Afghanistan-Pakistan Relations and Regional Stability
Paper presented at international conference on 'Stabilizing Afghanistan: Regional Perspective and Prospects’ organized by Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) in collaboration with Hanns-Seidel Foundation, Islamabad, 3-4 August 2010.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are so uniquely connected to each other by geography, ethnicity and history that if one is facing war or terrorism, the other cannot expect peace and stability. Together they have suffered and together they can prosper. The two countries are situated so strategically that conflict or cooperation between them affects South Asia as much as Central Asia, and even great powers in the near or afar. Given that, my principal argument in this paper is that security and stability of South and Central Asia hinges significantly on credible progress in relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Consequently, if securing peace in Afghanistan must be in Pakistan’s vital national interest, improving relations with Pakistan is a national objective that Afghanistan has to aspire for. There is no doubt that the history of Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship is marred by bitter disputes, and mutual suspicions and recriminations at various times. Some of their sources of conflict—real, perceived or manipulated— still threaten to create rifts in relationship. Yet the overbearing trend in recent years, in my view, is one of overcoming the trust deficit in ties and institutionalizing bilateral cooperation. Recent months have also seen the two countries increasingly synchronize their respective security approaches to combat terrorism and insurgency, while simultaneously exploring the ways to politically resolve the conflict in Afghanistan and tackle its militant ramifications in Pakistan. My conclusive argument is that if this cooperative trend in Afghan-Pak ties continues with due support from the international community, then we can certainly hope for a lasting stabilization of a region that has suffered unprecedented death and destruction in recent decades and which has enormous potential to grow in the foreseeable future. Full Text