- Wang Yi, Rabbani, Qureshi likely to attend China, Pakistan, Afghan trilateral dialogue
BEIJING – Pakistan is all set to host trilateral dialogue on Saturday also attended by China and Afghanistan on Saturday in Islamabad.
Well informed sources have revealed to DiploMag that Consular Wang Yi, also China’s Foreign Minister, would be leading a high level delegation while Afghanistan would be represented by Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani or National Security Advisor of Afghanistan Mr Hamdullah Mohib.
“Actually the Afghan Foreign Minister had to attend the trilateral dialogue but due to the Afghan Peace Dialogue in its critical phase, it is decided that NSA will attend. But since the NSA has to leave for US to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session, Foreign Minister may be asked to attend,” the sources said and added that any decision would be made today (Friday).
The sources said that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi would lead Pakistani delegation at the dialogue. Foreign Minister Wang Yi is expected to hold meetings with Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
This would be the third trilateral dialogue between Pakistan, China and Afghanistan which was actually initiated by Beijing in 2017 amid rising tensions between Islamabad and Kabul with an objective to help normalize relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan and also start joint development projects in Afghanistan.
“Another objective of the trilateral dialogue was to convince Pakistan help Afghan peace process. This mechanism greatly helped in removing misunderstandings and normlaise relations between the two neighbouring states,” the sources added.
Pakistan, China and Pakistan commenced Trilateral Dialogue in year 2017 and first meeting was hosted in Beijing to help remove mistrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Next year, Afghanistan hosted the dialogue where the three countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of joint cooperation for antiterrorism in Kabul in year 2018.
The document was signed by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani. The signing was witnessed by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Better border management between Pakistan and Afghanistan and intelligence sharing are also part of the dialogue besides cooperation for Afghan reconciliation process. Development projects in Afghanistan following peace dialogue is another common subject Pakistan and China would be discussing. China also wants to further strengthen relations with Afghanistan and desires to make Afghanistan a part of China, Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Crucial Visit by Wang Yi
The sources said that keeping in view the fast developments taking place in the regional perspective, Wang Yi’s visit is of crucial nature.
“This would be the first visit to Islamabad by China’s foreign minister who fully supported Pakistan’s request to immediately convene a special session of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and take up an application at by Pakistan against Indian annexation of Jammu and Kashmir by India,” the sources said.
Wang Yi cancels India visit amid a new diplomatic row
Diplomatic sources have revealed that Consular Wang Yi has cancelled his visit to India which was scheduled to happen soon after his visit to Pakistan.
“Consular Wang Yi had to visit New Delhi after his trip to Islamabad but the visit was cancelled on New Delhi’s request,” the sources said. Asked to elabourate further, the sources said that India wanted Wang Yi to visit New Delhi before his Islamabad visit which was not manageable.
It merits mention that Consular Wang’s visit to Delhi was important to help normalize tensions between the three nuclear neighbours – China, Pakistan and India – over the Indian annexation of Jammu and Kashmir.
It merits mention that the cancellation of the Chinese Foreign Minister’s visit to New Delhi may affect the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to New Delhi scheduled in next month. The sources said that Foreign Minister Wang Yi would directly be leaving from Islamabad for Nepal where he is scheduled to meet top Nepalese leadership.
The Political Aspects of APTTA
By Dr Hussain Yasa
The APTTA renewal between Pakistan and Afghanistan has always increased concern in the light of developing political scenario. This article evaluates the forthcoming challenges and hurdles during the renewal process of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA).The agreement expires on February 11, 2021. The article evaluates the two major hurdles
- First, the technical and procedural problems, like cessation of informal trade, effective usage of Information Technology (tracking devices of goods, vehicular tracking systems etc.), banking guarantees, and special bonded carrier licenses for transit trucks, container security deposits, and all other logistics and customs procedures, better working relationship and communication between the relevant authorities.
- Political and security concerns of both parties, particularly Pakistan. The first set of problems seems to be negotiated smoothly but the second problem might be a real bone of contention. It is the inclusion of India into this agreement or at least the provision of Indian access to Afghanistan via Wagah Border. On this issue, both Afghanistan and Pakistan stand on opposite sides.
In spite of sharing the longest border, having much in common in religion, culture and language on both sides of the border, naturally locked in interdependency in the various key areas like economy and security, both Pakistan and Afghanistan could never acquire a smooth level of relationship.
The root causes of this discontent in the mutual relations between both neighbours have varying perceptions in their geo-political realm, sometimes difficult to sum it up in a small article. But the fact cannot be denied that both countries geographically locked in to each as neighbours will keep affecting a degree of consensus, though at times an uneasy one, in terms of security policy and economic cooperation between both the states. Notwithstanding the fact that both governments could not maintain a desirable level of relations, still millions of legal and illegal refugees prefer Pakistan as their second home and tens of thousands of Afghan children are being educated there. In addition to that thousands more are busy in licit and illicit businesses in Pakistan.
