KARACHI, Nov 21: Proposing a unique solution to the Afghan quagmire, American scholar and retired diplomat Dennis Kux suggested that Afghanistan be made a “neutral” or “non-aligned” state under the aegis of the United Nations by 2015.

He said this while speaking here on the 'State of the US-Pakistan relationship' at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs on Monday. A seasoned diplomat, Mr Kux is currently a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington DC.

Ambassador Kux said the key to normalising US-Pakistan relations lay in Afghanistan. “There is a need to work towards an Afghan settlement — internal as well as regional”. He said unless this is done, as soon as western troops leave Afghan soil the country will slide into civil war. “We can live with it. But for Pakistan it will be disastrous. The turmoil will spill over across the border”.

Describing the similarities between Switzerland and Afghanistan, Mr Kux said both seemingly disparate countries were centrally located geography-wise, both were mountainous, multi-ethnic and religiously divided while both had a largely decentralised system of governance. He added that both had also suffered from long periods of external interference.

“The [1815] Congress of Vienna established Swiss neutrality. The 200th anniversary of the congress will occur in 2015. It would be great if, under UN aegis, the permanent neutrality of Afghanistan could be established”. He added that the borders of Afghanistan should be recognised — including the Durand Line — while a foreign policing mechanism should be in place to ensure a smooth transition, preferably from a Muslim nation. “Turkey should replace the US. Everyone would be happy and the Afghans would gain the most”.

Mr Kux said such a scenario could enable the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, which is currently a “pipe dream. If something like this doesn't work, God help us all”.

Earlier, Mr Kux, whose first overseas diplomatic assignment was in Karachi, spoke at length about the often tumultuous US-Pakistan relationship. He described the relationship as a “roller-coaster ride” and a “long drama”, with a big question mark hanging over the partnership's outcome. Recalling the history of bilateral relations, the speaker said that in the 1950s, during the genesis of the partnership, the US was looking for an anti-communist ally while Pakistan was in search of an anti-India partner. However, with American help for India in 1962's Sino-Indian War, the US-Pakistan relationship was “fractured”, while the fact that the US embargoed both Pakistan and India during the 1965 war ensured Pakistan's alliance with the US was “dead”.

“We face the same problems today we did then,” he added, referring to the Cold War alliance, yet observed that “today the relationship is even more important to both”.

The problem from the US perspective, he said, was Pakistan's alleged support for militants in Afghanistan. He said while Pakistani public sentiment was highly critical of the United States, there was growing anti-Pakistan feeling in the US. “The US military has been the strongest supporter of US-Pakistan relations. Yet the military has been turned off by Pakistan”. He said various American think-tanks and politicians had called for a cut-off of aid to Pakistan, yet the US administration did not share this view. He added that America's own financial problems had a role to play in calls for aid cut-offs. “It'll be tough to maintain aid levels in this scenario”.

Quoting former US defence secretary Robert Gates, Mr Kux said the US and Pakistan were in a “bad marriage. Will it lead to divorce? No. Both need each other”, though there would be grumbling and anger.Short-term American interests included supplies to Afghanistan via Pakistan as northern supply routes took longer and were more expensive, he said. “Long-term, we want the Pakistan of Jinnah, not the Pakistan of Zia. That is in our interest. What you do matters in the region. We want to see you as a source of stability. You have nuclear weapons. In the extremely remote possibility there is an extremist takeover of these weapons, it would be a nightmare scenario for the entire world”.

Updated Nov 21, 2011 08:04pm

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