Encouraging portents for Pakistan
Courtesy: Malik Muhammad Ashraf
After a decade long confrontation between Iran and World powers supported by Germany over former’s nuclear weapons programme— that witnessed repeated failure of the diplomatic efforts and imposition of sanctions against Iran—both sides have finally succeeded in clinching a breakthrough deal whereby Iran has agreed to cap its nuclear programme in exchange for partial relief in sanctions to the tune of US$ 7 billion.
The agreement between five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany will initially be for six months and its implementation will be monitored by the UN nuclear inspectors. According to the agreement Iran will limit uranium enrichment in future besides neutralizing the entire stockpile of the already enriched uranium. In the meantime both parties will remain engaged in concluding a permanent solution to this irritant.
The world powers deserve appreciation for their perseverance and steadfastness in pursuing this objective. So does the present Iranian leadership for its understanding of the concerns of the international community and showing flexibility in their stance on the issue.
It is a very significant development from multiple perspectives. Firstly it will dwindle the chances of a military confrontation between Iran and US as well as between Iran and Israel, removing threats to peace and security in the region. Secondly, Iran whose economy has been badly affected by the sanctions will be able to prop up its economic profile as a result of the much needed relief that has been agreed to by the parties. Thirdly the new development will also free the countries having trade and economic ties with Iran from the burden of UN and US sanctions, including regional countries like Pakistan, to the mutual benefit of all the concerned parties.
The deal which promises gradual easing of tensions between Iran and US is particularly a welcome development for Pakistan as it would also dilute US opposition to Pak-Iran gas-pipeline; a project of immense value and vitally needed for the energy starved Pakistan. The present government though had expressed the resolve to go ahead with the project despite US pressure, but the project was still marred by some debilitating factors including unabated US pressure and the paucity of funds to implement it. With the signing of the deal, the prospects of implementation of the project and availability of necessary finances will also improve.
Had the government wilted under the US pressure and wriggled out of the agreement with Iran it would have negatively affected our bilateral relations with Iran and also proven a setback for our newly evolved narrative and vision of a shared economic prosperity in the region; strongly espoused and advocated by our Prime Minister. Pakistan’s security and economic prosperity is inextricably linked to our own region and the policy of building regional linkages being pursued by the present government is very much in consonance with the geographical and geo-political realities.
Another very significant happening of late has been the endorsement of the Basic Security Agreement between the Karzai government and US by the Afghan Loi Jirga, which stipulates conditions in regards to the stay of US troops in Afghanistan and their counter-terrorism and training assignments beyond 2014.
The Loi Jirga and US government wants immediate signing of the agreement whereas Karezai is insisting on US cooperation in rapprochement with Taliban and assurances of no further attacks on Afghan homes by the US troops before he seals the agreement.
The endorsement of the BSA by Loi Jirga is indeed an important step towards facilitating US-NATO pull out from Afghanistan and ensuring end of war in Afghanistan. However Karzai is right in fearing that if this agreement does not bring about reconciliation in Afghanistan it would prove a disaster. The Taliban are so far deadly against the BSA and have also announced to boycott the elections.
There can be no peace in Afghanistan without the Taliban agreeing to the stipulated arrangement.
The US and Pakistan also have high stakes in ensuring an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned solution to the Afghan conundrum. Pakistan has been making strenuous efforts in facilitating reconciliation in Afghanistan. It persuaded the Taliban, including the Haqqani group to participate in Doha talks and also released some Taliban leaders to nudge the process of negotiations between Karzai government and Taliban. Currently a delegation of Afghan High Peace Council is in Pakistan to discuss the issue and reportedly has also met Mullah Bradar with a view to narrow the cleavage between the two parties.
It is hard to take an issue with the foregoing view in regards to its indispensability for any conceivable arrangement to end conflict in Afghanistan and preventing its undesirable fall out on the neighbouring countries. Pakistan has suffered the most in the war against terrorism both in men and material.
It needs end to war in Afghanistan more than any other country in the region. The present government is on the right track in this regard and contrary to the perennial mistrust between Karzai government and previous Pakistani regimes, Nawaz government and its recalibrated stance on the Afghan conflict enjoys the trust of the Afghan government, which in itself is a big plus for Pakistan. Playing the role of a trouble shooter or a facilitator needs trust and credibility in the eyes of parties to the conflict.
The present government is certainly in a position to nudge the process of reconciliation provided US also lends the necessary support. Peace in Afghanistan will also enable Pakistan to deal with the phenomenon of terrorism in Pakistan either through a negotiated settlement or other means at the disposal of the state.
Both the foregoing events constitute encouraging portents for peace and security in Pakistan and the region. They will immensely contribute towards unleashing the economic potential that waits to be exploited for shared economic prosperity. Peace in Afghanistan would help in the implementation of trans-regional projects like CASA-1000 and TAPI besides creating political linkages, strengthening peace and security in the region. Pakistan undoubtedly would be the biggest beneficiary of these outcomes.