All the stakeholders and major players in the region are already active in securing their share of power and are vigorously pursuing their agendas to gain more and more influence in post-2014 Afghanistan and in the region also.
The US, UK and China are three major stakeholders in the region and they are vying to secure their economic, strategic and political interests in Afghanistan in particular, and resultant effects on regional politics in general. From policy perspective, these powers are devising policy plans to shape up a future course of action to expand their geo-economic and geostrategic outreach in the region. Trade corridors through Afghanistan to South and Central Asia are being contemplated.
Moreover, there has been a lot of stress on cooperation and collaboration among neighbours, especially in terms of ‘AfPak Strategy.’ India, on the other hand, has been strengthening economic and strategic equations with major powers eyeing her interests in Afghanistan and has successfully fetched the support from US and European nations.
Besides US, UK is also concerned about the changing course of politics in the aftermath of US drawdown.
He stressed upon that ‘a stable, prosperous, peaceful, and democratic Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest, just as a strong, stable, peaceful, prosperous and democratic Pakistan is in Afghanistan’s interests.’
Mr Cameron also used his visit as an opportunity to refresh Pakistan-UK bilateral relations with the new government. As both countries launched the Enhanced Strategic Dialogue aimed at bilateral collaboration and cooperation in security, trade, health and education sector in 2011, the UK pledged to revive Pakistan’s economy for eliminating causes of terrorism is a must to eradicate it. During the visit, Mr Cameron ‘pledged to revise upward the bilateral trade target from Â£2.5bn to Â£3bn by 2015 and support Pakistan’s quest for greater, duty-free market access for its goods to the European Union.’
The shift in major powers’ politics and policies towards Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region is evident through their policy stance on several issues. For instance, talking to Taliban has been an abomination to the US and her Western allies, even the then British Premier Gordon Brown outrightly rejected the idea saying that ‘Britain would never negotiate with these people’. But, at present, Britain appears to be supporting talks with Taliban to make the Afghan peace process durable.
Although the three major powers share almost similar interests in Afghanistan and in South and Central Asia, they pursue their goals differently. The US is blatant in its actions, China is trying to extend its power in Afghanistan by increasing its economic influence in the region (Gwadar port and other economic projects are some examples) while the UK would certainly use its diplomatic and trade connections to maintain its influence in the region. Nevertheless, Pakistan is still the most important factor in any future arrangement as regards Afghanistan. The US and UK realize that Pak-Afghan connection is a geostrategic reality. Peace and progress in Afghanistan is twined with the same in Pakistan and that without Pakistan’s involvement, no peace process can be durable; the fact very clearly stated by Mr Cameron.
UK can play an extremely important role in devising and shaping up the future course of politics in South Asia. The country can balance the political influence exerted by the US and also bring in more economic opportunities through the European Union. For Pakistan, in particular, its ties with the UK have been of paramount importance and are greatly valued. The UK can be a close ally in future provided Pakistan devises a foreign policy to obtain both respect and material gains with changing regional politics.