No doubt that Pakistan and Afghanistan have their own unique geopolitical and geo-economic strategic importance, it would be improper for both countries to undermine the other. Pakistan is a junction of South Asia, West Asia and Central Asia with ample of coastline along the Arabian Sea which is of high importance and enables it to be an important hub for the transit trade to Afghanistan, china and the CARs. On the other hand, Afghanistan, though a landlocked country, has been known as a cultural crossroads of the Indian, Persian and Chinese civilisations, it has significant geostrategic and geopolitical importance by connecting East and West Asia or the Middle East to Central Asia, not to mention that it is the home of approx. over one trillion US dollars’ worth of untapped precious mineral deposits.
If Pakistan has one of the largest armies of the world and it is the only Islamic nuclear power state, the dilemma occurs when lasting peace in Afghanistan is only possible with mutual security consensus between both the states but for Pakistan not compromising on its own geopolitical concerns in the changing security, political and geo-economic dynamics of the region, the vicious cycle of instability seems to remain unresolved. As for Afghanistan, being the heart of Asia, as the poet of the East Allama Muhammad Iqbal acknowledged it; its destabilisation bears direct consequences on the region. In other words Afghanistan’s instability factor alone would be enough to seek its nuisance among the regional players at least, if it could not do much to prove itself otherwise, particularly, when Afghanistan lacks the capacity to contain trans-border spillover of its internal security problems.
Both countries can play important role in the stability of South and Central Asia. Being a landlocked country, Afghanistan has been dependent on its neighbours for transit trade and the provision of the basic necessities, from food items, petroleum products up to basic medicines. Amid the continuous civil war, it still exports fresh and dried fruits, carpets and other textile floor covering. Although. In spite of the huge investment in blood and money by the international community over the last two decades, Afghanistan still faces a huge trade imbalance. According to the available data from WTO, the trade deficit of Afghanistan in 2018 was US$ 6.4 billion with US$ 1.2 billion imports and the exports were only US$ 485 million which is -32.72% of the GDP. In 2019, the situation improved a little bit and this deficit decreased to -30.11% of the GDP[i].
Pakistan, Iran, China and India are the main trading partners of Afghanistan. Till 2013 Trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan was at its peak by US$ 2.1 Billion but after that, the graph shows a decline in the mutual trade between the two countries[ii]. At the moment, Pakistan is the top export partner of Afghanistan with US$ 379million (43%) and India with US$ 359 million (41%) stays at number two but as far as imports are concerned Iran and China overtook Pakistan with US$ 1.26 billion and US$ 1.17 billion respectively. Pakistan stands third as the importing partner of Afghanistan by US$ 1.09 billion. Afghanistan’s import from India is US$ 359.47 million[iii].
From “ATTA” to “APTTA”
The first transit trade agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan signed on March 02, 1965. Although, it was a bilateral treaty but officially it was called “Afghanistan Transit Trade Agreement” and according to that treaty Pakistan was not given the access to the then USSR while Afghanistan had the access to the ports of Pakistan, mainly the Karachi seaport which is the shortest and most cost-effective route to access the regional and the world market. In that agreement Afghanistan was not given the facility to access India by land route. For Pakistan the agreement was not balanced because it was not given reciprocal access to then USSR and after its collapse in the 90s, to the Central Asian Republics (CARs).
In the post-Taliban Afghanistan ATTA was replaced by the “Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement” which was signed by the commerce minister of both countries on October 28, 2010 in Kabul. This time the agreement was much more comprehensive with 58 articles and two annexes specifying exit-entry routes and four protocols with all the relevant technical and legal details.
By this agreement, Pakistan was given access to the CARs from three main points and Afghanistan was allowed access to Pakistan’s seaports as well as to the Wagah Border for its exports to India but does not allow Indian Exports to Afghanistan through Wagah Land Border.
The international community and the United Nations welcomed and appreciated the agreement and called it a positive step toward the promotion of mutual trade and relations.
In addition to the traditional Red-tapism and the corruption in border and customs authorities, there were always two problems which were raised time and again by both sides.
Pakistan was always concerned about the illegal and informal trade which costs Pakistan a huge sum of money annually as well as it had a bad impact on the Pakistani domestic industry and trade. It has been really a big challenge for Pakistan to control its more 2600 km porous border to control these illicit trade activities.
The second issue was Afghanistan’s persistent demand that India should be given access for its exports to Afghanistan through Pakistani land routes. Pakistan has never responded positively to this Afghan demand due to the legal aspects of the agreement as well as the security concerns.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Pakistan is uniquely challenged by the nexus between crime and the illegal economy due to its geographic location. The country’s relations with its neighbours, particularly Afghanistan, are complicated by cross-border criminality, which in turn creates a thriving regional illegal economy orchestrated by complex informal and formal organised criminal networks of supplier rings, wholesalers, financiers, protectors and patrons. The situation within the region has implications for the broader global community as the risks created by illegal and criminal economic activities spread and multiply far beyond. For example, illegal drug trafficking risks human health globally; illegal trade that funds insurgencies poses not just local and regional security challenges but also to more distant locations. The report also says that Afghanistan’s illicit trade is still the major source of income. While the illegal economy raises the cost for conducting legal economic activities, it also weakens states, threatens development opportunities, undermines the rule of law, and keeps countries trapped in a cycle of poverty and instability[iv].
