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Will Ankara bring Kabul and Islamabad close ? 15 avril 2007

Posted by Acturca in Central Asia / Asie Centrale, Turkey / Turquie.

BBC Monitoring South Asia – Political, April 7, 2007 Saturday

Source: Daily Afghanistan, Kabul, in Dari 5 Apr 07 

Turkey is making efforts to mediate between Afghanistan and Pakistan following the increasing political tension between the two countries. The Turkish Prime Minister has announced that he is ready to mediate between the two neighbouring countries to ease tension and establish warm relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

There is no doubt that the government of Turkey has good intentions in offering mediation and is expressing its sincere readiness for this. Turkey is among the important countries of the Islamic world and it is, therefore, trying to address differences between Islamic states. This is not the first time Ankara has offered assistance to resolve problems. It has previously made efforts aimed at resolving the Palestinian issue with Israel, the Sudanese problem and other similar problems elsewhere.

However, Afghanistan is of particular importance to Turkey because peace and security in Afghanistan will also benefit Turkey. Turkish forces are currently serving in Afghanistan under the NATO structure. They consider themselves involved in the reconstruction process and are busy implementing many reconstruction and development projects in different parts of the country. Therefore, peace and security in Afghanistan will also benefit Turkey economically.

Reports say that Erdogan has asked the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan Hamed Karzai and Musharraf to meet in Turkey. It is reported that the government of Afghanistan has welcomed this offer. If the Pakistani side also accepts the Turkish invitation, a meeting between the Afghan and Pakistani presidents will take place in Ankara in late April or early May this year.

However, the main question is how beneficial will this meeting be to the peace process in the region and how will it address the root causes of the existing tensions between Kabul and Islamabad?

One of the main causes of the existing crisis and tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan is the issue of international terrorism and the ongoing activities of the Taleban group on Pakistani territory. Kabul is sceptical about the role of Islamabad vis-\à-vis the Al-Qa’idah and Taleban terrorist groups. Islamabad has failed to meet the expectations and demands of the Kabul regime in relation to the [Taleban] regrouping and to mobilization on Pakistani soil.

Against the backdrop of the existing political tensions between the two countries, is it possible that the meeting between the two leaders in Ankara might be successful? Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have seen many ups and downs in the past and have always been accompanied by changes, transformations, aloofness and at times political tension.

The two countries need each other and share a similar culture, language and religion. They are both parts of the Islamic whole and cannot ignore each other. From an economic perspective, as a landlocked country, Afghanistan needs to have access to Pakistan’s Karachi port for the transit of goods. Despite all these positive factors, both countries have not politically trusted each other adequately.

In the past, the complicated and vague issue of the Durand Line presented challenges to relations between the two neighbouring countries and prevented the Afghan and Pakistani leaders from sharing a common objective. Political friction between Afghanistan and Pakistan reached its peak in the decade between the 40s and the 50s. Sardar Mohammad Daud considered the Durand Line a sword that cut through the heart of the ethnic Pashtuns on the two sides of the border. Against Afghanistan’s pressure, Pakistan succeeded to annex the disputed area to its North Western Frontier Province, thus making it part of Pakistani territory by pursuing a calm and steady policy.

Normal political relations as understood within the context of international relations did not exist between Kabul and Islamabad during the 60s and 70s due to jihad and internal strife. Considering the politico-military crisis in the country, Pakistan was supporting particular groupings with the aim of enabling them to seize power in Afghanistan. However, no groups enjoying Pakistani support have succeeded in controlling the realms of power in Kabul. Despite all its political and military capabilities during the jihad, Golboddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islami was driven out of Kabul. Increasing civil war and factional rivalries prompted Pakistan to support the Taleban. Pakistan could not develop normal relations with Afghanistan despite the presence of the Taleban, who gained power during the bloodiest days of the Afghan political and military crisis and ruled in Kabul for two to three years. This is because Pakistan was alone in recognizing the Taleban administration. The international boycott prevented Islamabad from developing relations with Kabul according to normal international relations and from seeking international popularity.

After the introduction of a democratic system in Afghanistan in 2002, relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan retreated to the situation prevailing three decades ago. The Durand Line began to be discussed once again by a number of political circles and the re-emergence of the Taleban and the issue of equipping and mobilizing them put relations between the two countries on the path of uncertainty and distrust.

A look at the past four years since the start of such political relations reveals that the process has been as unstable as it was three decades ago. Against this historical backdrop, can the cold relations between the two countries become warm at a meeting in Ankara?

It is a fact that the root causes of tension and problems between the two countries have not been addressed. On the contrary, they have increased with the Taleban and terrorism adding fuel to the fire and worsening the crisis. It can, therefore, be concluded that the Ankara meeting will fail to address the root causes of tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Nevertheless, it can reduce the level of tension and warm up cold relations, temporarily facilitating ordinary exchanges between Kabul and Islamabad.


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