Regional

Being neighbourly

Jul 10, 2017
Having received renewed criticism from the US and Afghanistan about Pakistan’s inability to curb regional terrorism, the National Security Committee (NSC) met last week to chart out a path forward on its relationships with both India and Afghanistan. The statement issued was in line with COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s recent call on Afghanistan to ‘do more’. Unsurprisingly, Pakistan has rejected criticism that it is not doing enough, and has asked Kabul to establish writ on its own territory. 
 
This being the third NSC meeting in six weeks, it seems Pakistan is recognising its precariously positioned diplomatic relations with other regional countries and international powers. With the US undertaking a review of its policy on Afghanistan, Pakistan feels compelled to defend its role as an ally in the US war on terror as well as its unfortunate one as a victim of terrorism. Both Kabul and the US insist that Pakistan has been unable to take action against terrorist sanctuaries on its soil. 
 
While there may still be some challenges remaining for us, there is no doubt that the crisis is much bigger in Afghanistan. Almost 40 percent of Afghan territory remains under the control of the Taliban. This is nowhere close to the situation in Pakistan, where most territories controlled by terrorist groups were taken back during Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
 
It is important that Pakistan’s civil and military leadership show a united position on our foreign policy matters. Pakistan has also insisted, importantly, that the Kashmir issue remains essential to progress on the India front. India has led the efforts to create a new environment in which Pakistan has been isolated within South Asia. But it is important not to let the pressure lead to backtracking on key issues. While a rational approach to diplomacy and counterterrorism is needed at home as well, it goes without saying that the same applies to the Afghan and Indian governments. The blame-game approach serves no one and only ends up strengthening terrorist groups, who rely on regional discord to strengthen and consolidate before striking. Afghanistan and Pakistan are both victims of terrorism. Their mutual interest lies in working together to fight terrorism. 
 
The same goes for India. Kashmir, though, remains a hub of human rights abuse led by the Indian army. There needs to be international pressure to ensure justice for the Kashmiri people, but this effort cannot be led by Pakistan alone. We will need allies to make a case against India without compromising a diplomatic relationship with our neighbour. The need for a mature and measured approach towards regional diplomacy is essential.
 
The News, July 10, 2017

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