Pakistan policy towards Afghanistan is in the process of reorientation primarily due to rapidly changing regional geo-political dynamics and strong realization in Islamabad to achieve stability in the region. Despite having common cultural, traditional and religious bondage, the two neighbours could not enjoy cordial relations in the past, except for the Taliban era. In the existing political posture, it is essential for both Afghanistan and Pakistan to craft their policies in order to enhance cordial relations with each other. Sooner or later, United States (US) and its love-less allies such as North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), will leave Afghanistan. However, US would try hard to safeguard its investment and influence, as Afghanistan will remain important due to its geo-strategic position. Moreover, preventing the Chinese to expand their soft power in the region is also on the US agenda.
Pakistan needs to re-arrange its cards and get positively engaged with various stakeholders both at state and societal level in Afghanistan. It should not be limited to one ethnic or ideological group. The Taliban have effectively played their role in keeping the insurgency alive. Strategically, the Taliban are in the re-positioning phase. It is important for them to have vast acceptability in Afghan society as well as in the international community. Otherwise, it would be difficult for them to regain and sustain spaces in their respective society.
Pakistan has remained a silent supporter of Taliban for last 2 decades, as the only option left. The long-term engagement with Taliban has worsened Pakistan’s ties with other stakeholders of Afghanistan, especially those who have presently occupied the state apparatus with the support of western and Indian allies. In the future course of action, Afghanistan may not revert to the old style of tribal Taliban structure and bravura of governance. However, if the Taliban show flexibility, they may occupy good spaces in the top political level, but on the bureaucratic level which is mostly the real machinery for implementation, they miss out their influence.
Prolonging military warfare is not recommended at all in the context of Pakistan and China’s joint venture of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Peace and stability in Afghanistan can ensure Sino-Pakistan expansionism via developmental programs and strengthening of-economic ties. Moreover, connection of CPEC with Central Asia Republics (CARs) also depends upon stability in Afghanistan.
Though Afghan policy is entangled with the regional policy of Pakistan, Russia, India and Iran, The war for regionalism as a new paradigm is re-emerging in the global politics to balance out the dying unipolar world. A win-win formula can be agreed upon rather than to continue a zero sum game in the region, but the focus should be on how Pakistan can create good will, build a healthy image and relationships in the multi-sect, multi-lingual and across conservative and modern stratas of society.
For the past four decades, Pakistan has been hosting Afghan refugees. It is one of the oldest and biggest refugee caseload ever. Pakistan can capitalize on this approachable caseload and tap this potential to convert them into willing volunteer goodwill ambassadors of Pakistan in Afghanistan. In this way, Pakistan will be in the benefitting position and will also be able to diversify its relations with Afghanistan. The only purpose is to have an enabling environment between these two neighbours.
Pakistan is in phase of redirecting its approach towards Afghanistan. To have a productive engagement and to enhance relations with the Afghan government and its nation, Pakistan needs to consider following recommendations:
- Tap university graduates in Pakistan as the pivot for the new policy; facilitate and place them in strategic position in civil military bureaucracy.
- Facilitate investment in schooling of Afghan refugees as second cadre.
- Promote youth engagement between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- Enhance quality services so to decrease down their flow to India for health and other essential services.
- Sign Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) to train Afghan Army and police forces by Pakistan and facilitate relevant equipment’s including weapons, it can be a good market for our defence production.
- Open placement and attachment of civil and military bureaucracy in both countries on deputation.
- Civil Society Engagement including Non Government Organization (NGOs) is always the key to promote bilateral relationship at societal level in modern world. Both these states can facilitate developmental program and projects as well as community engagement.
- Chambers of commerce from both sides can start their developing business plan for the next 10-20 years.
- Afghan business community if given space and facilitation for the business operation can be a great source of foreign exchange.
- Media exchange program can be started to cope anti Pakistan propaganda in Afghanistan.
- Informal trade can be formalized with subsidized rates.
- Afghanistan can provide space for a good market and production of Pakistan products if viewed as a potential market and corridor to other markets in the new paradigm of global politics where market forces shape relations not otherwise.
- Organizations such as National Logistic Cell (NLC), Frontier Works Organization (FWO) and Association of chamber of commerce is having a great potential for business between these two neighbours.