AFGHANISTAN occupies a critical place in the domain of Pakistan’s policy discourse and execution owing to its geographical location. The policymakers have always emphasised the need of durable peace in Afghanistan, which is essential to pursuing our own geostrategic interests.
The revival of Pakistan’s economy and long-term stability in the country are partly linked to a peaceful Afghanistan, and that is why Pakistan is trying to convince the global community to recognise Afghanistan and extend economic support to the war-torn country.
A significant chunk of our annual defence budget is spent on securing the country’s border because the adjoining areas provide shelter to various extremist outfits. The security threats arising from the uncontrolled movement of people across the border prompted the authorities to even install a fence at a hefty cost.
Lingering friction and chaos within Afghanistan will compel us to allocate a sizable budget every year for defence purposes at a time when we need to divert funds towards providing relief to our own citizens under the prevailing circumstances.
Pakistan has long wanted to exploit the vast potential of energy-rich Central Asian Republics (CARs), and Afghanistan offers the country the shortest access route in this regard. Though the country signed various agreements with CARs to develop trade ties, these have remained unmet mainly due to the political turmoil in Afghanistan.
Energy imports are eating away a significant portion of the country’s resources, and this calls for putting in place out-of-box solutions. One such solution relates to importing gas and petrol from the CARs which would be a relatively inexpensive option for us.
Then, again, trade relations with the CARs are contingent upon peace in Afghanistan. Things being what they are, it is in the interest of Pakistan to use all possible forums to advocate peace and stability in Afghanistan.
India, on the other hand, has invested heavily in Afghanistan over the last two decades and has established its intelligence units there to cause instability in Pakistan.
Following the American withdrawal, the Indian government is making all-out efforts to develop friendly ties with the current dispensation in Kabul to re-establish its presence and influence in Afghanistan.
Pakistan needs to be cautious on that front, as India will spare no opportunity to exploit the turmoil in Afghanistan to create instability in Pakistan.
We need to expand our strategic depth by helping the government in Kabul in reviving the Afghan economy and ensuring long-term peace in that country.
Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2022