Abdul Rahim |
Since 2002, President Karzai’s government and its international allies have made significant efforts to turn Afghanistan into a regional economic hub between Central Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and Far East Asia. Political economists believe that Afghanistan, located at a strategic juncture, can be transformed from ‘landlocked’ to a ‘landbridge’ country in the region.
President Ghani envisages Afghanistan as the shortest transit route between these four regions. And in this regard, he has done much to bring revenue and to increase regional economic stake in Afghanistan.
To enhance regional economic cooperation and to stabilize the neighboring state both politically and economically, the regional partner countries have identified three important areas in Afghanistan that can stabilize the future of the region; transport sector, energy transfer, and business facilitation.
Pakistan is not drawing comfort from Indian active involvement, which is due to linking Pak-Afghan ties in the context of India-Afghan relations.
Immediate regional states including India, Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan have greatly utilized this opportunity to enhance the regional importance and to invest in Afghanistan in order to stabilize political and economic ties on both sides.
But, Pakistani military-intelligence establishment that controls the major part of Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan, views to use a simple paradigm to measure the degree of Afghanistan’s behavior towards Pakistan from Afghan-India ties, the history of triangular relations rejects the validity of this type of myopia. Observing Afghanistan from lenses of the Pak-India rivalry, Pakistan’s rigid and reluctant policy options will never frame Islamabad’s good relations with Kabul.
During the wars of 1965 and 1971 where Pakistan was at one of the most dangerous points of its history, Afghanistan remained neutral despite its territorial claims and good ties with the Indian government. To-date, Kabul seems unwilling to participate as a third party in the Islamabad-New Delhi rivalry. For stability in ties, Pakistan must get rid of the perceived idea of ‘strategic depth’ to normalize and strengthen its ties with Afghanistan.
India, as compared to Pakistan’s small size economy, has launched economic competition in Afghanistan to enhance its influence over Kabul where Pakistan seems incapable. From late 2001 to January 2007, India invested US $750 million in infrastructural and security sectors, which is 100% larger than Pakistan’s pledged amount of US $300 million in the same period.
India’s growing political and economic strength and commitment will surely increase its influence in Afghanistan in the future.
India has taken long-lasting projects in all major cities, increasingly providing funds and training to Afghan students and diplomats respectively. From 2005 to 2015, India has provided more than the US $1.5 billion in scholarships, infrastructural development, training and provision of military weapons to Afghanistan which is publicly appreciated both in Northern and Southern Afghanistan.
However, when Pakistan made offers in 2007 and 2016, the Afghan governments turned these down and urged Pakistan instead to help stop the Taliban from killing Afghans and bombing infrastructure, and also urged them to invest the amount in their own country which too is a victim of terrorism.
This is the result of our policy failures and staunchness of linking everything on part of Afghanistan with Afghan-India relations. Apart from diplomatic ties and cooperation between India and Afghanistan, the recent inauguration of Chabahar Port is the latest and finest example of Indian success to approach the Middle East and Central Asia where Pakistan is addicted to ‘strategic depth policy’.
Pakistan would have generated revenue from providing transit route to Indian goods transported to Afghanistan, but unfortunately, Islamabad has lost this opportunity forever after the construction of Chabahar Port.
India’s growing political and economic strength and commitment will surely increase its influence in Afghanistan in the future. Pakistan is not drawing comfort from Indian active involvement, which is due to linking Pak-Afghan ties in the context of India-Afghan relations.
Political economists believe that Afghanistan, located at a strategic juncture, can be transformed from ‘landlocked’ to a ‘landbridge’ country in the region.
Pakistan must re-design and review all imagined paradigms of Afghan policy in order to stabilize its economy and strengthen its political position in the region, which is lacking in the current situation. Afghanistan views Pakistan as much more necessary for the stability and development of Afghanistan.
And the aim of regional states is to transfer Afghanistan from a war-turned state into the economic hub; Pakistan’s timely negligence will place long-lasting economic barriers in future times, which needs to be avoided.
Currently, Pakistan is cooperating with Afghanistan on mere international pressures and rewards which is disgusting. Pakistan has never made any efforts to de-link its bilateral ties with Afghanistan from Afghan-India relations which are the core reason behind growing ties between Afghanistan and India.
Pakistan needs to view Afghanistan from a neutral standpoint and as an immediate neighboring state important both politically and economically. Otherwise, Pakistan will lose all their opportunities in Afghanistan with its rise to democracy and improving the economy.
Abdul Rahim has completed his M. Phil degree with a focus on foreign policies, regional security, and strategic affairs at International Islamic University, Islamabad. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.