Thursday, February 12, 2015

Quest For Afghan Stability: China and Pakistan Join Hands; India Excluded

"India has always used Afghanistan as a second front against Pakistan. India has over the years been financing problems in Pakistan".  US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel

Chuck Hagel's rare candor endorses Pakistan's long-standing argument that India's use of Afghan territory to hurt Pakistan has been one of the main sources of instability in the region. Actions of the newly elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani seem to indicate that he agrees with Pakistan's position.  Here are some of the indications of the change of heart in Kabul:

1.  Immediately after the recent Afghan presidential vote, President Ashraf Ghani chose Beijing and Islamabad as the first two capitals to visit. He has not yet visited New Delhi.

2. President Ashraf Ghani has accepted Pakistan's offer to train Afghan Army. The first Afghan cadets began arriving in Pakistan this month. Note that India too had offered to train Afghan soldiers.

3. An Afghan Taliban delegation was recently hosted in Beijing for talks with Chinese officials. The December trip to Beijing by the Afghan Taliban delegation was the second in recent months. And it came weeks after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ’s visit to Beijing, his first official trip abroad, according to theWall Street Journal.

4. China is investing in the $3 billion Aynak copper mining project, the biggest single investment to date in Afghanistan. In Addition, China has announced plans to participate in building infrastructure projects like hydro-electric plants, railways and roads.

Further confirmation of the Afghan president's policy change can be seen in the official Afghan-Chinese-Pakistan trilateral talks in Kabul this week. On February 9, China’s assistant foreign minister, Liu Jianchao, joined his Afghan and Pakistani counterparts in Kabul for the first round of a new trilateral strategic dialogue. The dialogue, attended by Liu, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, and Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai provided a tantalizing glimpse of what trilateral cooperation between these neighbors could mean for Afghan stability, according to a report in The Diplomat.

It appears from  credible reports in Washington that the Afghan-China-Pakistan trilateral effort has US backing. President Barack Obama wants to see a stable Afghanistan after the US troop withdrawal. He does not want to see in Afghanistan a replay what has happened in Iraq where terror groups like ISIS have fill the vacuum left by the United States.

There are clear signs that the new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has concluded that Pakistan is far more important as an Afghan partner for his nation's peace and prosperity than India or any other regional power. As the leader of a land-locked country heavily dependent on trade routes through Pakistan, Ghani knows the history of the border closures and transit trade interruptions that severely hurt the Afghan economy in 1950s and 1960s, and the US military supplies cut-off by Pakistan in 2011.

Though it may appear that New Delhi's exclusion from the Afghan-China-Pakistan trilateral effort to stabilize Afghanistan is a loss for India, the fact is that the Afghan stability is in the best long-term interest of the entire South Asia region. I hope the Indian leadership begins to recognizes this reality by stopping its efforts to undermine the trilateral initiative.

Aam Aadmi Party Sweep in Delhi; Afghan-Pakistan-China Trilateral Initiative from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Political and Military Policy Response to Peshawar Attack

Taliban or RAW-liban?

Counter-insurgencyOperation ZarbeAzb

India's Abiding Hostility Toward Pakistan 

India's Israel Envy: Will Modi Attack Pakistan?

Who Killed Karkare?

CFR's View of the Taliban

India's Covert War in Pakistan

India and Balochistan

Obama's New Regional Strategy

Webchat On Obama's New Regional Strategy

Obama's Afghan Exit Strategy


Rizwan said...

Mr. Haq, I have been reading your blog for a few months now. I appreciate that you love Pakistan and always have it's interest at heart. I also appreciate your intelligent sensible analysisof issues related to Pakistan and the region. Thank you for your work.

Riaz Haq said...

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — In a sign of closer cooperation between often hostile neighbors, Pakistan’s military on Thursday credited Afghanistan with helping to capture the Taliban militants who orchestrated the attack on a Peshawar school in December that killed 150 people.

Maj. Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, the Pakistani Army spokesman, told reporters that the Afghan security forces had captured six militants who had been linked to the attack. Afghanistan has also stepped up intelligence and military cooperation, particularly along their mutual border, he said.

