ISLAMABAD: Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed said during the opening session of the ‘Pak-Afghan Stakeholders’ dialogue that opening borders and minds and delinking trade from politics is crucial to promoting mutually beneficial peace and connectivity.

In the dialogue that convened in Islamabad on Wednesday, he also said that Pakistan needed to develop strategic clarity on relations with its neighbours and needed a ‘regional reset’ through dialogue among regional state actors.

He stressed the importance of separating border trade from political tensions and terrorism concerns, while also advocating for greater engagement with the Taliban and highlighting the positive aspects of Pakistan’s relationship with China.

The dialogue, organised by the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) in collaboration with its Afghan partner, the Organisation for Economic Studies and Peace (OESP), was attended by religious, tribal, and trade stakeholders from both countries.

According to a statement, the dialogue witnessed an exchange of ideas and perspectives aimed at fostering ties and addressing key challenges between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It highlighted the imperative for regional cooperation and economic connectivity to ensure stability and prosperity in the region.

Senator Mushahid Hussain, reflecting on his extensive experience, underscored the importance of stability in Afghanistan and called for a reassessment of Pakistan’s Afghan policy. He urged a more inclusive approach towards Afghan migrants, advocating for their integration into Pakistani society. He argued passionately that those born in Pakistan should be granted Pakistani citizenship, drawing parallels with other migrant communities residing in Pakistan.

The discussion swiftly shifted towards the evolving regional dynamics, particularly the rise of Iran-Afghanistan trade surpassing that of Pakistan.

Senator Hussain pointed out the international community’s acknowledgment of the Taliban as the de facto rulers of Afghanistan, highlighting Russia’s desire to engage with them despite facing obstacles.

“Pakistan’s internal security is inextricably intertwined with geopolitics,” he said while underscoring the interplay between Pakistan’s relations with its neighbours and its internal stability. He said that regional peace, security, and stability are also inextricably intertwined with the same in Afghanistan as preconditions. He called for a reassessment of historical perceptions regarding Afghan groups and strategic clarity in Pakistan’s Afghan policy, advocating for a more cooperative and inclusive approach.

The dialogue concluded with Hussain’s call for a “regional reset” in policies towards Afghanistan, emphasising the need for collaboration and cooperation among neighbouring countries.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2024

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