The conciliatory words from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, terming Pakistan a “brother” will not really undo the hurt felt in Islamabad by the agreement reached between India and Afghanistan on October 5 — Kabul’s first strategic pact with another nation. Signatures were placed on various important agreements after a visit by Karzai to New Delhi and what appear to have been extremely affable talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The central point of the deal, which also touches upon cooperation in other areas, essentially envisages a plan under which India will help train Afghan security forces — as they prepare to take over the defence of their own country once the US pulls out — a moment that is now rapidly approaching.
The accord means some of the worst fears of at least some elements in Pakistan have now changed into reality. The nexus that has been developing for some years between Kabul and New Delhi has already caused a great deal of trepidation, particularly in military circles, where the thinking runs along a single track: control over Kabul and the events that take place there is vital to Pakistan’s strategic assets. The notion of an ‘enemy’ country gaining charge there is difficult to stomach, and in the lexicon of the military, this essentially means that Pakistan is flanked on either side by nations who are not allies. The idea that “my enemies’ friend is my enemy” runs strong. And of course the current state of relations between Pakistan and the US adds a further dimension of angst to the situation.
But we must live with realities and not with imagined scenarios of what should be. Kabul, of course, has a right to choose its own friends. But the elements who make the decisions in our own country must also consider why it is wary of its own designs and what impact our links with militant elements will have on a country that has already suffered immensely because of the Taliban. The accord with India will have a clear impact on Pakistan. We must reconsider where we stand and find ways of building peace across the whole region. This, after all, is the only way to combat terrorism and create the greater trust that we need in ties with our neighbours.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2011.