Pak- Afghan: The discorded peace

Spearhead Analysis – 04.07.2017

By Hira A. Shafi
Research Analyst, Spearhead Research

Soon after the spate of terror attacks in Kabul, the Afghan borne ‘Kabul Peace summit’ kicked off. The summit was attended by over 25 countries including key regional players, its aim was to amass global support for an Afghan initiated process for stability and security.

Despite Ghani’s calls to put an end to the accusatory postures; he seeded a question during the summit — asking what it would take to convince neighbors to enjoin the vision of stability and end the war. Offering a guarantee of neutrality, he extended his proposition and asked Pakistan to present ‘its own agenda and mechanism for peace’. Pakistan’s suggestions may not be the only clincher in sorting out Afghan security. This reality, emanated during the summit itself when a major power i.e. Russia decided to stay out of signing the ‘Afghan proposed’ summit declaration, as according to them the provisions stipulated in framework of collective action against terrorism- did not involve prior discussions amongst key powers and that such broad based actions without set, mutually agreed upon mechanisms against ‘all groups’ raises various security concerns. Pakistan too shares similar concerns– because apart from the possibilities of various socio political blowbacks; the mistrust stemming from geopolitical rivalries also places measures of ‘collective actions’ under shade.

These contradictions in approaches of the major powers towards Afghanistan, revealed themselves soon again, during the SCO summit, when both Putin and Xi discussed the possibility of reviving the SCO Afghan contact group and advocated for a political solution to end the Afghan crisis.In the backdrop the brewing US Afghan policy seems to be more militaristic.

But, fortunately, amidst these clashing stances; the Ghani Nawaz meeting during the sidelines of the SCO summit served as the second diplomatic success Pakistan achieved that day. It is said that the two leaders discussed the scope of establishing a bilateral mechanism for the verification of counter terror operations on both sides, and discussed the possibility of reviving the QCG. Cementing this breakthrough, China recently conducted its own diplomatic efforts to diffuse the Pak Afghan tensions- a move that was largely welcomed by both Pakistan and Afghanistan -it is said that the Chinese assistance has also resulted in a deal for establishing a bilateral crisis management mechanism– under which the Pak Afghan officials will negotiate the TORs and other details.

The three countries have also agreed on a trilateral foreign minister dialogue forum which would aim to boost economic linkages. And lastly, China too is strongly advocating for the revival of the QCG. However, the 4th member of the QCG and perhaps one of the most significant stakeholder in the Afghan arena: the US, seems to have given little official acknowledgment to this development– so far.

Thus, while expressing grievances and asking Pakistan to present its own mechanism to end the Afghan menace; Ghani ironically, enunciated a pondering point in his preceding statement at the summit, when he said that ” the problem is that there are too many parallel processes with too little clarity on what they are trying to achieve”.

This point highlights the limitations to Pakistan’s propositions, because it cannot unilaterally resolve major global rivalries which often tend to overshadow actual resolution to Afghan crisis and more often render peace initiatives useless.

Wary of these realities Pakistan, on its part– has often tried to reach out to Afghanistan in order to establish a coherent bilateral security framework– a proposition which has at times been fiercely opposed by some sections within Afghanistan.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have undoubtedly, faced the brunt of terrorism, therefore to bring a sensible end to this torment, both states need to converge their resolves and collectively set the stage for major powers to tackle Afghan crisis– solely through ‘an Afghan prism’.

Now that a stepping stone has been laid once again- Afghanistan should keep its footing straight and consistently work towards improving bilateral security cooperation with Pakistan. Pakistan on its end, needs to work towards creating effective incentive based approaches, that bring relief to various aspects of the Afghan crisis and aim to gain their trust and cooperation. As far, as the QCG is concerned — its proper use would likely produce fruitful results; the discussion of QCG during the McCain led delegation to Islamabad is a positive sign. Furthermore, after achieving the recent success in improving Pak-Afghan ties, China should also work towards converging some interests with US, that may in turn help in stabilizing the Afghan region.