort to every kind of propaganda against Pakistan. Since India deeply resents Pakistan’s role as a mediator and facilitator of peace talks between Kabul and Afghan Taliban, it has always accused Pakistan of fomenting insurgency in Afghanistan which is not only absurd but malicious. The matter of fact is that it is India that has fueled and abetted terrorism in the region by undermining peace initiatives and unleashing a reign of terror in Indian Occupied Kashmir and pushing oppressed Kashmiris towards terrorists’ camps, in the absence of any hope of justice.
It requires a dispassionate analysis to ascertain the linkage between socio-political marginalization and terrorism. Terrorist organizations, like Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent usually abbreviated as AQIS seek to establish bases in the Indian sub-continent lie in wait for opportunities to spread their tentacles. Indian Occupied Kashmir that has witness unprecedented human rights violations provide the requisite fertile ground for such groups to thrive on by recruiting oppressed and disgruntled people. Likewise, in Myanmar where the state-less and homeless Rohingya Muslims are brutalized by the government amidst deafening silence of human rights organizations presents similar situation for terrorists to exploit. The point of highlighting these issues here is for leaders in general and Indian leaders in particular to realize that no amount of baseless allegations against Pakistan and blame game will ameliorate deteriorating security situation in the region, rather it only diverts attention away from pressing issues at hand which need immediate attention.
Finally, it is imperative for all the stake holders involved in Afghanistan quagmire to keep the ideals of peace and harmony top-most priorities and do not be swayed by parochial, imperialist ambitions that have resulted in the death and destruction of humanity as a whole.