The public acknowledgment contrasted sharply with the openly antagonistic relationship between the two countries only last year, when Afghan officials accused Pakistan of cross-border shelling that killed Afghan civilians, and Pakistanis accused the Afghans of sheltering Taliban fugitives.

But relations have visibly warmed since September under the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, and the reconciliation has been encouraged by the United States and other major powers in the region.

Last week, six Afghan army cadets arrived in Pakistan for a training course at Pakistan’s main military academy. And in Islamabad on Thursday, the visiting Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, publicly offered China’s help in mediating between the Afghan Taliban and the government in Kabul — a gesture clearly made with Pakistani support.

Still, previous periods of less tension between the two countries have ended abruptly, and this one might be no different. Pakistan is still seeking the capture of six Taliban fugitives linked to the Peshawar attack, including the movement’s leader Maulana Fazlullah, who are believed to be hiding in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.

General Bajwa made the comments about Afghanistan at a briefing in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, during which he provided a detailed account of the planning and execution of the Peshawar attack.

He said that the army had taken 12 people in custody in relation to the attack, which involved 27 people and was led by a commander known as Hajji Kamran. Before the assault, the attackers based themselves in the Khyber tribal district, on the edge of Peshawar, before dividing into two groups that hid at a mosque and a house in Peshawar on the eve of the attack, the general said.

The military has since arrested a cleric associated with the Taliban cell, and is offering a $25,000 reward for the capture of Hazrat Ali, another militant linked to the violence.

But, he added, the assault had been masterminded by the Taliban leader, Mr. Fazlullah, from his base in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has renewed its requests for Afghan assistance in capturing him.

“He is a known terrorist. His capture and handover to Pakistan are being discussed with the Afghan leadership,” General Bajwa said. “We are hopeful that we will hear a quick response from them in this regard.”

Anonymous said...

The Pakistan-China relationship is good but only a terrorist play away from being seriously damaged,

"China is suspicious of the Uyghur community in Pakistan, generally viewing them as supporters of the East Turkestan independence movement. Pakistan has given them a friendly reception, but shows a cool attitude towards any promotion of separatism. China claims that members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement have taken refuge in Lahore. In 1997, fourteen Uyghur students with Chinese nationality studying in Pakistan were deported back to China after they organised a sympathy protest in support of riots in Ghulja; Amnesty International claims that they were executed. In 2009, another nine Uyghurs captured in Waziristan were extradited to China"

Abdul Khan said...

Chuck Hagel is a known Iran/Islam sympathiser. He also is an anti-semite and is always critical of Israel and its allies. General consensus in Washington is that he is simply not representative of american view point on terrorism and foreign policy.

The overall view of pentagon is that Pakistan is the root cause of all the instability in the region.
"The resiliency of the Afghan insurgency continues to depend on sanctuary in Pakistan"

Interestingly, just today he has been replaced with someone who is more in-line with american views on India and Pakistan :
I guess his "good deeds" got the much needed attention. Serves him right.

As far as Ghani's policies go, he is leaning towards China for obvious Foreign aid. No one can blame him, China simply has more money to invest compared to India. Also, Indian establishment has repeatedly frustrated Afghanistan on issues such as delay in sale of arms and development of key infrastructure.

Ghani's first visit to Pakistan is somewhat similar to Modi's first visits to countries like Bhutan and Nepal. There were the loose ends in the previous regime's foreign policies. Afghanistan needs Pakistan to stop sponsoring terrorism in their country. That said, Pakistan has nothing of worth to offer to Afghanistan other than sponsoring terrorist activities in their soil.

With new administration in India, purge of older administration sympathisers from foreign ministry and a drive for agility, it will be interesting to see how will India's relations will pan out.

Riaz Haq said...

United States increasing secret activities in Afghanistan

American special operations forces, assisting Afghan special forces, have “significant[ly] increase[d]” the number of night raids conducted in Afghanistan after seizing a laptop in a raid to arrest al Qaeda leader Abu Bara al-Kuwait last October (NYT). American military officials told the New York Times: “the intelligence seized in the raid was possibly as significant as the information found in the computer and documents of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan” in 2011. This increase differs from the Obama administration’s declaration that the U.S. role in Afghanistan is virtually over. Anonymous American and Afghan officials said U.S. forces were not acting as advisers but taking direct combat roles in the raids

Riaz Haq said...

