Fruitless diplomacy

Actions always speaks louder than words and in the case of Pakistan, the right words are coming out of Pakistani leaders to introduce policies and measures to mitigate insurgency in Afghanistan. To be fair to Islamabad there has been a transformation of security measures towards Afghanistan. Last summer Waziristan sanctuaries became priority, which enabled the Pakistani army to clean up Waziristan of militants (This can also provide a rationale on how the insurgency shifted from the south to north of Afghanistan). Military leaders and government leaders have unconventionally traveled to Kabul the last few months. Discussions mostly compose of introducing bilateral pacts on securing the border and emphasis on deposing insurgency in both countries. These discussions arose from recent hike in insurgency in Pakistan and the growing civil society demanding recourse. However the new pretentious behaviour of Pakistani leaders have made Afghanistan more vulnerable to insurgency more than it was before Pakistan’s new revamped security measures.

President Ghani favours diplomacy with Pakistan, a polar contrast when compared to his predecessor who preferred strained relations. President Ghani’s diplomacy also came with giving Pakistan access to Baghram prison and unobtrusively recognizing the Durand line. Diplomacy works great if both sides have a lot to lose if they do not engage in diplomacy. Pakistan has less to lose if diplomacy and AF-PAK relations sour and less to win if relations are proven successful. In contrast Afghanistan has a lot win, if relations triumph the increase in both national security and economically would be immense. But not too much to lose if diplomacy is unengaged, in recent years the Afghan Armed Forces have proved that they can secure the country. Of course a lot of work is still left to do.

As of now Pakistan has altered security measures but Pakistan’s foreign policy is not on the table. Pakistan does not negotiate its policy towards Afghanistan.

The impact of securer and an economically progressive Afghanistan can have detrimental effects on the geo-politics of the region, an impact a Pakistan prefers to evade. Pakistan’s interest is to keep Afghanistan a subordinate nation in the region, a peaceful Pakistan comes from keeping Afghanistan weak. Therefore diplomacy is tough when mutual interests are conflicting exactly at each other. Although Pakistan’s security measures are palpable and the sudden relations epitomize a new hope for both nations to finally turn the page. Pakistan still feels more secure if Afghanistan is insecure.

To Afghanistan’s demise Pakistan does not let economics judge its politics. Therefore if Afghanistan can prove that this sort of policy is the impasse for vast economic gains for Pakistan, the 40 million Pakistanis living below the poverty line while the government spends billions of dollars on their military, shows economic growth is not priority nor is the welfare of their citizens. This may also explain why every agreement involving trade or projects to enhance trade move in a slow motion speed.

Pakistan’s policy has not changed and it will not change, President Ghani must realize his political leverage is not relative in the relationship. How can his political leverage ever be compared to Pakistan’s control of the Taliban?

There is a strong consensus in Afghanistan and around the world that Afghan Taliban is strongly influenced by the Pakistani government through the rogue ISI agent. The measure of influence is another discussion but it is safe to say that Taliban’s main sponsors are top level ISI directors in Rawalpindi. We also need to surface the concept of intelligence agencies are not policy makers, they just follow policy, as much as the ISI are a rogue agency, they are sophisticated and simply follow policy. Therefore Afghanistan needs to re-examine its position before engaging in diplomacy that puts more Afghan lives under risk.

The government of Afghanistan must not squander the gains by the Afghan Armed Forces. The solution on securing Afghanistan might be outside of politics. In Afghanistan’s case this might be so, foreign politics usually surmises the inferior nation to lose in some way in other words zero-sum politics cease to exist. For Afghanistan losing equates to death of civilians.

How about Zahir Shah’s isolation policy that kept peace for the better part of the 20th century? Just an idea.