A research paper by the Pakistan Strategy Support Program (PSSP) writes the details that how the goods destined for Afghanistan under the APTTA, upon arrival at the Karachi port, pay no duties, after which they are loaded onto trucks which transit Pakistani territory to reach Afghanistan via Chaman or Torkham (border crossing points). After arrival in Afghanistan the merchandise is smuggled back to Pakistan[v].
According to CIDOB, the informal (non-opium) trade including smuggling (electronics, car parts, semi-precious stones, carpet, livestock, and foodstuffs). Informal trade reportedly accounts annually for US$ 1.5 billion, with smuggling accounting for US$1 billion. The same report mentions that “Lack of justice and rule of law, of which informal economies are a part, are a greater threat to Afghanistan than insurgency”[vi].
Abdul Razak Dawood, the adviser to the Pakistani Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment depicts more serious situation. As said by him, the volume of informal trade between the countries was UD$ 2 billion in 2019[vii].
But bad news for the smugglers and the people engaged in illegal trade across the Pak-Afghan border, Inter Services Public Relations, or ISPR (The media wing of the Pakistan Army) said that the barrier has already been installed along “about 83 percent” of the western Pakistani frontier. Additionally, hundreds of new outposts and forts have been built under the roughly $500 million program. The project was started in 2017 to block militant infiltration, smuggling, and other illegal crossings on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Under the military-led border management project, Islamabad has also upgraded several formal crossings with Afghanistan to further facilitate bilateral and transit trade activities[viii].
In spite of the serious blames that Pakistan is not doing more against the infiltration of terrorists across the border, the Afghan government didn’t welcome this Pakistani measure and called this fencing illegal. Kabul still unilaterally claims that a huge area inside Pakistan belongs to Afghanistan and presently occupied by Pakistan.
The Afghan Ministry of Borders and Tribal Affairs, in its official website doesn’t recognise the borders between Afghanistan as legal and calls it “Malicious Durand Line”[ix]. Another dilemma overshadowing Pak-Afghan Relations in all areas of mutual cooperation.
APTTA and India
In fact, after the partition of British India into two states of India and Pakistan in 1947, Afghanistan never had good relations with Pakistan. The ethnocentric approach of the consecutive Kabul governments toward the Durand line and territorial claim over a vast area in Pakistan has been the main obstacle in building a good working relationship between Kabul and Islamabad. With the utopian vision of a greater Pashtunistan or Afghanistan, India was a better ally to rely on. India also did not mind it to be accommodated in Afghanistan, in the immediate neighbourhood of its hostile neighbour Pakistan. But for Pakistan, the Indian presence on both Eastern and Western borders have always been a matter of concern.
In brief, this negative trend in low-level relations between the two neighbours dominates all areas from politics to economy.
For India, there are only two roads leading to Afghanistan and onward to the reasonably sized CARs market and access to their natural resources. The distance between Wagah (Indian Border) to Torkham is only 588.4 km and from there to capital Kabul is only 228.4 km. It means the total distance from the nearest Indian border to Kabul is 816.8 km. Considering the unfriendly relations with Pakistan, in particular, the long-lasting issue of Kashmir, it is almost impossible for India to access this route to Afghanistan without the solution of the key issues with Pakistan.
The other issue which is seriously disturbing India is the expanding project of “The One Belt One Road Initiative” led by China and its Southern extension, the CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor). The CPEC is not only an important part of the Chinese-led global economic project but also a game-changer in the region which enables China to access and dominate the maritime politics of the Indian Ocean. The total distance via land route between Gwadar, the main hub of the CPEC to the “Khunjarab”, the Chinese border is only 2757 km.
If India would search for another alternative route to reach Afghanistan and ultimately to CARs, it has only one option, that is Iran. The Iranian port of “Chabahar” is said to be the potential competitor of Gwadar and no doubt that it is also an important port strategically.
To bypass Pakistan, years before the APTTA is signed, India has started a key highway project of Zaranj-Dilaram Highway (Route 606). This 215km long highway connects Iran to the Kabul-Herat highway, the only and the key route of Afghanistan, connecting Herat to Kabul and onward to northern Afghanistan. This ambitious project was started in 2005 and completed in 2009. The highway is constructed by the Building and Road Organization of India (BRO) and it cost US$ 125 million.
On January 22, 2009, Hamid Karzai, the former Afghan President and Pranab Mukherji, who was serving as the Indian FM at that time, participated in the inauguration ceremony of route 606. Both leaders, in their speeches talked about the benefits of the project and its probable impact on the regional integration but some parts of both speeches were said to be provocative. Mukherji said, “The completion of the road reflects the determination of both India and Afghanistan that nothing can prevent or hinder collaboration between the two countries” and Karzai was two steps ahead, he said, “the completion of the project, which opens a shorter alternative route connecting Kabul to Iran, is a message to those who want to stop cooperation between India and Afghanistan. “Our cooperation will not stop[x].”
