Afghanistan its Neighbors the Region and International Relations in the Light of the Need for Diplomatic Solutions

By: Dr. G. Rauf Roashan

The turmoil Afghanistan is in is more than forty years old. There has been war, unrest, war and some more war in this strategically located south-central country in Asia. Wars have been fought throughout human history. These have testified the violent and irresponsible attitude of the human race. Hot wars have tragically cost nations thousands upon thousands of the lives. And on a few instances, humans have paused and pondered if there could be an alternative to the mass killings of the people. On these occasions, some circles have thought of diplomatic solutions instead of wars. This has been not only because humans must show humanity but also because diplomatic solutions could be less expensive. In Afghanistan especially after 2001 when efforts for democratization started in the country and when the issue of regional and world terrorism gained importance among world nations, the governments that were established with the help of international interests led by the United States of America, a rush to expand the country’s military consumed most of the energy to the detriment of a peaceful, well organized effort to bring peace and tranquility to this country. However, the governments that were thus created haphazardly started to become addicted to foreign military and more so to foreign financial help. This cost the world and the friends of Afghanistan hundreds of billions of Dollars for which there is not much to show in the area of physical development or overall transparent and clean introduction of democracy. There are of course dozens of reasons for this failure of both the Afghan governments and international supporters of them. But what I would like to emphasize here is the most important roadblocks to the creation of a prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan laid by her neighbors, regional and world powers and international organizations. This clearly points to the weakness of diplomacy played regarding this country both by itself as well as the United States. Let us have a quick look on this issue:

Afghanistan’s Neighbors:

1: Pakistan: Many believe that Pakistan was instrumental in helping Afghanistan fight the Soviet Red Army. But when you look for why did Pakistan get involved in this issue you will find that she did so first and foremost for its own agenda that included its need for a subservient Afghanistan, after it wins its war with the Soviet intruders. This was important to Pakistan because of its profound problems with the neighboring India and its fear that Afghanistan should not take the side of India in the Indo-Pakistan disputes. In addition, the naked invasion of Afghanistan by its northern neighbor namely the Soviet Union attracted both sympathy and all-inclusive assistance to her cause that were delivered through Pakistan which pocketed tremendous amounts of aid as well as military equipment meant for the Afghan nation’s fighters who were busy fighting a superpower of the time. In addition, the longstanding issue of the Pashtun belt around east and south east of Afghanistan was another incentive for Pakistan that was and still is interested in renewing the issue of the Durand Line as a British scheme drawn by the British empire more than one hundred years ago. This in itself is a complex geopolitical issue between the two countries. Further more Pakistan has consistently housed, financed, armed and provided with safe haven the terrorists that commit violence in Afghanistan and retreat into Pakistan. The suicidal attacks in Afghanistan have occurred because the attackers receive training and encouragement in Pakistan. Even today the leadership of Taliban live in Pakistan a fact that the world at large and especially the United States is well aware of.

2. Iran: The western neighbor of Afghanistan under its clerical administration and following its longtime goals of achieving influence in Afghanistan found that she was vulnerable to all sorts of intervention in her affairs specifically religious and cultural. The issues of common history, language and religion have always been used as baits for Iran to gain influence in the strategically important Afghanistan. During the dark years of Russian occupation Iran found it easy to materialize some of its schemes. A weaker neighbor is more prone to tolerating advances by its expansionist neighbor especially when the schemes begin with issues of religion and culture.

3. The Region: India for the reasons explained above regarding its long- lasting serious differences with Pakistan has shown great interest in helping Afghanistan. She believes that friendship between Afghanistan and India will weaken Pakistani efforts to advance its threats of military action against India in Kashmir and Punjab.

Central Asian newly independent countries also aware of Afghanistan’s strategic importance regarding trade, culture and religion and especially fearing expansion of terroristic phenomenon into their countries and the issue of smuggling of narcotics have renewed their interests in Afghanistan Luckily they have not partnered with terroristic activities of violence against Afghanistan. For them a peaceful Afghanistan is essential for advancing their own development programs especially after gaining independence from the yoke of Soviet Union.

Saudi Arabia in its turn sees in Afghanistan the possibility of advancing its Wahhabis’ agenda as well as gaining further recognition in other Islamic countries in helping Afghanistan specially so because of the populous Pakistan that is like India a nuclear power.

4. The United States: Some analysts find themselves surprised at the level and extent of the US involvement in Afghan affairs. Some of the reasons could be explained such as the rivalry between the US and Russia in Afghanistan and the region. Also, the proximity of China and Iran to Afghanistan which is of strategic importance to the US. Other reasons are hard to decipher. One would expect that the US would try to implement programs in Afghanistan that would enhance trust, further cooperation and mutual benefits. But using a US diplomat of Afghan origin to take part in the shaping of a new Afghanistan somehow proved to be detrimental to the above objectives. One would have expected that the US would help bringing about a truly democratic system in Afghanistan that would implement policies boosting human rights and belief in democracy with the consent of the masses and thus increase trust of the people of Afghanistan in the US and boost up the level of respect towards it. However, the US effort achieved the opposite. It ended in getting the US militarily involved and  resulted in paying tremendous price in men and finances to the American tax payers. This was explained in a policy that would uproot terrorism in the region and would contribute to anti-terroristic endeavors of the West. The military entanglement of the US did not result in giving a final blow to terrorism instead, the same diplomat ended up serving the objectives of the terrorists like those of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

5. The European Union and specially NATO’s involvement that followed on the footsteps of the US too failed to help a decisive manner the case of war and terror in Afghanistan.

6. The Arab League and the Islamic Conference: These are two very weak instruments for decisive political action. They are mostly involved in Arab and a few Islamic issues that have had no solution so far.

7. The Non-alignment Movement: This very important movement was truly significant during the cold war years when the world was bi-polar. At present it seems to be just an institution for formality.

Under these circumstances Afghanistan does need a powerful movement in the form of an organized effort representing its people by a representative intelligentsia to come together in the form of a great national movement.

Political objectives of such an organization should be:

1.  Formulating a political platform including its objectives regarding Afghanistan’s relationships with countries and movements abroad

2. The platforms should include:

a: Suggestions for agreements between Afghanistan and each of its neighbors to be agreed upon and signed in the presence of international witnesses and representatives of the United nations.

b: Suggestions and agreements between Afghanistan and the United Nations, on political support to Afghanistan’s legitimate objectives for peace and development as well as regulating her relations with other countries.

c: Suggestions for agreements with the European Union and Afghanistan regarding the Union’s help and support about legitimate objectives of Afghanistan.

d: Working papers of relationship with each of the neighboring states of Afghanistan regarding their verifiable cooperation in non-interference in the affairs of each other and regulating commerce, culture and mutual interests according to well defined objectives and carrying out of annual assessment and evaluation of the above in meetings to be held alternatively in Afghanistan and each one of he said countries. It should also define the benefits of such cooperation to both sides.

e: Creating of a working paper for the best utilization of Afghanistan’s strategic location for development of commercial relations among all countries concerned through and from Afghanistan including safety of highways and extension of railways primarily to expand trade between south-central Asia, the middle east, south-Asia and China and the far east.

Obviously, implementation of the above suggestions requires activation of Afghanistan’s diplomatic institutions in friendly countries as well as its representative ligations to the European Union, NATO and other pertinent organizations.  Assignment of an Envoy at large would facilitate the work of coordination among institutions of interest inside and outside the country.

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