A framework for peace

March 29, 2012


ONE may inquire how essential regional security in South Asia is for bringing peace to Afghanistan after 2014, when foreign troops withdraw.

Yet analysis informs that without regional peace and an agreement on a framework for a regional approach, peace will not be possible in that country. In a sense, peace in Afghanistan can only be achieved if tension is lowered between the US and Iran, Russia and the US, and the US and China. These conclusions were derived from a recent exercise undertaken to find the way forward in Afghanistan.

For the creation of peace in Afghanistan, it is necessary to identify the major goals that need to be met. A review of these goals highlights the underlying linkages essential for designing the architecture of peace. Counter-intuitively, the first essential goal for peace in Afghanistan is the functioning of a stable, democratic and a civilian-led government in Pakistan. The reasons for this are two-fold: first, to keep the Pakistan military focused on its security role and second, to ensure that a constitutionally empowered and elected government determines foreign policy choices based on people’s preferences.

In situations where the military manages foreign affairs — as has happened often in Pakistan — the garrison’s view dictates matters and as we have noted, that is not the right perspective. The militaristic mind-set is a good quality for the security managers to have, but not for the foreign office. If foreign policy is led by the guardians of security, this would cause a conflict of interest and the openings for peace that can be generated by a political dispensation would not be available. However, the military must continue to maintain a policy of prudent realism.

To achieve the above goal, there are nine outputs that need to be provided before the first goal is met. Some of the important ones are: Pakistan’s foreign policy is formulated according to Article 40 that provides an abiding policy prescription that Pakistan must promote international peace. If this injunction is to be followed in letter and spirit, Pakistan should end support to proxy warriors. It must also break any links, such as have been alleged, with any of the Afghan insurgent leadership and resolve the issue of the detention of some Afghan insurgents.

Some of the other activities essential for obtaining the first goal are the creation by law of an effective counter-terrorism organisation instead of the existing emaciated and weak national counter-terrorism authority. Secondly, more reforms are needed in Fata to bring its people greater freedom and growth. Thirdly, it is important to impose firmer border controls with Afghanistan. The ability of Afghans to take refuge in Pakistani territory and to generate attacks inside Afghanistan from here does not create regional security. Four, all the regional nations need to take strong action against the trans-national criminal gangs that have arisen in the area. Lastly, many of the defunct Pak-Afghan consultative groups that exist on paper need to be re-activated.

The second important goal essential for creating peace in Afghanistan is to improve regional security before the US withdrawal is completed. To fulfil this goal, there are a number of output sectors that will have to be improved. Firstly, it is suggested that Afghanistan, the Central Asian Republics, China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia and US should reach an agreement under UN auspices for the creation of a stabilisation force to provide security to most of the large cities and towns. Such a force could be created from some of the major Muslim countries.

Even more important is to achieve unanimity in the policies of Afghanistan’s neighbours and the US — other countries will not want to take America’s chestnuts out of the fire to help her in Afghanistan. Some solid strategic rethinking is thus needed. If this is possible then it may be easier to create a joint regional approach that assists in security and development. A closely connected matter is the American wish to have a strategic treaty with Afghanistan that would allow the US to maintain a security presence in some form after 2014.

Such a move is likely to prevent any headway in talks with the Taliban and on the contrary may lead to a prolonged war in the region against the Pushtuns. Hamid Karzai has lost the authority to lead by example. On the other hand, the desire of the US to maintain a military presence may jeopardise talks with the Taliban. What Mr Karzai can do is to engage the other Afghan ethnicities to participate in the peace talks.

Another important area that must be prioritised for implementation is the creation of joint business ventures in minerals, energy and other sectors to generate economic growth in Afghanistan. The various pipeline projects intended to pass through Afghanistan should be accelerated. The Afghans must be involved in the creation of wealth. The third essential goal for obtaining peace in Afghanistan is the strengthening of business, trade, diplomatic and security links between Pakistan and India. If these relations were good, peace in Afghanistan would become more probable. Some outputs necessary to achieve this goal are the settlement of issues between the two nations, including disputes on Kashmir, Siachin and the Rann of Kutch. These need to be defrosted soon. Simultaneously, the issue of water security between the two nations needs to be addressed quickly.

As matters between the two biggest players in South Asia move positively, the proposal to create joint business corporations that includes Pakistanis, Indians and Afghans to undertake activities in the region will become possible. Simultaneously the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) should be strengthened by increasing sport, cultural and civil society linkages. Pakistan needs to assist in bringing early peace to Afghanistan, if it wants its sovereignty to be respected.

The writer is the chairman of the Regional Institute of Policy Research in Peshawar.