In an interview with the Guardian, Musharraf admitted that when he was in power, Pakistan sought to undermine the government of former Afghan president Hamid Karzai because Karzai had “helped India stab Pakistan in the back”. But now the time had come to “totally cooperate” with Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan president since September, who Musharraf believes is “the last hope for peace in the region”.

“In President Karzai’s times, yes, indeed, he was damaging Pakistan and therefore we were working against his interest. Obviously we had to protect our own interest,” Musharraf said. “But now President Ashraf Ghani has come and he is trying to restore balance in Afghanistan. We must totally cooperate with him.”

In his first months in office, Ghani has sought to woo Pakistan in a way Musharraf could only have dreamed of in the critical years between the US-led intervention in Afghanistan in 2001, and 2008, when Musharraf was finally forced from power. Ghani has not only suspended a planned weapons deal with India, but also diverted troops to fight against anti-Pakistan militant groups in eastern Afghanistan.

Riaz Haq said...

India is sending its top foreign ministry official to Pakistan to resume talks after a six-month hiatus.

Taking advantage of the Cricket World Cup, where their teams play this weekend, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted Friday he spoke to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the phone and offered to further strengthen ties.

Sharif welcomed the Indian official's proposed visit to Pakistan "to discuss all issues of common interest," Sharif's press secretary said in a statement in Islamabad. No dates have been announced for the visit.

Modi also said he spoke to leaders of some of India's other neighbors — Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan — all cricket-mad nations participating in the sports competition being jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

"Conveyed my best wishes for the Cricket World Cup," Modi said.

India's Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar is also scheduled to visit Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan apart from Pakistan, Modi said.

Last August, India called off talks with Pakistan after its ambassador in New Delhi met with Kashmiri separatist leaders, saying the Pakistani official could either talk with India, or talk with the rebels.

The setback came shortly after India and Pakistan had agreed to resume talks in May when Sharif attended Modi's inauguration.

As tensions increased, Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged fire regularly in the disputed Kashmir region.

India and Pakistan have used "cricket diplomacy" to break past impasses.

Then-Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met with then-Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2011 during a World Cup cricket match in the northern city of Chandigarh, using the same cover employed in 2005 by then-President Pervez Musharraf for a meeting with Singh during an India-Pakistan cricket match.

Then-President Ziaul Haq visited Jaipur, India, to watch a cricket match between the two countries in the 1980s.

Since their independence from Britain in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir. Both countries control parts of the Himalayan region and claim it in its entirety.

jigar said...

"India Excluded"

That may be your take on it but, in India it is seen as a an attempt to develop positive relationships with other regional countries.

On a side note India-China trade is growing rapidly and will hit $100 billion per annum in the very near future. That exceeds the entire trade that Pakistan does internationally

Anonymous said...

@Riaz Haq1.
{ Immediately after the recent Afghan presidential vote, President Ashraf Ghani chose Beijing and Islamabad as the first two capitals to visit. He has not yet visited New Delhi.}

President Ghani visited PM Modi in November, 2014 and he commented that India has always stood by Afghanistan as a close friend throughout history and in bad times and good.

Please research before you blog.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: President Ghani visited PM Modi in November, 2014 and he commented that India has always stood by Afghanistan as a close friend throughout history and in bad times and good."

Here's what I wrote in this post:

" Immediately after the recent Afghan presidential vote, President Ashraf Ghani chose Beijing and Islamabad as the first two capitals to visit. He has not yet visited New Delhi."

The above statement is absolutely correct. Modi-Ghani meeting in Nov 2014 was on in Katmandu during SAARC summit, not in New Delhi.

Riaz Haq said...

Jigar: "On a side note India-China trade is growing rapidly and will hit $100 billion per annum in the very near future"

India's trade deficit with China rose to a whopping USD 37.8 billion last year even as bilateral trade picked up, totaling USD 70.59 billion, a year on year increase of 7.9 per cent.

India exports commodities like metal ores and cotton to China and imports high-value electronics, machines and energy and telecom equipment.

