The Afghanistan centric dialogue at Amritsar turned out to be a major embarrassment for Pakistan duw to its nefarious design on terror
Dr Satish Kumar & Pardeep Tandon
The Amritsar Conference squarely blamed Pakistan for vitiating the political stability in Afghanistan through its nefarious design of promoting terror outfits. India and Afghanistan have been facing the heat and dust from Pakistan. That is how the major declarations of Amritsar move around on Pakistan undeclared war against India and Afghanistan. India and Afghanistan launched a stinging attack on a virtually isolated Islamabad for sponsoring and supporting terrorism.
Attended by some 40 countries, the two day conference called for a strong concerted regional and international cooperation for elimination of terrorism as well as dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in region. It called for eliminating all kinds of financial, tactical and logistical support for terror networks.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said resolute action was needed not just against forces of terrorism, but also against “those who support, shelter, train and finance them” asserting that terrorism and externally induced instability pose the gravest threat to Afghanistan’s peace, stability and prosperity. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani directly blamed Pakistan for launching an undeclared war against his country and demanded as Asian or international regime to verify Pakistan-sponsor terror operations. Snubbing Pakistan, he said the USD 500 million pledged by it for reconstruction of Afghanistan could be used by Islamad to check extremism. These two statements sums up the mood of 6th chapter of Istanbul Process – Popularly known as Heart of Asia Conference held at Amritsar on December 3-4 in Amritsar. The conference declaration said that among other terror groups like al-Queda, Daesh, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e –Muhhamad, Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and others.
The Istanbul Process
The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was launched in 2011 and the participating countries include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates etc. The platform was floated to encourage security, political and economic cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours. The countries which support the initiative are Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Finland, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Britain and the US. It is a part of the ‘Istanbul Process’, which provides a platform to discuss an agenda of regional cooperation with Afghanistan at its centre. ‘Heart of Asia’ countries engage in result-oriented cooperation for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan and, by extension, a secure and prosperous region as a whole.
Areas of focus
The countries in the Istanbul Process have agreed on 1) political consultation involving Afghanistan and its near and extended neighbours, 2) a sustained incremental approach to implementation of the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) identified in the Istanbul Process document, and 3) seeking to contribute and bring greater coherence to the work of various regional processes and organisations, particularly as they relate to Afghanistan. The first conference was held in Istanbul, Turkey in 2011 — this is where the process gets its name from.
Changing Global Structures
There is fundamental change in the power structure of the world, unfolding new alliances. The victory of Donald Trump as a US president has major factors in changing the contours of this region. The United States top commander in Afghanistan General John Nicholson has given a stunning new dimension to the Afghan war when at a briefing in the Pentagon he blamed Russia and Iran for supporting Taliban in a deliberate attempt to undermine the Afghan government and NATO operations. This new alliance will certainly have detrimental impact to bring peace and stability in the region. Pakistan is known for sheltering Taliban. Russia has overtly lent legitimacy to the Taliban. There have been linkages between Iranian and Taliban in the past. It is inconceivable that Pakistan’s inter-Services Intelligence was not in the loop about Russia’s dealing with Taliban. Russia’s spy Chief Alexander Bortnikov to Pakistan –first such visit in two decades was indicative enough. According to Russia, Talibans are no longer Russia’s enemy in Afghanistan but have become a proxy, and Pakistan is no longer an adversarial power threatening the security of Central Asia but a collaborator. This contradicts to the conventional position taken by Bharat.
Bharat & Afghanistan
Bharat policy has been always structural and positive. Bharat has also contributed in strengthening the Afghan army by equipping them with helicopters and training their officers and soldiers in counter-terrorism operations. The building of the Afghan-Bharat friendship Dam – Salma Dam and the Zaran-Delaram highway demonstrates Bharatiye commitment in Afghan assisting and transit corridor afghan development and connecting the country to Iran and others parts of Central Asia. The Iran-India and Afghanistan trilateral trade agreement was signed. Afghanistan is vast market for India. India is one of the closet regional powers that have invested in institutions and infrastructure building in Afghanistan. Improving connectivity in the region therefore helps India harness trade and transit potentials of Afghanistan. For India, Afghanistan is also immense strategic potential India has signed TAPI pipe line. It aims to bring natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India.
The Internal Dynamics
Afghanistan has been ethnically divided country. That helps external players intrusion into Afghanistan to further their vested interests. Currently Gulbudddin Hekmetyar is a force, if it against the Afghan Government peace will be difficult to establish. President If Ashraf Ghani’s proposed peace deal with this notorious group succeeds then the Hezb-i-Islami (Hekmatyar’s militant organisation) can return to mainstream and encourage the Afghan Taliban to come to the negotiating table as well.
The recent pentagon revelation that influence of Taliban has doubled in the last two years is another worrying factor. The most recent data provided by the Pentagon to the U S Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction show that among the country’s 407 districts, the number Controlled by the government has slipped from 267 in May to 258 in August while the Taliban influence has increased to 97 districts, up from 70 a year ago.
It is from these districts that insurgents have been able to launch serious and continuing assaults on five provincial capitals: Kunduz in the north, Maimana in the northwest, Tarin Kowt in the southeast, Farah city in the west and Lashkar Gah in the south. The northeast city of Gormach, a vital post on the strategic Ring Road that links a number of major cities. Rebel forces remain on the outskirts of those cities and sporadic fighting continues.
Amritsar Conference was a venture that was led and conceptualised by Prime Minister Modi. He realised that Pakistan is a die-hard country to mend its ways. First SAARC and now Heart of Asia conference brought this factor to limelight that unless Pakistan is cornered by international community, nothing is going to change. Sartaj Aziz of Pakistan became restless and blamed Bharat for his ill treatment during the Amritsar Conference. Now Trump as the US President will make certain changes in the US Policy in Afghanistan. Trump has praised the Putin leadership in Russia. It has to be seen whether Russia is going to move along with the US policy and Afghanistan of charting its own way as it did in Syria. The challenges are more for India. India is connecting to Afghanistan as the most reliable regional power. Pakistan has been opposing it tooth and nail through its in-depth Afghan policy. Only the time will prove whether such how effective would be the declarations of Amritsar Heart of Asia Summit and whether we can expect a more stable and peaceful Pakistan.
(The writer is the Head CIR CUJ Ranchi & Ex-Jnuite)