Pak Afghanistan Relation: Challenges and Opportunities

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Naseebullah Khan;

The relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have seen pit and falls since the inception of Pakistan. Time and again both the states have confronted over the issues like Durand line, militant groups, cross border infiltration, Indian involvement in Pakistan through Afghanistan and fencing along the border. Despite these challenges, there are myriad of opportunities which can be a game-changer and fate- changer for both the states. On the flip side, despite many reservations on the part of Pakistan against its neighbor, Pakistan has always tried to work for the prosperity and development of Afghanistan.

What is needed is , to erase the challenges and ensure friendly ties between both the states, so that the countries can fight against poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and other issues. Peace and development have always been the priority of Pakistan in Afghanistan. It has always tried to support the peace process and political dialogue in Afghanistan. Also, it has facilitated the recent peace dialogue between America and the Taliban and then intra- Afghan talks. Apart from this, Pakistan has also worked for the development of Afghanistan. Despite economic issues, Pakistan has provided economic support to the government of Afghanistan. It has hosted millions of Afghans refugees. Until June 2018 Pakistan had provided 1 billion US dollar aid for the development of Afghanistan. Construction of roads, hospitals, schools, and establishing blocks in many universities in Afghanistan are appreciated steps. Pakistan has provided agricultural, medical, technical and educational support to Afghanistan. It is estimated that Pakistan provides scholarships to 4000 Afghan students. It is admirable that 50000 Afghans who got education in Pakistan are now serving in Afghanistan’s different institutions. In this scenario, it is a must that the sacrifices of Pakistan be admired for the establishment of friendly relations. Many  challenges have increased the fragility of the relations of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Myriad of issues can be held responsible for substandard relations. One of the major issues is the Durand line which has been the bone of contention. It was by dint of this line that Afghanistan opposed the membership of Pakistan in the UNO after the former came into existence. Afghanistan does not recognize the present border as an international one. While Pakistan recognizes it as an international and legitimate border. Despite this, fencing along the border has also been a hurdle in the way of friendly ties between both states. Pakistan is on the opinion that by fencing not only terrorism will end but on the other hand it will also help in the reduction of smuggling which is a serious complication for both economic growths, as the duty on smuggled goods are not paid which further frail the tax sector that further results in the fragility of both economies. Time and again skirmishes take place between both states on the above two issues. Resultantly, the relations deteriorate between both the countries. History is witnessed that the common enemy of both the states has always tried to tense the friendship of both states. India, some segments in Afghanistan and terrorist organizations have always tried to spoil the friendly and brotherly relation between Pakistan and Afghanistan. India for her vested interests has used Afghan soil against Pakistan and supported anti-Pakistan segments within Afghanistan, on which Pakistan has serious reservations. Apart from India, another point of dispute between both is the Militant groups. Pakistan has serious reservations on the TTP whose leaders flee to Afghanistan and then operate against Pakistan from there. While Afghanistan has alleged Pakistan for cross border infiltration. Time and again Afghanistan

Chief of Army Staff, Pakistan Chief of Army Staff and the foreign offices of both states have condemned terrorism in all form. All are agreed that terrorists are their common enemies. The trust deficit between both the states should be broken. So that to defeat the common foe. Furthermore, the Afghan government should realize the fears of Pakistan against its encirclement by India. Afghan Leaders should ensure and take pragmatic steps that Afghan soil must not be allowed to use against Pakistan. And Indian Centric Afghan policy must be undone. Afghan leaders should understand that their relations with India should not be based on the enmity of Pakistan. Having geostrategic importance and geo- economic potentials, both states have great opportunities for economic development and prosperity. If utilized, these opportunities can change the fate of both states. Being the neighbours and having tremendous strategic importance, the trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan can help in overcome economic fragility. Pakistan has been the biggest trade partner of Afghanistan until 2015_16. The goods of Pakistan are cheaper and have fewer fare charges due to which they are suitable for Afghanistan. Furthermore, a free trade agreement between both the states was signed in 1965 and then in 2010. The Pakistan Afghanistan Transit Trade agreement (PATTA 2010) is a positive step in this regard. In that agreement, Pakistan has given access to many of its goods without any duty for Afghanistan. The trade between both the states can help in the boost of both economies. Dr. Ishrat Hussain is on the opinion that both states have common trade potential of 5 billion Dollar annually. Due to tense relations, unfortunately, this potential is not exploiting. The strategic importance of both is beyond any doubt. Both countries connect South Asia with Central Asia. Pakistan can be a gateway for Afghanistan to the Indian ocean, while Afghanistan can be a great route for Pakistan so that to reach the markets of CAR,s. Both states can be doors of trade between China, CAR,s, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Afghanistan through Pakistan is the shortest route for import of Energy, from energy-rich central Asian Countries to the rest of the world. Both the states can earn royalty and transit payment which could boost both the economies. In addition to that CPEC, the game-changer is going to change geopolitics of the region. Being part of CPEC, Pakistan will have a major role. This is a unique opportunity for Afghanistan to be part of CPEC. Which will no doubt help in the economic thrust of Afghanistan economy and development. These unique opportunities must be utilized by both the states, for which the spoilers who spoil the friendly relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan need a cold fist. Geographies can be changed but neighbors cannot. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have deep-rooted socio, cultural and historical links, traditional affinity and similarities. The relations between both states have seen ups and downs. Friendly ties between both countries are the need of the hours. Both the states should pay heed to each other’s reservation and say no to the spoilers, particularly India, its proxies and terrorist outfits, who spoil the batter relations of both neighboring Muslim states.

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