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India’s influence in Afghanistan needs consideration: Pakistan’s Foreign Minister

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Islamabad – “India’s influence in Afghanistan and its facilitation” also needs consideration. Khawaja Asif, Pakistan’s foreign minister, asserted while talking to media, after the conclusion of the fourth Round of the US-Pakistan Track-II Dialogue. He was explaining factors that hinder the achievement of peace in the Pak-Afghan region. 

Read more: Pakistan’s Foreign Policy: A tale of fear and resistance to change…

Khawaja Asif told the media that US and Pakistan do not have total consensus on issues, however, our contacts continue and more high level contacts are expected in near future. He reiterated that Pakistan has told the US, repeatedly, that if the US provides specific actionable targets then it will find Pakistan ready to act. The recent action leading to the rescue of Canadian-US couple – Joshua Boyles and Coleman – while crossing into Pakistan from the Afghan province of Paktia – is an example.

Afghanistan has a “War Constituency”

“However blaming Pakistan for everything in Afghanistan is neither fair nor helpful”, Pakistan’s foreign minister asserted. He added that Afghanistan has a constituency that benefits from conflict, and is working actively to make peace impossible. “Afghan government will have to rid its ranks of the elements who are working against peace”, he asserted. 

He made it clear that his government thinks that non-cooperation of Afghan government in resolving issues like “Afghan Refugees” and “border management” is a huge part of the continuing challenges which then open Pakistan to US criticism

Afghan Refugees: Continuing challenge for Pakistan

“While we refuse to accept the blame game, there are certain factors that create situations that subject us to US criticism, and the presence of Afghan refugees tops them”. Talking to media, outside the conference venue, mostly in Urdu, Khwaja dwelt at the topic of “Afghan Refugees” at length. He made it clear that his government thinks that non-cooperation of the Afghan government in resolving issues like “Afghan Refugees” and “border management” is a huge part of the continuing challenges which then open Pakistan to US criticism. 

Read more: Pakistan’s foreign policy and current challenges-part 2

The US itself has not helped in the return of the Afghan refugees, arguing that it will add to instability inside Afghanistan. However, Khawaja wondered if continuing to bear the multiple burdens of these refugees is Pakistan’s sole responsibility. “The US has spent countless billions in the Afghanistan, it could have spent another $5 billion to absorb refugees”, he wondered. Why the US does not settle them in the US or elsewhere, he added. 

Pakistan’s agencies have continuously blamed a closer coordination between Indian external agency, RAW and its Afghan counter-part, NDS. Pakistani law enforcement agencies point out that use of Darri speaking agents, from Pak-Afghan belt, by NDS/RAW duo helps them to cover their tracks.

Background to his comments is growing realization among Pakistan’s security agencies that Afghan refugees provide a buffer, an entry point and camouflage for militants that are entered from the Afghan side into Pakistan for conducting acts of terrorism. Pakistan’s agencies have continuously blamed a closer coordination between Indian external agency, RAW and its Afghan counter-part, NDS. Pakistani law enforcement agencies point out that use of Darri speaking agents by NDS/RAW duo helps them to cover their tracks. Baluchistan government believes the same, and its interior minister, Sarfaraz Bugti, has reiterated this many times in press conferences.

Border Management: Pakistani efforts for Fencing & Trench

Pakistan has created a trench all along Baluchistan border with Afghanistan and is working to fence all its border between FATA and Afghanistan but instead of getting cooperation from Kabul, its getting active hostility and disruptive actions from across the border. Border management agreements mediated, between Pakistan and Afghanistan, by the ISAF have lapsed and Kabul is not willing to renew these.Pakistan is thus in a strange quandary; it is being subjected to international criticism without any understanding of real issues on the ground. Pakistan’s foreign minister thus gave an expression to these frustrations. 

Read more: A Restrictive foreign policy: Is India inviting trouble?

US-Pakistan goals are same: Peace in Afghanistan

“Our goals are same”, both the US and Pakistan want peace in Afghanistan, Khawaja asserted. Pakistan in recent years is taking more and more initiatives for bringing stability to Afghanistan; it needs peace and stability in the region to safeguard CPEC and its trade routes across the region – initiatives in which Pakistan and China are massively invested. “Even if the US accusations are accepted” Khawaja asserted, even then without improving governance inside Afghanistan, and finding solutions for worsening law and order, drug cartels, and improving border management sustainable peace will not be possible. Pakistan’s foreign minister thus expects the US to do more.