Allies and approaches

Russia, China and Pakistan have conducted a series of meetings on Afghanistan, though only details from the last one have been made available. Reportedly, one key suggestion to have come out is that Taliban figures be removed from the UN sanctions list as a means of enabling a talks-conducive environment in Afghanistan and countering the threat from Islamic State which the representatives of all three countries fear is gaining a stronger presence in Afghanistan. The proposal could be followed up on, given that both China and Russia are permanent members of the UN Security Council. Afghanistan has reacted immediately to news of the meeting with concern over being excluded from the process. It is certainly strange for the future of Afghanistan to be discussed without the country invited to the discussions. The purpose here might be to bridge the gap between Pakistan, Russia and China on Afghanistan but any such meeting or meetings hold little value if the country being talked about is not on board with any agreements made. Afghanistan needs to be drawn into the exercise if things are to move forward.  Pakistan has already stated it would have no issues with expanding the group and Russia, it is being reported, is said to be keen to also draw in Iran – its ally in the war against the IS in Syria and also part of another tripartite alliance which brings together Russia, Turkey, and Iran. The groupings could be significant in tackling regional problems, especially as they leave out Washington which in the past has dominated decision making in Afghanistan. Unsurprisingly, the US is said to be unhappy with these new partnerships but they carry considerable potential for all countries involved. Clearly, Afghanistan should be brought in to produce real benefits as far as the situation in that country goes. It is true also that the threat of extremism in Afghanistan is having an extremely negative impact on the entire region with Pakistan being a major sufferer alongside Afghanistan.

Pakistan certainly has a great deal to gain by building ties with the countries outside its current group of allies. Russia has not traditionally partnered with Pakistan, and was of course the power the country battled alongside many other countries after the 1979 Russian intervention in Afghanistan.  The countries are clearly willing to move on and take new positions.  The positive aspect for Pakistan is that at least two stakeholders accept and advocate its role in the peace process. Afghanistan has tried to separate Pakistan from the peace process in recent months. Whether IS is a major force in Afghanistan or not is not entirely certain yet. However, any IS entry will not bode well for any peace process. Iraq and Syria are a living proof of how deadly conflicts can get once the group enters a civil war. It is in the interest of Afghanistan to find a path to peace before the chaos in that country becomes even worse. Despite its reservations about the tripartite meeting, the Afghan government should not reject outright any suggestions coming out of it. A fall into further chaos would be disastrous also for the region. Perhaps more suggestions can emerge through further discussion with the alliance holding considerable potential for the future of a troubled region.

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