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Kayani’s Bid in Kabul
|by Dr. Rajinder Puri|
Politicians pursue strategies for short term gain. Statesmen formulate policies for long term stability. President Barak Obama is pursuing strategy in Afghanistan as a politician. He inherited a mess in Afghanistan. His initiatives have not born fruit. His ratings are plummeting. He faces a crucial election for the US House of Representatives in November. He will visit India in the same month. His commitment for a US troop withdrawal still stands. He would like to show positive progress on that before the election. How will he achieve it to effectively convince voters in November?
That is why General Kayani visited Afghanistan to broker peace between President Karzai and the ISI-backed Sirajuddin Haqqani militant network close to Mullah Omar. Media is speculating that Islamabad is attempting to exploit the impending US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan to achieve Pakistan ’s stranglehold over Kabul. That may be so. But this scribe believes that all this is being done with the tacit blessing of the US. President Obama would accept any face saving plan that enables him to fulfill his commitment of an early troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Washington and Islamabad may succeed in their short term objectives. They cannot avoid the long term price they would have to pay. Because, as statesmen would perceive, stable solutions must necessarily be based upon ground realities. The situation in Afghanistan needs to be deconstructed into its simple co-ordinates. A lot of nonsense is being spoken about good Taliban and bad Taliban, about Afghanistan’s threat to the world, about the horrid state of human rights and women’s treatment under Taliban rule, and the lack of freedom under the Taliban. Let’s cut the crap put out by the west and see what’s what in Afghanistan.
There is the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban. Pakistan Taliban is more ideologically committed to Al Qaeda. Afghan Taliban is Pashtuns. They have a relationship with Al Qaeda. But their aims are not necessarily the same. Al Qaeda consists of ideologues committed to global jihad. The Taliban seek non interference by outside powers in Afghanistan. The two can be separated. Mullah Omar himself has made statements that clearly indicate that. The west will not deal with Mullah Omar. The west talks about human rights, about women’s rights and about global terrorism. Why does not the west talk about human rights in China; or about women’s rights in Saudi Arabia; or about global terrorism in its real hub in Pakistan? Because what the west really wants is a compliant regime in Afghanistan that allows easy access to the energy sources of Central Asia. All the rest is diversionary hogwash.
The world has two legitimate concerns in Afghanistan. Afghanistan must cease to be the source supplier of narcotics to the rest of the world. Afghanistan must stop providing a base to Al Qaeda for activating global terrorism. There are clear indications that both goals are achievable if pursued through intelligent diplomacy. Even access to Central Asia seems entirely possible if a fair profit sharing deal is worked out with the Kabul regime. Having failed to subjugate the Taliban militarily the US encourages Pakistan to broker a deal with Mullah Omar through the Haqqani outfit. There is nothing wrong with that. This scribe has repeatedly advocated that the Taliban should be inducted into a national consensus government in Kabul. That would stabilize Afghanistan and possibly end Taliban aggression outside Afghanistan as Mullah Omar had publicly offered during the 2009 Id festival. Pakistan’s intentions in attempting peace between Karzai and Mullah Omar are very different. Islamabad believes such an arrangement would give it immense influence and leverage in Kabul. This could be a huge miscalculation.
All Pashtuns regardless of whether they owe allegiance to Karzai or to the Taliban are firmly against extending the Durand Line Treaty which expired in 1993. By that treaty Pakistan’s tribal belt populated by Pashtuns has to be returned to Afghanistan. Whatever short term peace is achieved through General Kayani’s stratagems this long term problem will not go away. If the Pashtuns consolidate in Afghanistan what will follow? First, the move for bringing Pakistan ’s Pashtuns back into Afghanistan would gain momentum. Secondly, within Afghanistan the Pashtuns would attempt to ride roughshod over that half of Afghanistan that is populated by the Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazaras.
In the ensuing struggle two scenarios could emerge. Either existing national borders would change. Or the existing borders would remain the same but the relationship between the Pashtuns and the minorities domestically, and between Afghanistan and Pakistan internationally, would have to change. A relationship change between Pashtuns and the minorities would necessitate the federalism that Karzai’s rival Abdullah Abdullah had advocated. The international change would have to be such that the Pashtuns of Afghanistan and Pakistan could intermingle freely and live virtually as one people. Would Pakistan accept that?
More likely the push and pull between Islamabad and Kabul would result in the division of Pakistan as well as Afghanistan, and the emergence of an independent Pashtunistan. The only way this can be avoided is by creating a confederation that keeps present borders intact but allows free movement across borders. This may be very difficult for Islamabad to sell to its people. But if India uses a carrot and stick approach it might persuade Pakistan to fall in line. The carrot would be Indian readiness to replicate the same arrangement for divided Kashmir. The stick would be for India to back Pashtuns to get the provisions of the Durand Line Treaty implemented.
India has a problem with present day Pakistan. India has no basic problem with any segment of the Afghan population. When President Obama and General Kayani pursue their stratagems for short term gain they might usefully reflect on the long term implications of their moves. India has several aces up its sleeves. This government may not know how to use them. A future Indian government might. However unpalatable it might be for General Kayani, Pakistan ’s future would be secured only if it joined India in a South Asian Union having joint defence and common market. That would recreate ancient Hindustan in a new avatar.
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