Balancing the relations with the regional and neighboring countries
Afghanistan situated in a hot spot in its region, has the vulnerability to make wise choices in terms of its relationship with its neighbors as well as with the regional and near far countries.
The ancient silk route which happens to be crossing through Afghanistan has always played a crucial role in attracting foreign armies to this country. Afghanistan though a third world country has always been a focal point in international circles and this sensitive location has merely helped our country in a positive and futile way as of yet.
Starting from the cold war, when the then Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan it certainly paved the way for the Islamists upheaval against the red army and its allies and eventually sank Afghanistan in a devastating civil conflicts which lasted for over two decades. All these historical events clearly portray the importance of Afghanistan to the rest of the world, unfortunately being the battle ground of regional and international rivals.
Due to this vulnerable geography, more than any other country in the world, Afghanistan has to make a rational analysis of its relationship with its neighbors while maintaing an acceptable balance in terms of its relations with the international community on the other side.
Pakistan, being actively involved in Afghanistan since 1970s is one of the most important players in the region. This country has negatively contributed to Afghan security and national interest right from its independence in 1948. In essence, Pakistan has never respected the sovereignty of the Afghan nation and has nourished and supported the state opposing insurgents since soviet exit from Afghanistan. No doubt, Afghanistan’s cordial relation with India has given the ISI and the Pak army the excuse to support Taliban in order to target Indian interests within Afghanistan. Although, I believe that this country is as much vulnerable as we are, but only a strong political intention along with a multi ethnic, broad based and fully representative government in Afghanistan could figure out those vulnerabilities and target them equally for its counter defiance. Meanwhile, in the last 10 years we could have focused greatly on our economic self sufficiency and political stability which could have resulted in gradually isolating Pakistan and getting rid of our vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, Pakistan being a stronger country with a nuclear power still has the upper hand in shaping the situation in Afghanistan which has resulted in prolonging the hatred war and loss of thousands of innocent Afghan lives in the span of a decade now.
Iran a regional power, enemy to the U.S. and Israel has definitely been concerned about the situation in Afghanistan and has closely been watching the improvements in this country since the collapse of the Taliban regime. Although, Afghanistan is much lesser affected by Iranian influence compared to Pakistan, but the main concern of the Ayatollahs in Iran is the presence of the American troops in Afghanistan and a possible long term strategic partnership between the two countries which could result in establishment of a handful U.S. permanent bases in Afghanistan one most likely along the border with Iran. The Iranian government in the past did not favor Taliban at all, especially the tensions started when Iranian diplomats were held captive and later found dead in September 1998 allegedly by Taliban, but they dramatically changed their approach towards Taliban and they have been accused several times by the NATO and U.S. commanders on the ground of helping insurgents and equipping them. We as a neighboring country should weigh their concerns seriously and keep our relationship with the Iranian government in terms of mutual respects for each other’s sovereignty while dealing with the U.S. based on our national interests. Now the ongoing series of assassination attempts on Iranian nuclear scientists could jeopardize the situation in the region and will definitely worsen the relations with Afghanistan. They can easily influence some elements within the insurgents and use them to deteriorate the situation in Afghanistan.
Central Asian States:
Afghanistan’s northern neighbors can be a potential asset for us to further enhance our economic and political relations with, post Taliban little has been done to improve the infrastructure in terms of facilitating better facilities for merchants on both sides to trade efficiently. We should have realized the importance of our trading partnership with these states as the north of the country is much safer and lesser threat of insurgents disturbances are present. We certainly have the advantage of having the same language and cultural values with the majority of these former soviet states which will play a significant part in our economic ties with each other. A prudent government in Afghanistan will be able to work on mechanisms to bring these countries closer both economically and as well as politically and sketch an alternative route for the expansion of its economic sovereignty.
The biggest democracy in the world is one of the most significant donors to the Afghan reconstruction and a very important player in the regional political arena. Our mutual friendship has been historic and exceptional; we enjoy the same historical heritage, shared values and common interests. Although we have always maintained cordial relations with the Indian side, but this mutual relationship between the two states have often been negatively affected by the interference of Pakistani elements within the Afghan government. Known enough, Pakistan and India have had a long history of disputes over critical issues in the region, Kashmir being the core issue. The moment, a big economic opportunity in Afghanistan involving India has arisen, Pakistan through its sympathizing elements in the government and Taliban have disrupted the process and has jeopardized these efforts. A well informed government in Afghanistan could safeguard both states interests in the region and increase the current level of cooperation between the two friendly countries. We should be able a send a clear message to our Pakistani counterparts and retaliate effectively against their plots.
Author: Naser Koshan
Washington, United States