By Eurasia Review -- (November 10, 2011)
By Emil Asadulla
Pakistan is paranoid of having a stable Afghanistan, one which can execute its matters from within a sovereign state. The list of Pakistani paranoia seems to rest on two issues.
First, Pakistan’s paranoia towards a stable Afghanistan arises from its fear of a friendship between India, Pakistan’s arch enemy, and Afghanistan. And the more important of the two appears to be its fear of an unfriendly Afghanistan that would re-claim its lost lands to the British Raj, and usurped by Pakistan after its creation from India in 1947. These misguided Pakistani paranoias are merely for selfish gains, at a cost to the benefits of the region and the world, and specifically to Afghanistan, as there is no real threat to Pakistan emanating from Afghanistan.
In its tireless and deceitful efforts to re-establish a pro-Pakistani government, similar to post communist era governments, under the guise of Islam, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has been facilitating, supporting and directing attacks on Afghan and International targets. Pakistan does not have a good-will supporting and aiding Afghanistan’s tenuous stability and support any steps towards peace. To that end, it is an open secret that Pakistan recently assisted the attackers of the NATO headquarters and US embassy in Kabul in September. Moreover, recently, Afghanistan’s head of peace process, and former Afghan president, Burhanudeen Rabbani was murdered by a terrorist posing as a peace envoy. It is firmly believed by the international community that the murderer was supported by Pakistan’s intelligence service. The death of Mr. Rabbani, a controversial figure, nonetheless, his presence served a bridge to reconciliation between some members of the government and the Taliban. Mr. Rabbani’s death has made the Peace Counsel ineffective and in disarray; it appears Pakistan has gained a point in its attempts to prolong the Afghan war, until the international community departs, and so that it can once again regain influence inside Afghanistan through its proxies.
Pakistan’s misguided policy of disrupting the peace process for its ends through supporting proxies—in the long run— won’t help its cause. The Afghan people and the internationally community are fully aware of Pakistan’s strategic depth policy in Afghanistan towards India. Pakistan believes that by wearing thin the patience of the international community, the Afghan government will collapse and it will have an opportunity to install a Pakistani puppet government in Kabul that will be anti-India. What appears to defy logic is Pakistan’s fear of India’s role in Afghanistan. Afghan’s have never supported India in any way to harm Pakistan. There is absolutely no precedence for any Afghan ill intention towards Pakistan in support of India. Afghanistan has and has had good relations with India, not because of antagonism towards Pakistan, rather for economic, social, and academic reasons, as any reliable nation would with its close and far neighbors. Pakistan itself has been cozying to the Indian’s by recently providing India a “most favored nation” status. So, why can’t the Afghans develop a similar friendship with India?
Ironically, Pakistan’s continued interference in Afghanistan’s affairs is rebounding towards the opposite end of what Pakistan is hoping to achieve, namely, a Pakistani puppet government in Kabul. Afghans are becoming fed-up with the continued fighting; they are tired of living in foreign countries as refugees; they are tired of their poor economic standing; and Afghans are resentful of being manipulated like a soccer ball for other nations’ interests. And Pakistan’s obvious obstructionist policies towards peace is fuming an uproar amongst the masses. Pakistan can’t on one hand undermine Afghanistan’s sovereignty and prosperity and on the other hand expect alliance and friendship. It just won’t happen.
The only point of contention with Pakistan, as far as Afghanistan is concerned, is the poorly demarcated “Line” agreement, known as the Durand Line, which was never officially recognized by successive Afghan governments. The Durand Line was forcefully established by the British Raj in 1893. The agreement was never meant to be an international border; rather it was designed to confine the military operations of the British Raj and Afghanistan’s king. This “Line” basically ran directly through Pashtun populations (Afghanistan’s largest ethnicity), and divided the Pashtuns between Afghanistan and British India. Unfortunately, none of the Pashtun tribes were consulted prior to the forced agreement between Abdur Rehman Khan (the former king of Afghanistan) and the British Raj’s envoy. As a consequence, the Afghan masses have not recognized the “Line” as an international border, whether during the British Raj rule, or subsequently, since the partition of British India in 1947 into Pakistan and India.
Pakistan has been taking advantage of Afghanistan’s instability through its proxies, hoping to force Afghan leaders to cede the usurped Afghan lands, and accept the Durand Line as an international border.
The Durand Line cannot be accepted as an international border unilaterally; the people of Afghanistan and the Pashtuns on the Pakistan side of the border must have a say. I am sure the Afghan people will accept any referendum that provides the people of the usurped regions a choice of being part of Pakistan or otherwise. Pakistan must realize that force won’t achieve its goal of demarcating an international border with Afghanistan. Force hasn’t solved this problem before Pakistan’s creation, and it in the foreseeable future. Pakistan must come to realize that the border dispute can only be resolved in an amicable manner only if the process is logical and mutual. Continuing to stoke instability through proxy warfare— to put pressure on Afghan leaders— Pakistan will inspire Afghan nationalism, which in the end will only make the border unofficial and unacceptable, and the matter will become a strong rallying point for anti-Pakistan sentiment.
In the end, Pakistan needs to overcome its paranoia about Indian influence in Afghanistan, and its ill founded “strategic depth” doctrine, and it needs to resolve its paranoid and frantic approach to officially demarcating an official border with Afghanistan through coercion and chaos. India’s efforts to stabilize Afghanistan at best have been exaggerated. India’s support has been mainly moderate economic assistance, training in education, and medical aid. It is true that Afghanistan and India have signed a strategic agreement to train some of the Afghan military in India, but the real truth is that the Afghan military is already being trained by international forces and within a few years won’t need India to train Afghanistan’s military, as the military training provided by the international community will negate Indian assistance. Importantly, the agreement with India is symbolic of Afghanistan’s frustration with Pakistan’s continued obstructionism.
As for Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan, it can only be demarcated in an amicable manner, when both nations have the appropriate support of their people, and as of now Afghanistan’s government doesn’t have the appropriate mechanism in place to discuss the border with its Pakistani counterparts. Importantly, the Pasthun regions of Afghanistan are suffering from unrest from Pakistan’s proxies. The border dispute cannot go on forever, and at some people Pakistan and Afghanistan must develop a reasonable approach for the sake of peace and prosperity, but until the conditions are appropriate, Pakistan must avoid unilateral approaches, such as supporting terrorism in the name of Islam to coerce the Afghan government to accept the Durand Line as an official border between the two nations.
Emil Asadulla MD, MS
/> California State University, East Bay, USA