On May 23, 2016, India, Iran, and Afghanistan signed a trilateral transit trade deal in Tehran. This transit trade pact was inked in the presence of Narendra Modi, Hassan Rohani, and Ashraf Ghani, all three heads of states.
In the same visit, Indian PM announced that India would invest US$500 million to develop the strategically important Chabahar port, close to Iran’s border with Pakistan, he said that the port would open a transit route to Afghanistan and Central Asia for Indian goods and products, avoiding the land route through Pakistan. The Iranian business daily, Ta’adol, also welcomed the deal. It said that India wants to challenge China’s power in central and South Asia through Chabahar port. Noting that China is trying to control the pulse of regional trade by making extensive investments in the Pakistani port of Gwadar, India is now positioned against its strong competitor by investing in the port. The newspapers reminded its readers of ‘setbacks’ that Iran has faced due to India, “We should raise our complaints… and ask them [India] to be more honest in their trade with Iran, and to fulfill their obligations more seriously,” Another Iranian daily E’temad added that Mr. Modi’s visit and the signing of agreements on joint projects, energy and connectivity will ring danger bells in Islamabad, China, and Riyadh[xi].
Indian newspapers called the deal a milestone and a strategic defeat of Pakistan as well as the potential to provide an Indian strategic counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar port being developed by China right next door to Chabahar.
The Iranian daily’s concerns came true when the U.S. President Donald Trump overturned the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and imposed rigorous sanctions on Iran in 2018. India could not continue with Iran, the way Iran counted on it.
Iranian Foreign minister, Zawad Zarif conveyed to his Indian Counterpart that Iran had expected the Modi government to be ‘more resilient’ in the face of Washington’s bullying at a time when equally Modi government was dragging its feet on the Chabahar port project, which has far-reaching implications for regional connectivity, stability, and security. In fact, Zarif reflected the deep misgivings at the highest level of Iranian leadership that India’s capacity or political will to pursue independent foreign policies are increasingly in doubt[xii].
On the other hand, a partnership with the US to restrain China was also attractive for India. The table moved further around after the two-day visit of Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) in India on February 29, 2019. The visit was followed by a UD$ 100 billion Saudi investment in Indian in the areas of energy, refining, petrochemicals, infrastructure, agriculture, minerals, and mining[xiii].
This strategic shift in both Indian and Saudi foreign policy were received with great concerns in all three relevant countries, Pakistan, Iran, and China.
As a logical percussion in August 2020, a piece of breaking news about the Chino-Iran mega-deal of US$ 400 billion through a strategic partnership, over the next 25 years rattled not only the Indian policymakers but also the western countries. Now, Iran did not need any more Indian investment in Chabahar port, the crucial railway line from Chabahar to Zahedan that ultimately connects the Iranian port to Zaranj nor the Iranian were eager for Indian money to explore the Farnaz B gas field. India started feeling to be footed out of the deal and the ambitious approach to access Afghanistan and the CARs. India wooed Iran to keep China away from Chabahar. Although Iran had a very diplomatic and soft response to India but a former Iranian diplomat, who served in India, said New Delhi’s “growing ties” with the US and Israel under the Narendra Modi government have “not gone down well with Tehran.[xiv]” But it seems to be too late.
Now, how the APPTA could be an important factor for both countries to preserve their geopolitical/economic importance and guarantee the prosperity of the people in both countries. Although, Pakistan continued to disallow the transit of Indian exports to Afghanistan via its land routes due to multidimensional political, security, legal and technical problems. But it allows exports of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs from Afghanistan to India through the Wagah land border. It means Afghanistan does not have any problem with its exports from Pakistan. Over and above to India and the rest of the world, Pakistan itself has been the favorite destiny of Afghanistan’s fresh fruits and vegetables minimal spoilage and without losing its natural taste and freshness. Fresh fruits and vegetables comprise a big percentage of the total Afghan export.
According to the paper AFGHANISTAN NATIONAL EXPORT STRATEGY 2018-2022, FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES SECTOR published Afghan Ministry of Industry and Commerce, over 90% of Afghan fresh fruits and vegetables are consumed in Pakistan, US$ 71.5 million and it is predicted an increase of 45% in coming years.[xv] Moreover, there is a high demand for Afghan coal in Pakistan. Only one company ‘Fauji Cement Company ltd.’ requires up to 324,000 metric tons of Afghan coal per annum.[xvi]
Now, let us explore two more important issues related to APTTA.
