Negotiations, Negotiations, Negotiations….


For the last nearly ten years the United States of American, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the militants groups are nearly reported every second day to have engaged in the negotiations in the print or electronic media to let the world especially the Afghans know about the peace process in Afghanistan. Till now, the media keeps reporting some kinds of negotiations being held among US, Taliban, Kabul government and Islamabad through backdoor or front door channels in and outside of Afghanistan.

After ten years of the negotiations, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last Friday came to know that “Pakistan has a huge stake in the outcome of the Afghan conflict, and the US could not dispense with its relationship with Islamabad, which must be part of the Afghan solution”.

While responding to a question at an American think tank, she said that “this is a very difficult relationship, but I believe strongly that it is not one we can walk away from and expect that anything will turn out better.” Couple of weeks before, President Karzai in his televised speech preferred to talk directly to Pakistani establishment instead of Taliban as he believes that Taliban is controlled by Pakistan – something needed to have known long-time before as the world is fully aware that Taliban get alleged support, training and finance from Pakistani establishment. Thank God, finally both leaders came to know, who they need to talk to, what issues do they need to discuss and who is the big stake holder in maintaining durable peace in the region.

Hopefully, now both leaders would start negotiation with the right stakeholders so as not to waste the time and put their generous efforts on the right track by addressing the hardcore issues to bring long-lasting peace in Afghanistan.

Of course, it is believed that both leaders would have proper negotiations with the military intelligence in Pakistan not the civil government as Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa, an Islamabad-based defense expert says, “I don’t think that the ISI would get formal permission from the Ministry of Defense to finance someone,” and further adds “when the Pakistani army or the ISI hire lobbyists, they do not normally share such information with the political government.”

Analysts believe that the negotiations had never been on the right track as no real ground issues were addressed in the past to bring political stability in Afghanistan that’s why all the negotiations were fruitless.

A recent report by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) views that “an Afghan peace process requires creating, coordinating, and sequencing a set of structured mechanisms, forums, and negotiation tables for participatory deliberation and decision making involving diverse stakeholders, regional countries, and all levels of Afghan society. A successful peace process combines high-level negotiation with “vertical” processes that link high-level negotiations with public dialogue processes in a way that is transparent, impartial, and inclusive.”

The United States and Kabul Government need to take serious measures to address the critical issues to bring peace and political stability in the region particularly Afghanistan. They need to take notice of the security concerns of the neighboring countries for successful transition from war to a stable peace.

As regard Pakistan, the foreign policy elite seek a degree of stability in Afghanistan, an inclusive government in Kabul including Taliban, to limit Indian presence in Afghanistan to development activities and a government should not allow its territory to be used against Pakistani state interests ­ something that Pakistan is concerned about.

There are reports that the US is building strong military bases in Afghanistan to stay for a long period in this region and planning to retain around 20,000 to 40,000 American troops inside Afghanistan for many years beyond 2014 to deal with a low insurgency in and outside of the country.

Analysts in Pakistan fear that the presence of US would surely annoy Taliban and Pakistan as U.S. would keep continue to push the Pakistan military to “do more” to stamp out militant sanctuaries, however, in case of dilly-dallying , it is presumed that the US might speed up the drone strikes on Taliban sanctuaries and might continue to pursue its own preferred style outcomes like Bin Laden killing completely ignoring Pakistan’s security establishment, which would further escalate tension in the region.

The relationship between US and Pakistan as described by Hillary Clinton is very complex, and extra cautious measures are needed to be taken to deal with. American understands well Pakistan for being on a strategic zone, that’s why the US would never push Pakistan hard to lose a strategic ally in this region.

However, America with the support of international alliance can make Pakistan sure of its security interests in this region and can also seek regional support from China, Russia, Iran and India to persuade Islamabad to stop promoting Talibanization in this region as religious extreme militancy policy does not work in this region, which would consequently alienate Pakistan in this region. Islamabad also needs to understand that it is not 1996 to promote religious militancy in this region but 2011 to coordinate and cooperate with the neighboring countries and the rest of the world to prolong its survival.

The present line of US to push Islamabad “do more” and talk with state establishments to bring Taliban on the negotiating table and to retain troops for longer time and President Karzai’s preference to talk directly to the Pakistani establishment would force the elite of Pakistan to play positive role in fostering durable peace in Afghanistan and the region.

Besides negotiating to Pakistani establishment and Taliban, Mr. Karzai also needs to negotiate in his country to the opposition leaders, ethnic minorities, Civil Society members including religious leaders and women groups, International community and neighboring countries to get them involved in the peace process as they play vital role in resolving differences and bringing success to Afghanistan.

Moreover, Mr. Karzai needs to address the significant root causes of the current conflict such as government corruption and ethnic tensions; otherwise a durable peace and a political stability in Afghanistan would just remain a dream.

It seems that the current negotiations and tensions among US, Pakistan and Afghanistan seem to be making the last efforts to seize the sustainable peace in the region. Hopefully, the present ongoing negotiations would bear fruit, as US and NATO appear to be putting all their eggs in one basket with high-level peace negotiations to achieve a durable settlement.

God forbid, if these efforts meet with failure, the stakeholders accordance to USIP report might return to their battlefield convinced that diplomacy was tried and exhausted, which would cost more to the international community, and more death and destruction on the ground, which wouldn’t be in the interest of any country.