Chinese are now supplying equipment for about 25% of the new generating capacity India is adding to its national grid, up from almost nothing a few years ago. There are thousands of skilled Chinese expatriates at Indian plant sites, along with Chinese chefs, Chinese television and ping pong.


Riaz Haq said...

#China's largest embassy opens in #Islamabad symbolizing close #Pakistan-China ties …

An opening ceremony of the new Chinese embassy in Pakistan was held on Feb 13. As China's largest overseas embassy, it is a symbol of friendship between China and Pakistan, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Friday in Pakistan, where he spoke of the two countries' 'all-weather' friendship, Global Times reported.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's two-day visit to Pakistan is seen as a preparation for the upcoming visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to reports.

"Wang Yi said President Xi Jinping will make a state visit to Pakistan at the earliest possible date this year," a statement posted on the Foreign Ministry's website late on Thursday said.

"This will be President Xi's first visit to Pakistan as head of state," Wang said.

Xi was scheduled to go to Pakistan last September, but the trip was postponed due to domestic situation in Pakistan.

Since taking office in 2013, Xi has pushed the idea of a Silk Road Economic Belt that would connect China to South Asia and Central Asia with roads, railways, ports and airports.

Last year, Xi visited India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Riaz Haq said...

Hints from senior Obama administration officials that the United States could put off the planned end-of-2016 military withdrawal from Afghanistan are viewed positively by neighboring Pakistan, the country’s ambassador to Washington, Jalil Abbas Jilani, told reporters at a Monitor breakfast Tuesday.

A slowing of the timetable for withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan “would be viewed very positively in Pakistan,” given the increased militant activity the country has seen along the border as US troops in eastern Afghanistan have drawn down, Ambassador Jilani said.

The Pakistani military has had to carry out a “surge” of its troops along the border with Afghanistan “over the last several months” as the departure of US troops has led to an increase in cross-border militant activity, Jilani said.

Recommended: How much do you know about Pakistan? Take this quiz.
The increased deployment of troops on the border, from 145,000 to about 177,000, has meant that Pakistan has had fewer soldiers to help carry out the counter-militant offensive the government has under way in the restive North Waziristan province, Jilani said.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter suggested after meetings in Kabul last week that the timetable for withdrawing the 10,000 US troops still in Afghanistan could be adjusted. The US is considering leaving some troops longer to ensure that “progress sticks” as Afghan security forces take over the country’s security, Mr. Carter said.

Under the current plan, the 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan are to fall by half by the end of this year, with the remaining 5,000 scheduled to be out by the end of 2016. The plan could be announced when Afghan President Ashraf Ghani visits the White House later this month.

Jilani said the offensive under way in North Waziristan has been a “huge success” and has succeeded in clearing 90 percent of the territory of militant groups. He said the military would soon “go after” the remaining 10 percent unsecured territory.

The Pakistani diplomat, who has been in Washington for 14 months, said the Haqqani Network, one of Pakistan’s militant organizations, has been “completely disrupted” and has not carried out any recent attacks in North Waziristan.

Riaz Haq said...

Saudi Arabia is to press Pakistan to boost the number of its troops in the kingdom to help bolster Riyadh’s defences against Islamist militants, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as Isis.
Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister, landed in Riyadh on Wednesday and met King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud.

Riaz Haq said...

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is due to begin his first state visit to New Delhi this Monday. Almost seven months after becoming president, the three-day visit is a chance for Ghani to win hearts and minds in New Delhi.
Over the last few months, Kabul has sent confusing signals to New Delhi by its dramatic shift in foreign policy and efforts to appease Islamabad in an unprecedented way.
It is imperative that during this important visit, Ghani convince the Indian leadership that ameliorating relations with Pakistan will never undermine New Delhi's unique and historic role in Afghanistan. His message must be clear: India will remain Afghanistan's historic and strategic partner.