The Chabahar Port indeed bypasses Pakistan and if the other issues did not overshadow the Indo-Iranian relations, as it is discussed earlier, India may have an access to Afghanistan but the main destination of India is CARs and beyond that. Why India would use Afghanistan as a transit route while Iran has better infrastructure, better roads, railway lines, and better management bodies as well as there are no security threats, it operational in all seasons and the no hard terrain to cross. So, the importance of Afghanistan as a crossroad and a connecting hub will be badly effected which will have a long run affect. India will certainly use the International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC). It is the ship, rail, and road route for moving freight between India, Russia, Iran, Europe, and Central Asia. The INSTC project was initiated by Russia, India and Iran in September 2000 in St. Petersburg. The trilateral agreement was signed on May 16, 2002, at least one-half decades earlier than the India-Iran-Afghanistan trade transit agreement.
Another agreement ‘The Quadrilateral Traffic in Transit Agreement (QTTA)’ was signed by Pakistan, China, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan on March 09, 1995, in Islamabad, 15 years earlier than the APTTA. Later on, in 2017 Tajikistan also wished to join this agreement while Kabul has reluctant to finalize a transit trade agreement with Islamabad. Tajikistan is poised to join a separate initiative that will connect Pakistan to Central Asia, bypassing Afghanistan entirely. The QTTA provides Pakistan an alternative gateway to Central Asia by completely circumnavigating Afghanistan. It would use the Karakoram Highway which connects Gilgit-Baltistan to China’s Xinjiang region, which links to Central Asia.[i] On May, 08 2020, the Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister, Sardor Umurzakov also submitted a formal request. The road will provide Uzbekistan an access to China and the Pakistani seaports.[ii] Now, this project is part of CPEC and is operational. This transit route is also bypassing Afghanistan. Although, the road passing from the tough mountainous areas and the traffic might face problems, it the same case with Kabul-Mazar-e Sharif highway when it passes through Salang Mountains and Tunnel.
Source- Ministry of Communication
- All knows the undesirable fluctuating relationship between both neighbours but both has to overcome those problems as soon as possible; lest it will undermine all facet of relation from trade to peace and stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- APTTA has more implications beyond mutual trade. If, Afghanistan cannot incorporate the region economically by this project; it should not lose Pakistan and CARs. If APTTA is not signed Afghanistan may lose its leverage as the crossroad of the region. The countries all around Afghanistan, which are much more stable economically and politically may find their way for mutual trade with or without Afghanistan. The two examples of INSTC and QTTA projects, respectively led by Russia and China are already discussed above.
- No doubt that India is an important country of the region but the persistent pressure of Kabul to include India in the APTTA does not seem to be materialising. Since the mutual relations between Pakistan and India has its own dynamics and history, until they do not resolve their problems of considering each other an existential threat, APTTA has to move forward with or without India. India cannot export to Afghanistan via Wagah and Pakistan land route but the government of Pakistan has given Afghanistan a special dispensation to export Afghan Goods to India.
- India has already found another trade route for its exports to Afghanistan and CARs., Afghanistan does not need to worry about that.
Although one can realize the immense pressure on president Ghani, Afghanistan really a hard land to rule with the history of four-decade war. At present, the issues of his lavish dining table with fourteen various types of meet and the deadlock in Doha Talks might be the matters of more importance but APTTA is also a matter that should be dealt on priority basis.
Dr. Hussain Yasa is the former Editor in Chief of the daily Outlook Afghanistan. At the moment he live in Germany in self-imposed exile. The views expressed by author are his own and DiploMag is not responsible for it.
 Husain, I., & Elahi, M. (2015). (Rep.). US Institute of Peace. doi:10.2307/resrep20156
 UNDOC & SPDI- (December 2011) Examining the Dimension, Scale and Dynamics of the Illegal Economy: A Study of Pakistan in Region
 MIANKHEL, ADIL KHAN (2015), CHANNELIZING AFGHANISTAN TO PAKISTAN INFORMAL TRADE INTO FORMAL CHANNELS. The Pakistan Strategy Support Program (PSSP). THE AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY June 27, 2015.
 Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB), (November 2014)- “Sources of Tension in Afghanistan and Pakistan: Regional Perspectives (STAP RP)”. FORMAL & NON-FORMAL ECONOMIES IN AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN: THE VIEW FROM THE GULF
 ptProfit, (November 8, 2020)-‘Exports to Afghanistan to reach $5bn in 3 years’
 Gul, Ayaz, (December 04, 2020). Pakistan Says Afghan Border Fence Nearly Complete
 Ministry of Borders and Tribal Affairs, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (Official website). BORDERS & DURAND LINE https://mobta.gov.af/en/borders-durand-line accessed on January 22, 2021
 Kaul Ajay | PTI, (JAN 22, 2009) Delaram (south Afghanistan),
 BBC (23 May 2016), India and Iran sign ‘historic’ Chabahar port dealhttps://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-36356163
 BHADRAKUMAR, M K (November 19, 2019), Why Iran is upset with India.
 The economic Times/ News (September 29, 2019), Our investment plans in India on track, Indian economy has strength to bounce back: Saudi Arabia.
 Mahdi, Sayed Zafar (September 17, 2020), India wooed Iran to keep China away from Chabahar.
