PAKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN SHARE COMMON HISTORY AND DESTINY
“No country has ever showed more hospitality to Afghanistan than Pakistan, and that his country (Afghanistan) would not allow its soil to be used against Pakistan.” These were the wordings of the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai during the joint press conference between him and Pakistani Premier, Yousaf Raza Gillani on the conclusion of a daylong visit of the former to Pakistan on March 11, 2010.
Earlier both countries agreed for a joint fight against the terrorism and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the augmentation of bilateral relationship. Declaring Pakistan and Afghanistan as the “twin brothers,” President Karzai further said that the “destiny, grieves and happiness of both the countries are shared.” On this occasion, Prime Minister Gilani assured the visiting President that, “We want to take the strategic partnership with Afghanistan forward.” Moreover, Pakistan would enhance its cooperation with Afghanistan to eliminate terrorism, and bilateral ties between the two countries would be further enhanced.
The resilience shown by either side is being envisioned as the glimmer of hope for the beginning of a new chapter in the bilateral relationship of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Unfortunately, the history of Pak-Afghan relationship is an account of uneven correlation. There has hardly been a period of good will and cooperation between these two brotherly Muslim countries, linking various regions and civilizations of Asia. Why there has been a gulf in their mutual relationship, who has been playing in-between, and how long would it continue, is indeed a fruit for thought for over 200 million people of both countries? The significant factor, which has to be kept in mind, is that, after all, they have to live together, since neighbours cannot be changed.
The buoyant joint statement of the two leaders indeed, is reflective of the lessons they learnt during their prolonged uncooperative history, especially after the incident of 9/11. In this regards, Pakistani efforts at various tiers has played a vital role. The Afghan Government has now realized the significance of incessant Pakistani pursuance for the CBMs and emphasis for the adoption of a collective fight against the terrorism. Pakistan has always been critical to the role of extra-regional powers in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and in the bilateral relationship of Pakistan and Afghanistan. So much so the US and NATO countries, with whom, Pakistan is playing the role of a frontline state and as a partner in the global war on terror has been suspicion of the Pakistani role.
During the meeting of the NATO’s Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence Staff (CHODs) held in Brussels on January 26-27, 2010, the Pakistani Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, adequately highlighted the role played by Pakistan in the war on terror. Indeed, Pakistan lost over twenty five thousand lives during last nine years, since the beginning of this war. The casualties of security forces of Pakistan are much more than what the coalition and Afghans forces have collectively suffered in these years. General Kayani’s presentation on the Pakistan’s contribution indeed, removed the misperception of the NATO countries about the Pakistani role in the global war on terror. Thereafter, the Western world has changed its perception about the Pakistani role and vision.
Sequel to this meeting General Kayani, briefed the foreign and domestic press about the outcome of the meeting in Rawalpindi. During the course of the meeting, he categorically said that, “We cannot wish for Afghanistan anything that we don’t wish for Pakistan.” Since Pakistanis desire peace, stability, and economic prosperity for their country, therefore, they ought to wish similar comforts for their brethrens of Afghanistan. Furthermore, three decades of war, factional fighting, and the internal instability in Afghanistan has brought us to the conclusion that, stability and peace in Pakistan is directly proportional to these factors in Afghanistan. Indeed, the statement of Chief of Army Staff was the factor compelled Afghan President to say that, “the destiny, grieves and happiness of both the countries are shared.”
In the aftermath of US invasion of Afghanistan, India, a noncontiguous country, intruded in Afghanistan in a big way. Initially it assumed the responsibility of reconstruction of infrastructure of Afghanistan, but subsequently, it took over the responsibilities of other projects in that country. So much so, that Indian Army was given the responsibility to undertake the training of Afghan National Army (ANA), Afghan secret services and Afghan National Police (ANP). Besides, the Indian training teams, training Afghans on their soil, over 100 Afghan senior defence officials are being trained every year in India’s military institutions. It is worth mentioning that a huge number of the Indian army officers and lower ranks have been especially deputed to teach basic military field-crafts and English-language skills to personnel hpw of ANA. Afghan police officers and foreign ministry officials have also attended training courses in India. Afghanistan is getting Indian help in the training of Afghan pilots and technicians for using its helicopter-gunships.