Ties that bind
From the moment he assumed office, Ghani endeavoured to maintain closer contacts and ties with Pakistan's military establishment.
Sending Afghan cadets for military training to Pakistan, allowing Pakistani intelligence officers to interrogate detainees in Afghan detention facilities, conducting military operations on Afghan soil at the request of Pakistan's military, are but a few examples.
According to Pakistan's interior minister and local sources in Afghanistan, Kabul has also allowed Pakistani security forces to conduct "joint military operations" in the eastern parts of Afghanistan (Nangharhar, Kunar), which Kabul and Islamabad both later rejected.
What has Kabul achieved so far in return for its sincere cooperation? Knowing that Pakistan has its grip over the leadership of the Afghan Taliban on its soil, how much has Islamabad delivered in terms of facilitating genuine peace talks with the Afghan Taliban? The answer is - as usual - only empty promises.
Today, the security situation in Afghanistan is seriously deteriorating and there are more and more terrorist attacks in different parts of the country on a daily basis. In a recent terrorist attack in the eastern city of Jalalabad, at least 35 civilians were killed and more than 100 others wounded. Two among the victims were young brothers who had been newly married.
The Afghan president's policy of appeasement towards Islamabad not only impedes the improvement of the security situation in Afghanistan but also seems to have caused a U-turn in Kabul's relations with New Delhi. Recent media reports on Ghani's upcoming trip to India suggest that New Delhi has lost ground in Afghanistan to its rival Pakistan.
Looking at India's role in Afghanistan over the last decade, one can clearly see that New Delhi's assistance to Afghanistan has been focused mainly on education, agriculture, institution-building and other areas that benefit the people of our war-torn country.

In his first state visit to India, Ghani should reinject confidence in the bilateral ties between the two South Asian neighbours and assure New Delhi that Afghanistan is committed to maintaining close and friendly relations with India as its historic friend and partner.
Ghani should emphasise that Afghanistan will never accommodate Pakistan's wish to control Afghanistan's foreign policy, especially in regard to India.
For its part, India should consider Afghanistan as its strategic priority and build upon the solid foundation of its bilateral relations with Afghanistan laid and strengthened under Ghani's predecessor, president Hamid Karzai.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan Troops Cross Border to Rescue #Afghan Soldier Wounded in Firefght with #Taliban

In a demonstration of increased security cooperation, Pakistan's military says its troops crossed the border Tuesday and went 600 meters inside Afghanistan to rescue an Afghan soldier who was critically wounded in a firefight with “terrorists”.

The Pakistan military’s media wing says “Afghan authorities requested for evacuation and treatment of [a] soldier, Pakistani troops quickly responding to [the] Afghan request evacuated injured soldier to a hospital” on the Pakistani side of the border. "

The cross-border action took place in eastern Afghanistan opposite to the Pakistan tribal territory of Bajur and the Afghan solider is under treatment in hospital in Khar, the region’s administrative center, the statement reads.

Afghan authorities have not yet commented on the incident.

Taliban insurgents have recently increased attacks on Afghan security forces.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have increased border security cooperation in recent months while political relations have expanded. The two countries share 2400-kilometer mostly porous border.

Riaz Haq said...

#Daesh (#ISIS) Threat Could Inadvertently Unite #Afghanistan, #Pakistan and Beyond … via @SputnikInt

The threat posed by Daesh could act to unite factions in Afghanistan and beyond, said Anatol Lieven, Georgetown University professor and Middle East expert, in an interview with Radio Sputnik.

Lieven claims that the emergence of Daesh in the country may potentially lead to the enhancement of peace talks between the government in Kabul and Taliban insurgents.

The two sides, along with groups in neighboring states, could find a commonality in their mutual rejection of the growing influence of the violent extremist group.

“The most important thing about ISIS (another abbreviation for Daesh) is that this is off style both to the government and the Taliban,” Lieven explained. “Indeed it is also off style to all the regional states. In that way, it could be the only force which unites the whole region,” the expert claimed.

Commenting on the recent setbacks of Afghan security forces, which have lost ground in the country to the Islamists, Lieven said he believes the most serious vulnerability is that of weak government forces.
“The problem is, that the Afghan army can hold territory, but they have been very poor, so far, at recapturing territory out in the countryside,” he said.
Afghan law enforcement additionally relies heavily on foreign assistance, especially that of the United States.
“They are wholly dependent – for money, for weapons, for pay – on continued US aid,” Lieven stated.
Kabul must offer something viable to the Taliban if they intend to pacify the country, he said, adding that, “Dividing and conquering also requires genuine and convincing peace offers to the mainstream Taliban.”