 AFGHANISTAN NATIONAL EXPORT STRATEGY 2018-2022
FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES SECTOR
 Fauji Cement Company ltd.
 Bhutta, Zafar (February 24, 2017), Tajikistan to join Pakistan road link bypassing Afghanistan. Dushanbe’s request to join Quadrilateral Traffic in Transit Agreement has been approved
 Khan, Mubarak Zeb (May 08, 2020), Uzbekistan looks to Pakistani ports
Khan’s Kabul visit may pave way for economic integration through CPEC
By Kazim Ali Gulzari
Since 2001, ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan have remained quivering and the misunderstandings caused troubles not only to a single country but to the region as a whole. Countries of the world, with much bigger problems, resolved their issues in the past and are now living next to each other with peace and prosperity.
In last two decades, both Pakistan and Afghanistan suffered irreparable loss because of terrorism and now is the time that the neighbors, despite having differences, must find a common interest at micro and macro levels.
The blame game in the past benefited others and brought all the worst in these countries. Both the countries are suffering from menace of terrorism, corruption, economic hurdles, distrust and interference by spoilers who never want them to come closer and resolve the issues being faced by them.
It is imperative that both the countries must learn from the past mistakes and work for the peace and tranquility in the region. Pakistan and Afghanistan should fight the conspiracies together for the better future of their people.
The founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, once said: “Our object should be peace within, and peace without. We want to live peacefully and maintain cordial friendly relations with our immediate neighbors and with the world at large.”
Recently, the security situation has deteriorated significantly in Afghanistan. Afghan government is unable to defeat terrorism alone. Most of the Afghans are of the view that it is a never-ending war and everybody must wait for their turn to be killed in cold blood. Every passing day innocent people are being killed indiscriminately.
Though, Taliban denied recent major attacks in Afghanistan on civilian but analysts believe that Taliban were the group involved in the attack to have upper hand in peace talks.
In last couple of years, thousands of security forces as well as civilian have been killed. It happens at a time when thousands of International security forces’ boots are still on the ground. Though the out-going US President, Donald Trump, has ordered further draw-down of US forces before he leaves office on January 20, 2021.
According to CNN report, the Pentagon has issued a notice to commanders known as a “warning order” to begin planning to draw-down the number of troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 troops by Jan 15, the officials said. Currently, there are approximately 4,500 US troops in Afghanistan. At this critical juncture, the role of Pakistan in helping to achieve peace and tranquility in Afghanistan is of immense importance.
Pakistan has played a significant role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table by involving all the stakeholders, and ensuring influx of billions of dollars in the health, education and infrastructure in Afghanistan and by providing trade route to Afghanistan via Gwadar Port.
Afghan government must not only expect from Pakistan to solve all the crises in Afghanistan, It should also play its role in solving the intrinsic issues, such as political instability and insecurity. In order to perpetually address the crisis, President Ghani must move forward with the consent of the major stakeholders in the country. It will be impossible for President Ghani to achieve the desired outcome without involving all the parties in the conflict. Analysts are of the view that this is the last opportunity that the government must avail for lasting stability and prosperity in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, Afghanistan can benefit from game changing mega projects in the region like China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Moreover, the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) would also boost Afghan economy.
The Pakistani Prime minister, Imran Khan, once said that the trade and commerce between Pakistan and Afghanistan, not only share economic interest but will also revive our ancient brotherhood. During ancient Kushan Gandara, Peshawar was its capital from 1st to 3rd century AD, the region as far as Afghanistan and China all traded under single currency.
Besides that Peshawar and Kabul were considered two sister cities from ancient periods to time immemorial, sharing culture, tradition, history, economy and brotherhood.
Imran Khan visited Kabul on Thursday, November 19, 2020. It was his first visit to Kabul since taking office in 2018. Mr. Khan’s delegation included the foreign minister and other senior officials.
The Pakistani foreign ministry before the visit said in a statement: “The Prime Minister’s program includes tete-e-tete with President Ashraf Ghani, delegation-level talks, and joint press stake-out. The focus would be on further deepening the fraternal bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Afghan peace process, and regional economic development and connectivity.”
The statement further added: “The people of Pakistan and Afghanistan are linked through immutable bonds of history, faith, culture, kinship, values and traditions. The prime minister’s visit will help foster a stronger and multi-faceted relationship between the two brotherly countries.” Imran Khan’s first visit to Afghanistan would certainly help in economic prosperity, progress and development in the region.
Since the very inception, Pakistani prime minister was very blunt about Afghanistan’s policy and suggested that there is no military solution in Afghanistan. On many occasions, he stated: “Peace in Afghanistan is peace in Pakistan.”
While meeting with President Ashraf Ghani in June 2019, he distinctly indicated, “Whatever Afghans feel good for themselves, Pakistan will stand by their decision”. Undoubtedly, Imran Khan has been taking some bold decisions regarding his Afghan policy since assuming office such as pressurizing Taliban to join Intra-Afghan peace talks, fencing border to stop militant penetration etc.
