Diplomacy Behind Pak-Iran-Afghan Cooperation
By Sajjad Shaukat
Diplomacy is employed for both positive and negative purposes. In positive sense, it is used to resolve an issue peacefully, and in negative sense, it is applied by states to gain selfish ends without caring for peace. Secret diplomacy always thwarts the aims of peace diplomacy. Let us analyse the new determination of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan for regional cooperation in wake of emerging geo-political scenario in the region.
In the third trilateral summit at Islamabad, on February 17 this year, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Afghan President Hamid Karzai put their heads together to forge regional cooperation in multifaceted areas. They pledged to strengthen cooperation to eradicate terrorism and militancy from the region. The leaders of the three neighbouring countries declared that they would not allow any threat emanating from their respective territories against each other.
Zardari vowed to fight the external pressure on the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline, saying that the “external forces can not undermine bilateral relations.” Notably, recently Islamabad rejected US duress to abandon this pipeline project. Pakistan also assured to support Tehran, if the US launches a military attack on Iran..While hinting towards the US, the Iranian president disclosed that the problem in the region had no local roots but it was imposed from external fronts.
In response to Afghanistan’s blame game against Islamabad regarding cross-border terrorism, Zardari clarified, “I deny this notion that any of our armed forces are directly or indirectly involved.” He revealed, without naming America, “Who was the owner and financer of former chief of Tehreek-e-Talban Pakistan Baitulllah Mahsood.”
Reports suggest that Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked for access to Taliban chief Mullah Omar during his visit to Islamabad. Islamabad denied that the Taliban leadership is based within its borders. On February 17, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar cautioned against Kabul, indicating that her government was still uncertain on exactly what Afghanistan wanted, and “have not conveyed clarity to us.”
As regards the Afghan peace process and regional cooperation, President Karzai called for action rather than mere words.
In fact, both Pakistan and Iran are quite sincere about regional cooperation among the three countries including stability in Afghanistan, but Hamid Karzai has been forced to follow an ambivalent policy due to American secret diplomacy. Confused in his goals, President Karzai, in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, remarked that besides US, the Afghan government was indeed involved in the dialogue with Taliban in Qatar. On the other hand, the Afghan Taliban clarified that they never talked to “the puppet regime of Karzai.”
However, America will sabotage the regional cooperation among Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. In this respect, after the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan in 2014, US has decided to establish six military bases in Afghanistan, having eyes on the energy resources of Central Asia, with multiple strategic designs against Pakistan, China, Iran and Russia.
Notably, on January 5, 2012, US President Obama unveiled a new defence strategy which calls for greater US military presence in Asia, after cutting troops from Europe—the strategy calls for the US military to “rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region…even US troops continue to fight in Afghanistan, the tide of war is receding.” During his trip to Australia, on November 17, 2011, Obama, while sending an unmistakable message to Beijing said, “The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay,” In this context, America has also troops and security relationships with some Gulf countries.
Nevertheless, US new defence strategy is part of Indo-US hidden agenda in Afghanistan. First of all US seeks to protect the puppet regime of Karzai and Indian influence in Afghanistan under the umbrella of its military presence because it knows that otherwise, Taliban militants will topple the Karzai regime, also forcing India to withdrawal its network from Afghanistan. India which has already invested billion of dollars in Afghanistan, signed a strategic partnership agreement with that country on on october 5, 2011, wants to further fortify its grip there to get strategic depth against Islamabad.
US bases in Afghanistan and the Gulf will enhance its ability to gather intelligence on Iran. In December, 2011, Iranian authorities recovered a CIA surveillance drone that had been launched from Afghanistan. Now war-like situation exists between Iran and America over the Persian Gulf and nuclear programme of Tehran. The American aircraft carrier on February 15, 2011 joinined another US battle group already positioned in the region. In response to this development, Iran’s Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi already stated on February 14, that the US buildup and its military presence has “turned the Gulf into a weapons depot.” Russia, on January 18, 2012 rejected the tough US-led western strategy of sanctions over Iran and Syria. Both Russia and China have asked the US to resolve the question of Iran’s nuclear programme peacefully.
As part of its secret diplomacy, especially America has been supporting cross-border infiltration in Pakistan with the assistance of American CIA, Indian intelligence agency, RAW and Israeli secret agency, Mossad which have well-established their tentacles in Afghanistan to ‘destabilise’ and ‘denuclearise’ Pakistan. For this purpose highly trained militants, equipped with sophisticated weapons are being sent to Pakistan’s various places, who are regularly conducting suicide attacks, targeted killings, ethnic and sectarian violence in Pakistan.
America and India are particularly assisting Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and another separatist group, Jundollah (God’s soldiers). Jundollah has kidnapped and murdered a number of Chinese and Iranian nationals in Pakistan. This insurgent group has not only been committing acts of sabotage in Pakistan, but also in the Iranian Sistan-Baluchistan. Particularly, Balochistan’s mineral resources and geo-strategic location with Gwadar seaport, connecting rest of the world with Central Asia have further irked the eyes of the US and India because China has already invested billion of dollars to develop this seaport. However, it is due to multiple strategic designs that the US which signed a nuclear deal with India in 2008, intends to control Balochistan, contain China and subdue Iran. Besides, America which has emerged as a potential military supplier to India, has lifted sanctions on New Delhi to import nuclear technology. America also agreed to sell India the most expensive—the new F-35 fighter jets and other latest equipments.
It is mentionable that on February 17, 2012; Dana Rohrabacher introduced a House Concurrent Resolution in the US House of Representatives, calling upon Pakistan to “recognise the right to self-determination for Balochistan.” Recently, he has also co-authored an article, favouring an independent Balochistan. On the other side, Pakstan’s Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, foreign office spokesman and other political leaders have strongly condemned the US Congress resolution, calling it, “provocative, “against Pakistan’s sovereignty” and intervention in country’s internal matters.”
US double game with Pakistan could be judged from the fact that at present, Islamabad is redefining its relationship with Washington after the US-led NATO air attack on Pakistan Army border posts in Mohmand Agency. While, America has also requested Islamabad to play a key role in the peace talks with the Afghan militants, recognising the fact that without Pakistan’s help, stability will not be achieved in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of foreign troops in 2014. On the other side, US has again started drone attacks on Pakistan’s tribal areas, which have killed several people the past few weeks.
After assessing the emerging ground realties, and sinister designs of America, a shift has already occurred in the foreign policy of Pakistan. In this respect, Islamabad which have already strengthened its relationship with China—signed a number of agreements with Beijing in various sectors including defence has also cultivated its relations with the Russian Federation. During the trip of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to Russia, on February 9, this year, she stated that Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) was an exceptionally important forum within the region to counter regional challenges. Moscow and Islamabad also agreed to enhance the bilateral relations in diverse fields. In the subsequent summits, the leaders of the SCO, especially China and Russia have displayed strength against the US dominance in the region and NATO’s military presence in Afghanistan, near the region of Central Asia.
Nonetheless, although Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan seek to promote regional cooperation for the development for their nations, yet US secret diplomacy is likely to sabotage their positive approach.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations