Regional solution to Afghan problem
Paper presented at conference on 'Regional Approach to Stability in Afghanistan' organized by Pluscarden Programme for the Study of Global Terrorism, St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, 31 May-1 June 2012.
The conflict in Afghanistan has overtime regionalised to the extent that its resolution now rests significantly on the viability of a regional framework. Within this framework, simultaneous progress in Afghan reconciliation, and Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan and India will be crucial. Too often approaches to regionally resolve the Afghan conflict revolve around geo-political considerations and accompanying strategic-security motivations of the regional states in Afghanistan. The discussion remains mostly confined to competing or conflicting interests of Afghanistan’s immediate and distant neighbours and how to balance them. However, as before, any regional solution to Afghanistan based on such real-politick notions may have precarious foundations and could lead to the recurrence of conflict inside Afghanistan and renewed hostility in Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan and India. In contrast, a framework for conflict resolution rooted in geo-economically-driven cooperation, especially in the domain of trade and energy, is essential for sustainable peace within Afghanistan and in its relationship with Pakistan. It is also important for resolving political conflicts between India and Pakistan and triggering their strategic cooperation over Afghanistan to ensure its viability for sustained supply of energy resources and tradable goods between Central and South Asian regions.

The Western military exist from the war-torn country was a foremost precondition for any viable process of reconciliation in Afghanistan to begin. While still in a preliminary phase, this process needs to be led by the Afghans and facilitated by Pakistan, and its outcome guaranteed by the international community, especially the United States. As for the regional context for Afghan reconciliation, especially the crucial value that Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan and India have for the purpose, noticeable progress can be observed. Afghanistan and Pakistan have revived the Joint Peace Commission for greater mutual collaboration for Afghan reconciliation. Even while maintaining competing or conflicting interests in Afghanistan, India and Pakistan have achieved some progress in trade and travel. Like China, India is interested in multi-billion mining project in Afghanistan, whose viability rests significantly on continuing progress in relations with Pakistan. For its part, Pakistan cannot help but deal with the new post-Taliban Afghan reality, in which India has emerged as a factor especially in terms of its developmental role.

More importantly, India and Pakistan are part of TAPI, the gas pipeline project from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan—which is a win-win option for them, as well as for Afghanistan and its major regional and international stakeholders. Afghanistan’s and Pakistan’s potential as future corridors of trade and energy between Central Asia and South Asia is indisputable, and it fits perfectly well with the UN-sanctioned initiative of reviving the ancient Silk Road in the region. South Asia provides sea outlet for Central Asian trade, while Central Asia has plenty of hydrocarbon resources for the consumption of energy-starved South Asia. The four participating nations of TAPI have settled the pricing issue, and the problem of financing the project is also largely resolved. Security in strife-ridden areas of Afghanistan or Balochistan does pose a major challenge to TAPI, which is why progress in Afghan reconciliation and in Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan and India is important. Sharing benefits from such financially lucrative projects fostering regional energy and trade linkages can be part of the incentives offered by the state parties to insurgent groups during the reconciliation process. Amid existing security concerns about future viability of these projects, we can still critically evaluate the nature and scope of contributing factors such as regional inter-dependence and respective national needs. For the potentially productive value of these factors for the near term or long run stability and peace in South Asia cannot be overlooked.

Only introduction to this paper is available.