It must be noted here that Pakistan had critical role in the US-Taliban peace agreement in February 2020. During his Kabul visit, addressing a joint press conference with president Ghani, the Pakistani prime minister said that Pakistan has played its role to indulge Taliban in Afghan peace talk, adding that despite the talks, violence has increased in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan is a country after Afghanistan that has more interest in peace in Afghanistan,” he added. Reiterating Pakistan’s support regarding peace in Afghanistan, he said: “We want peace for people of Afghanistan which are suffering since the past four decades.” President Ghani, on the occasion, called Khan’s visit to Kabul as “historic”, adding that, Pakistan’s Prime Minister has come with a message that “violence is not the answer to the current situation”.
“The demand of Afghan people is a comprehensive ceasefire,” Ghani said. As the Pakistani prime minister once said that lets not shadow of past darken the door step of futures, President Ghani should seize the opportunity to enhance gracious relation with Pakistan to uphold the maximum benefit from mega regional projects, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), by waving the friendship hand with Pakistan for the long-term Afghan economic interest.
Afghanistan has shown a deep willingness to participate in CPEC since 2016 even via official channels. Afghanistan would get benefit from a development project like CPEC. On the other hand, if Afghanistan is officially invited to CPEC, China and Pakistan stand to benefit immensely.
Pakistan will also benefit from better connectivity from Afghanistan to Central Asia. Afghanistan anxiously wants to improve its infrastructure and boost its economy by gaining access to Chinese investors.
Therefore, the inclusion of Afghanistan in the CPEC would be game changer for Afghanistan. Moreover, Afghan transit trade via Gwadar has already started on January 2020, under the APTTA. By this agreement, Afghanistan can import and export goods via Pakistani land routes.
APTTA is a bilateral trade agreement signed in 2010 by Pakistan and Afghanistan that calls for greater facilitation in the movement of goods between the two countries.
In a brief conclusion, Afghans want to get rid of the current mishaps by all imaginable means. Peace in Afghanistan means peace in the region. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan should focus on ground realities by adopting practical approaches, otherwise the entire region in general and both the countries in particular would be distracted from real path which leads to a long-lasting peace, prosperity and tranquility in the region.
Kazim Ali Gulzari is the former Vice-Chairman of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Why Afghanistan should follow Pakistani model?
By Dr. Hussain Yasa
So far, In Doha Intra-Afghan Talks, began on September 12, 2020, the deadlock continues and both parties could not yet finalize the procedural rules and agendas of the talks. Still the crucial issues like the probable future contour of the polity, governance, Shariah and civic values are on pending as the real bones of contention.
On the other hand, the recent wave of high levels of widespread violence has also negatively impacted the overall process.
The fact remains that the Taliban have so far confined themselves only to vague terminologies like Islamic System, Islamic Justice or Islamic Shariah without having a clear vision about the future polity.
In negotiations, the Taliban have avoided laying out their preferred system of Islamic government. However, previous Taliban stances and other historic and contemporary cases of Islamic government provide clues as to what model the Taliban are likely to push for. The role of religion can’t be ignored in Islamic countries such as Afghanistan but non-elected powerful institutions of “Ulema” can not run a country.
Pakistan, Paying the Price for Nothing
But the question remains unanswered: why do the warring parties in Afghanistan, in particular Taliban, do not prefer Pakistani political system?
Pakistan has been under enormous pressure from various sides for having sympathies with the Taliban and being a safe shelter for its leadership. While on the other hand, Pakistan is paying the biggest price for being the neighbor of this troubled country.
No one is buying the outdated and decades old theories anymore that Pakistan wants to annex Afghanistan into its geographical map or extending its strategic depth in Afghanistan or wants to make a confederation with it. In the presence of strong international institutions, these types of approaches seem to be nothing more than that of a political rhetoric or operation level tactics.
On the other hand, the security concerns of Pakistan that Afghanistan should not be used as a launching pad against it, has always been legitimate and is already acknowledged in the bilateral agreement between the Taliban and the US, signed on February 29, 2020 in Doha, Qatar.
The role of Pakistan as the main facilitator for the Doha Talks has also been praised by the international community. Last but not the least, still Afghanistan has millions of refugees in Pakistan and the cultural and religious bonds between the two countries is proven to be indestructible.
Why not Pakistan be a Role Model in the Polity?
Instead of creating a hostile environment with the immediate neighbour, the warring factions in Afghanistan should get the best advantage of the potentials of Pakistan in the areas of social life, in particular the nature of the polity.
Both, the Kabul Administration and the Taliban recognize the fact that Afghanistan is the land of many different ethnic, lingual and cultural groups and the followers of the various “Islamic Schools of Thoughts.” It is the same as Pakistan. But why would the Taliban look at Saudi Arabia and Iran as the probable preferable models of polity and why the Kabul Administration would stick to the Nation State Theory without having a well-defined nation?
Both modalities are not suitable for Afghanistan and might further widen the social cleavage of already fragile Afghan social fabric. If both warring sides truly want to build a country with sustainable peace and stability, then they should look to its immediate neighbor Pakistan.
