Pakistan is attending a key regional conference on Afghanistan this week in the Turkish city of Istanbul with low expectations as it believes that differences among regional and international players on certain issues are too serious to be resolved any time soon.
The conference scheduled for November 2 will discuss issues relating to the transition process in Afghanistan, including Afghan security and the reconciliation process.
The ministerial-level conference is being attended by the United States, France, Germany, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey and the Nato countries as well as representatives of the United Nations.
Islamabad, which is considered to have a pivotal role in any future political dispensation in Afghanistan, has already voiced concerns on the proposed Istanbul draft finalised recently at conferences held in Oslo and Kabul.
The sticking point is the new regional mechanism the US and other Western countries are pushing for the Afghan endgame.
“We believe there is no need of any new regional mechanism as regional security issues can be dealt with within the existing regional framework,” a Pakistani official told The Express Tribune.
“Pakistan will certainly oppose the idea,” said the official, who requested his name not be mentioned in the report. “Pakistan is not the only country which has reservations … many other countries are also against it.”
The foreign ministry also indicated Pakistan’s concerns over the Istanbul draft.
“The existing regional organisations and arrangements may also be urged to prioritise for achieving a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan in a stable, peaceful and prosperous region,” Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua said last week in her media briefing.
The Istanbul draft seeks to establish a new regional framework that not only includes Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours but also several other nations, which do not share borders with Kabul.
Pakistan will propose at the conference that all regional and international players must make an unequivocal commitment about the sovereignty of Afghanistan.
Islamabad fears that Afghanistan may be used by certain countries to further their interests in the region.
“No country should be allowed to violate the sovereignty of Afghanistan either by having permanent military bases or influencing its security forces,” said a military official while requesting anonymity.
The US plans, though not officially, to maintain military presence in Afghanistan even beyond 2014 when international forces will pull out of the war-torn country.
But several regional countries, including Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran have serious reservations over the US plans.
Ahead of the Istanbul conference, Turkish President Abdullah Gul will host a trilateral meeting with President Asif Zardari and Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai on Tuesday.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2011.