By Syed Zafar Mehdi

India’s cooperation needed to end war in Afghanistan, says Pakistan

December 13, 2018 - 10:10

TEHRAN - Pakistan and India, the two South Asian warring neighbors, have long been accused of proxy war in Afghanistan, where the war has stretched into its 18th year now.

While India has used its soft power effectively to gain foothold in the war-ravaged country, Pakistan has failed to do so, for a host of reasons.

Apart from the troubled history between Pakistan and Afghanistan, primarily due to the dispute over border, the unending war in Afghanistan, perpetuated by the U.S. and carried out by militant groups allegedly based in Pakistan, has turned the two neighbors into bitter enemies.

The Afghan authorities have often accused Islamabad of providing sanctuary to the militant groups who target Afghanistan.

India, which considers Pakistan as its arch enemy, has used the debilitating relations between Kabul and Islamabad to its advantage, scaling up its engagement in the troubled country through visible reconstruction projects like roads, stadiums, dams and the parliament building.

Pakistan, however, remains a key player in Afghanistan because of the leverage it has over the Taliban. It has facilitated many rounds of talks between the militant group and the Afghan government in the past, although with little results.

While the previous political dispensation in Islamabad didn't see India's role in Afghanistan positively, the new government led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan is going out of its way to include India in its Afghan-centric discourse.

Pertinently, the PTI government in Islamabad has recently made many overtures to New Delhi to revive the stalled dialogue process between the two countries, including Kartarpur corridor project and invitation to Indian PM Narendra Modi for the SAARC Summit. While India sent two of its ministers to the Kartarpur event, it ruled out the possibility of PM Modi attending the SAARC summit.

In a latest, seen as part of its outreach to India, Pakistan has said that India’s cooperation would be needed for bringing peace to war-ravaged Afghanistan.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Monday that although Pakistan was committed to facilitate a resolution of the protracted Afghan war, it needed help of other regional countries, including India.

Speaking in the National Assembly, Qureshi said Pakistan alone could not bring peace in Afghanistan as it was a “shared responsibility” of regional countries including India, Iran, Tajikistan and China.

“Since India is present in Afghanistan, its cooperation in this regard will also be required,” said Qureshi, according to Dawn.

“Some meetings have taken place [among key stakeholders] for establishment of peace in Afghanistan. India also has stakes in Afghanistan and its cooperation will also be needed,” Qureshi said, Express Tribune reported.

It is significant because Pakistan and India have traditionally been seen as 'part of the problem' in Afghanistan. If the two countries come together and play a positive role in the country, foreign powers who have badly messed up would have to withdraw, believe experts.

There has been no official statement from India's Ministry of External Affairs, but media reports say the government officials in New Delhi were skeptical about the sincerity of Pakistan’s statement.

Pertinently, both India and Pakistan had sent their representatives to the Afghanistan conference hosted by Moscow last month, which also saw the participation of a Taliban delegation.

The war in Afghanistan, which started with the U.S. invasion in 2001, continues to claim innocent lives every day. According to the UN mission in Afghanistan, this year has recorded unprecedented civilian casualties since 2001.

Despite many peace overtures by the Afghan government, Taliban has been carrying out deadly attacks across the country. This week, more than 30 people were killed in multiple attacks across provinces.

Meanwhile, there has been growing clamor in the U.S. calling on the government to end the war in Afghanistan that has proved a total disaster. But, Trump seems to have other plans.

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