The Prominent features of polity in Pakistan
- Officially it is Islamic Republic of Pakistan with parliamentary-federal system, one of the best for the heterogeneous societies.
- Islam is the national ID and all other communities are recognized institutionally by the constitution on sub-national levels. The Pakistani constitution guarantees the minorities to freely profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures.
- With more than 216 million population, Pakistan is the home of tens of different diverse communities; from a tiny community of “Hazara” in Balochistan up to the largest ethnic group of “Panjabis” are well accommodated in the system and the power structure.
- There are four provinces with their own semi-autonomous governments as well as the local governments up to the levels of districts and cities. The mainstream political parties have substantially agreed to create two more provinces of Saraikistan in Southern Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan in the North.
- The National Assembly of Pakistan is bicameral and consists of the Senate and lower house. The Senate has 104 members with equal numbers from all federal units and are elected by each province through Proportional Representation System while the members of lower house and provincial Assemblies are elected on the basis of one of the modern electoral systems “First Past the Post (FPTP)”. The single member constituencies are based on population. Women and the religious minorities have specific quota in all assemblies.
Role of the Religion
- The legislation repugnant to the Islamic Injunctions is forbidden. The Hudood Law (Ordinance) is the part of the enacted constitution. Pakistani President, Prime Minister and the cabinet members, before taking the office are sworn in to preserve the Islamic Ideology.
- There is another important institution “the Council of Islamic Ideology” that advises the legislature whether or not a certain law is repugnant to Islam, namely to the Holy Qur’an and Sunna.
- The Federal Shariat Court (FSC) of Pakistan with extensive power, determine validity of any law or custom having the force of law on the yardstick of “injunctions of Islam”.
- Pakistani religious parties are part of main stream politics and take active part in parliamentary politics. With the fluctuating numbers, they have been playing an important part in all parliamentary activities.
- Creation of Pakistan is based on Two-Nation Theory and based on Islamic Ideology. Islam is the state religion but the constitution doesnot divide Muslims into various sects. The followers of all Islamic School of thoughts as well as the non-Muslims are recognized as equal citizens and free to practice their faiths. The non-Muslims have special quotas in the parliament and civil services.
- The official name of Pakistani parliament is “Majlis-e-Shoora” with a purely Islamic background.
Sustainable and Powerful Institutions
Various institutions like army, judiciary and parliament as well as media with powerful voices are the important aspects of the Pakistani polity. In addition to that, its civil society has been playing a vibrant role in the country.
Thousands of Afghan students are busy with quality education services in Pakistan for free and thousands go for medical treatments on a weekly basis. In both sectors, Pakistan is performing well.
The largest ethnic group “Panjabis” are one of the tolerant communities without hegemonic ambition for political power. Most of the rulers have been from the smaller provinces like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto and Mohammad Khan Jonejo from Sindh, Zafarullah Khan Jamali from Baluchistan and Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani from the Saraiki belt of Punjab. Nawaz Sharif was the only Pakistani prime minister from mainland Punjab but he also has Kashmiri background. The current Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan is ethnic Pashtun. As well these smaller communities have served not only as the president of Pakistan but also as the power commander of the Pakistani Army.
Even from the tiny communities of Hazara (General Mohammad Musa Khan) and Qizilbash (General Yahya Khan) also served as the commander-in-chief of the Pakistani Army.
Today, Pakistan is the sixth nuclear power of the world with nearly a million armed forces.
There is no prohibition for anyone from any Islamic sect to serve the highest civilian or military posts while in Afghanistan for certain posts from the presidency up the key ministries ethnicity and religious sect plays a determining role.
Why Hostile Relations?
It has been beyond understanding that why only the fanatic religious parties or private religious institutions such as “Madrasha Haqqania” would be the ideal for Taliban? They enjoy to move across the borders but do not recognize Pakistani political system as the role model. The conservativeKabul governments also instead of collaboration on vital issues, have been stuck only to outdated “Durand Line” issue and unhealthy blame game with Pakistan.
As a sovereign country, Afghan government has the right to have relations with the nations of its choice but hostility with immediate neighbors would tear apart the already war torn country. Instead of being involved in the hostile game of the region, Afghanistan should learn from the political experiences of its neighbors, in particular, Pakistan. The way forward is to create an environment beneficial for both neighbors with a new geopolitical and economic approach.
- The Nation-state theory has already proven to be dysfunctional in Afghanistan. It has widened the gap and created enormous distrust among the various sections of Afghan society.
- Both the Taliban and the Afghan government should follow the Pakistani polity as ideal for its heterogeneous society.
- Religion has nothing to do with types of polity and governance, rather it outlines the principles of good governance, social justice, harmony and brotherhood based on equality.
- For Taliban and Afghan government, the priority should be to keep Afghanistan united and recognize the diversity institutionally which is only possible in a Pakistan-like federal-parliamentary form of system with decentralization of power up to the local government level.
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. DM has no responsibility whatsoever.