Afghan education system is yet another area where India has been given a key role to play. Now it is to the imagination of the Afghan people to know, as what would be the ethical condition of its future generation after having gone through the Indian founded educational system and training of its security setup (ANA, ANP and spying agency). Pakistan feels that Indian trained ANA and ANP will be on the warpath to all its neighbours, mainly Muslim countries, and People’s Republics of China. Apart from its geographically contagious neighbours, these Indian trained troops will be in conflict with basic Muslim cultural and social setup of that country even. Besides, promoting internal clashes, these troops will maintain the current state of volatility, distrust, and hostility with Pakistan. Indeed India and Afghanistan are two different countries, with different values, culture, and different future requirements. Therefore, the Indian trained ANA would further destabilize the region as a whole. This state of affairs would neither suit coalition nor to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In order to save Afghanistan from the lukewarm effects of these factors, General Kayani offered Afghan Government for the assistance in the training of ANA and ANP. Indeed, this step would greatly reduce the current instability and hostilities along the Pak-Afghan border by promoting harmony among the security forces of Pakistan and Afghanistan, as both countries share common terrain and borders to defend. Moreover, they have the similar cultural and historical values and milieus and ideological harmony. This is only possible once there are common trainers having corresponding training parameters for both armies. In fact, Afghans should not forget the experience of getting their Army trained from the former Soviet Union in 1970s. The result of the Soviet trained troops, teachers, doctors, other officials, and even politicians brought them in clash with the traditional Afghan society in late 1970s. That clash of ideas finally led to the Soviet invasion. Afghan society had enough of that, in the form of thirty years factional fighting, foreign invasions, and internal strife. Do they still want Russian like Indian invasion? Afghan should question themselves and later from their Indian friends too, that, why they (Indians) are so much concerned about Afghan people. Why should they forget the Indian role during Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1980s? Being part of the Communist camp, India fully supported the Soviet Union globally as well as regionally and considered the invasion as justified.
Indeed, through the offer for the training of ANA and ANP, Pakistan envisions to bring the stability in the Afghanistan in the first phase and stabilization of the whole region thereafter. Besides, the offer would help in the implementation of the President Obama’s recently conceived “exit strategy” from Afghanistan, largely by paving way for the gradual restitution of peace in the region. The vision behind the offer is that “We cannot wish for Afghanistan anything that we don’t wish for Pakistan.” What all Pakistan wish for is a peaceful, stable and friendly Afghanistan. If visualized precisely, the Coalition forces and Afghan administration should be very happy on this offer, as it would surely lessen the ceaseless fighting in Afghanistan in the near future. Did not successful Pakistani military operations during 2009, help in lessening the militancy in Afghanistan, by constricting space for the terrorists. This evidence indeed should become a lead point for the materialization of the Pakistani offer of the training to ANA and ANP. This indeed would be a “win-win for Afghanistan, the United States, ISAF, and Pakistan.”
Besides, sharing common values, culture, and comparable stakes, both countries have a history of interdependence. Foreign interferences, influences, and imperialism cannot force the people to think differently. Pakistan visualizes a peaceful, stable, and economically affluent Afghanistan. It also wishes the Afghanistan freed from the foreign interferences and forays with an ethnically cohesive society. The wish for a stable Afghanistan is the collective voice of 180 million people of Pakistan. They can no more see their Afghan Brethren in a state of melancholy. The visionary offer of the Pakistani Army Chief for the training of ANA and ANP has the backing from the whole nation. Indeed, they stood behind Pakistan Army in curbing the militancy from Pakistan and have the enduring desire of peace and stability in both countries. The vision behind the offer indeed is a sincere endeavour to save Afghanistan from another debacle or colonialism.
Dr Raja Muhammad Khan has done his PhD in International Relations from Karachi University. Presently he is an Associate Professor with National Defence University, Islamabad.
Of recent, he has started to contribute his articles to www.oly.com.pk