In collaboration with the Royal Danish Defence College (RDDC), Regional Peace Institute (RPI) has launched a track-II/I.5 dialogue with Afghanistan.
The first round of the dialogue was held in Kabul on May 16-17.
This track will run parallel to our other track which we hold in collaboration with our partner, Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS). Eight rounds of this track have already been held in Islamabad, Kabul and Herat.
The two delegations comprised illustrious figures with depth of knowledge and expertise in teh context of relations between the two neighbouring countries.
Afghanistan was represented at the dialogue by Dr. Anwarulhaq Ahady, Pir Hamid Gailani, Mirwais Yasini, Dr. Farouq Azam, Mozammil Shinwari, Danish Karokhel, Naheed Farid, Ziaulhaq Amerkhil, Wazhma Frogh, Enayat Mudaris, Kawun Kakar, Dr. Rohullah Amin, Nasir Ahmad Haidarzai and Halimullah Kousary.
Pakistan was represented by Raoof Hasan, Senator Afrasiab Khattak, Ambassador Ayaz Wazir, Ambassador Mohammad Sadiq, Admiral (R) Fasih Bokhari, Bushra Gohar, Brigadier (R) Asad Munir, Murtaza Solangi, Fiaz Ahmad Khan Toru, Vaqar Ahmed and Shala Awan Hasan.
The singular feature of this new track was the introduction of international delegates to give their perspectives to help in evolving a more comprehensive understanding of the vast canvas of issues in our drive to forge better relations between the two neighbouring countries.
The international delegates who participated included Dr. Paolo Novak, Dr. Shanthie Mariet D’Souza, Major Thomas G. Nielson and Dr. Amin Saikal.
The dialogue in Kabul was spread over two days and four sessions discussing the following sub-themes:
Improving regional security and border management: Possibilities for intelligence and military cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan
The growing threat from non-state actors: Cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan as an effective counter-militancy measure
Economic cooperation and social linkages: Expanding the scope of bilateral connectivity for progress
4. Human security: Repatriation of Afghan refugees, or their integration and assimilation in Pakistani society
The bilateral dialogue was inaugurated on May 16 by Dr. Farooq Wardak, State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Wardak urged the two neighbours to move beyond pious statements to result-oriented discussions on key issues: “We have repeatedly heard that peace in Afghanistan means peace in Pakistan and the enemy of Afghanistan is the enemy of Pakistan and vice versa. But, in practice, this has never been demonstrated”.
He made it clear that Afghanistan didn’t want to become a battlefield for proxy wars. Instead, it desired to be a buffer: “Afghanistan would like to become a model for cooperation, a platform for coming together and living in prosperity and dignity”.
The take-home from the conference included a variety of proposals beginning with steps that needed to be initiated to bridge the gnawing trust deficit setting the two countries apart. Speakers urged to break the hate-cycle encompassing Pakistan, Afghanistan and India and move towards the realm of collaborative engagement and cooperation.
The continuing jehad narrative was denounced as a key reason behind destabilisation and all stakeholders were urged to put their weight behind building alternates to defeating the syndrome of violence gripping the region.
There was a high level of positivity underlying the discussions which could be further strengthened through generating trust between the two neighbouring countries. Stress was laid on developing connectivity in the economic, cultural, sports and social sectors as also in jointly addressing the humanitarian issues.
The Pakistani delegation called on the Afghan Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah-Abdullah at his office. The engagement spelled positive vibes. Dr. Abdullah stressed on the need for closer connectivity between the two countries. He applauded the recent visits from Pakistan including that of the parliamentary delegation and said that this would be reciprocated. He also said that he’ll be visiting Pakistan soon.
The prospect of bilateralism set against multilateralism was also discussed during the session. While the preferred stress was on the need for continuing engagement at the bilateral level, it was felt that, in the event of disagreement, third-country intervention could be helpful in generating forward momentum.
Dr. Abdullah raised the issue of Pakistan’s support to Afghan Taliban. When it was said that there was growing awareness within Pakistan regarding this aspect which may generate a soft shift of policy, Dr. Abdullah was quick to respond: “That would be the key to peace between Pakistan and Afghanistan”.
The Danish Ambassador in Afghanistan Jean-Charles Ellermann-Kingombe participated in the opening session of the bilateral dialogue and was also the Chief Guest at the conference dinner on May 16 which was hosted by the Pakistan Embassy.
The European Ambassador to Afghanistan Franz-Michael Skjold Mellbin was a keen participant and was the chief guest at the closing session on may 17.
During the stay in Kabul, the Pakistan delegation was invited to a dinner by Mirwais Yasini on May 17. They also had breakfast with Pir Hamid Gilani on May 18.
During these interactions, the delegation members had the opportunity to get together with a host of dignitaries and discuss prospects of peace among the two countries. There being no disagreement on its urgent need, our Afghan friends conveyed varying impressions and proposals to expedite the process and put more thrust into the effort. No one desired to live in perpetual enmity with Pakistan. The inevitability of peace was a common faith.
Following on the success of the first round, the second round of the bilateral dialogue is scheduled to be held in Islamabad on September 12-13 later this year.