Our Beacon Forum

Proposal for Peace in Afghanistan - Miliband
By:KI Bajwa
Date: Friday, 16 April 2010, 8:58 pm

Proposal for Peace in Afghanistan by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband

David Miliband has written an article titled ‘How to End the War in Afghanistan’ which recognizes two essential factors: 1) the neighbors of Afghanistan should lead the way from the platform of OIC or a conference of all parties with interests in peace in Afghanistan; 2) recognition that Afghanistan must be transformed from a barrier into a bridge between South and Central Asia. I have been trying to make both the points for several years now. I am glad there is a measure of acceptance of these points by all those with interest in Afghanistan. However, the devil, as always, is in the detail. The British Foreign Secretary says that beside Pakistan, India, China, Russia and Turkey must be involved in guaranteeing peace in Afghanistan. I disagree with him. I would substitute India with Iran and that would make perfect sense. India has been eager to become involved in Afghanistan not to rebuild that country but to establish infrastructure to invade Pakistan. The reason India wants to be in Afghanistan is the same as that of Al-Qaeda; Al-Qaeda would like to rule Pakistan in the name of Islam and India would like to conquer Pakistan to save it from Al-Qaeda. The Western world usually buys every bit of junk produced by RAW. With words that most gullible Pakistanis would eagerly endorse, the West is trying to cajole Prime Minister Geelani into accepting India as a ‘partner for peace’ in Afghanistan. The Indian objective in wanting to maintain presence in Afghanistan is ‘subversion and disintegration of Pakistan’. If you cannot see that, Mr Geelani, you are unfit to lead Pakistan. +Usman Khalid, Secy Gen of Rifah Party of Pakistan
The Proposal made by David Miliband, verbatim, is as follows:
Given the scale of the geopolitical challenges in this region—including the long-running tensions between India and Pakistan and the presence of Iran—it can seem that Afghanistan is fated to remain the victim of a zero-sum scramble for power among hostile neighbors. The logic of this position is that Afghanistan will never achieve peace until the region’s most intractable problems are solved. But there is an alternative and ultimately more promising possibility, by which Afghanistan poses so many dangers that it becomes the place where more cooperative regional relations are forged.
The first step is a greater recognition by all of Afghanistan’s neighbors and the key regional powers of two simple facts. Fact one: no country in the region, let alone the international community, will again allow Afghanistan to be dominated, or used as a strategic asset, by a neighboring state. Fact two: the status quo in Afghanistan is damaging to all. Crime, drugs, terrorism, and refugees spill across its borders when Afghanistan’s great mineral wealth and agricultural land should instead be of benefit to the region. These two facts can and must provide the basis of a shared interest around which the countries of the region can coalesce.
Second—and this point is more complex—there needs to be a more honest acknowledgment of the different interests and concerns of Afghanistan’s neighbors, so that efforts can be made to provide reassurances. Pakistan is essential here. It holds many of the keys to security and dialogue. It clearly has to be a partner in finding solutions in Afghanistan.
Pakistan is a country of 170 million people. It is a nuclear power. Pakistan will act only according to its own sense of its national interest. That is natural. Its relationship with Afghanistan is close to the core of its national security interests. Pakistan fears the build-up of a non-Pashtun Afghan National Army on its doorstep, and it is perpetually worried about India’s relationship with Afghanistan.
It has also had a difficult relationship with the US for a generation. That is the significance of the Obama administration’s determination to pursue a new security, economic, and political relationship with Pakistan. This policy opens up a vital opportunity to address Pakistan’s concerns—and ours. The Kerry-Lugar Act—which provides for over $7 billion in nonmilitary aid over the next five years, but makes the support conditional on the Pakistani government taking effective action against militants in its territory—is an important down payment in this regard.
But progress cannot be achieved simply by a more serious, more equal US–Pakistan strategic security understanding, crucial though that is. Alongside Pakistan’s fears about its western border, fears about Pakistan’s own involvement in Afghanistan need to be addressed. Every country needs to accept that, just as there will be no settlement in Afghanistan without Pakistan’s involvement, so there will be no settlement in Afghanistan unless India, Russia, Turkey, and China are also involved in the search for solutions. China is Afghanistan’s largest foreign investor. India has already pledged $1.2 billion for reconstruction in Afghanistan. It has a big part to play. Moreover, the Iranian regime—whose nuclear policies have flouted the UN and that has a record of attempting to destabilize its neighbors—must acknowledge that the best way to protect its investments or promote the interests of Afghans that share its Shia faith is to work to promote peace, not undermine it. The Iranian government’s refusal to take part in the recent London Conference on Afghanistan was completely shortsighted.
Third—and this is where the external settlement connects most clearly to the internal political settlement—there needs to be greater transparency with respect to the future direction of Afghan foreign policy. It is for the Afghans to decide how to do this, but their involvement is critical in building confidence and reducing miscalculation. Linked to this, there will need to be consistency and clarity about the presence, activities, and future plans of the international forces in Afghanistan.
Fourth, economics should be the great lubricant for better regional relations. Afghanistan can benefit all its neighbors if it becomes the land bridge of Central Asia, South Asia, and the Gulf. After all, the Silk Road was the passage for trade for many centuries. There are common interests not just in trade and transport, but in managing and sharing water and electricity and harnessing economic growth for the benefit of Afghanistan and the neighboring countries.
Fifth is the question of the forum in which this work should move forward. The process must be led by the countries in the region. Only these governments can decide whether the multitude of existing bodies such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and the Organization of the Islamic Conference can provide the basis for the serious and sustained regional engagement that is now needed. The Afghans should take the lead, in partnership with the UN. In time perhaps this could lead to a standing Conference on Stability, Security, and Cooperation in South Asia. Above all, Afghan citizens must decide the future political process in their country. Important as the neighbors’ legitimate interests are, they cannot supplant, nor will we allow them to supplant, the Afghan government and the Afghan people. The days are long gone when powerful countries would dispose of a smaller, vulnerable neighbor to suit their own ends.++