Maha Mussadiq | Express Tribune | January 17, 2014
In the wake of the impending withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan this year, the conveners of four policy groups from the countries neighbouring Afghanistan presented a joint declaration here on Thursday. The document suggests recommendations for the governments to ensure better regional cooperation with Afghanistan through constructive efforts.
The two day seminar titled “Peace and Stability in Afghanistan’s Region: 2014 and beyond” was organized by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Pakistan (FES) in collaboration with Governance and Policy Advisers. Keeping in mind the incumbent non-effective regional structure, experts present at the event felt that such an initiative may be last-minute, but is
still the need of the hour.
FES Pakistan Resident Director Philipp Kauppert said the document, which presents a common understanding of the issue, can be useful in terms of the recommendations made, for governments across the region.
“We got different experts with different views. It was challenging to get everyone on the same page. Even within Pakistan, we came across different schools of thought expressing different opinions,” said Kauppert.
While most recommendations consider the issue within a larger picture, Kauppert said that there was room for improvement and discussion in future policies. The principal goal of the declaration is to provide a framework for relationships of trust between Afghanistan and its neighbours which can enable the “Enduring Neutrality” of Afghanistan similar to that of Austria and Switzerland — making Afghanistan an asset for all.
Noted speakers who served as panellists at the seminar were Ambassador Mahmoud Saikal, convener of the Afghan Policy Group, Khalid Aziz, convener of the Pakistan Policy Group, Maj-Gen (retd) Ashok Mehta, convener of the India Policy Group, Dr Sanat Kushkumbayev, convener of the Central Asia Policy Group, and Ambassador Haron Amin.
Some of the main recommendations suggest various mechanisms to substantiate the peace process in Afghanistan in the regional, national and international axes. The declaration states that it is essential to strengthen the Afghan people. The national revenue of Afghanistan and the region must be increased, and there should be a policy of non-interference in Afghanistan for which a mechanism must be instated.
While speaking to The Express Tribune, JUIF spokesperson Jan Achakzai said, “It’s about time that Islamabad and Kabul come on the same page. Pakistan should help recreate Afghanistan without taking sides,” he said.
the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said, “Pakistan cannot achieve its economic goals without the support of a peaceful neighbourhood. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Afghan president had three meetings in the last six months. External powers come and go, but Pakistan and Afghanistan will always stay together,” said Aziz.