The Eighth Trilateral Summit of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkey concluded in Ankara on 13 February, 2014. The theme of the Afghanistan-Pakistan-Turkey Trilateral Summit this year was “A sustainable peace in the heart of Asia.”
The main topics of the summit were security in Afghanistan after the NATO troop pullout, efforts to negotiate with the Taliban and measures to restore peace and promote reconciliation in the country as well as the region. The report released at the end of the summit emphasised the importance of a political settlement within the framework of the Afghan constitution, to ensure durable peace in Afghanistan. The talks were held for the future and significant developments that may have impact on efforts to promote peace and security in the region are expected to take place.
Afghanistan, the heart of Asia, is going through a decisive period of its history. The region is faced with formidable challenges, ranging from extremism and terrorism to socioeconomic development. But the outcome of the summit does not appear as momentous as expected; no solid results were achieved as far as improvement in Pak-Afghan relations is concerned. Nevertheless, it did reinforce recognition that a stable and peaceful Afghanistan is essential to regional peace and stability and three countries reaffirmed their resolve to continue collective efforts and enhanced cooperation to ensure sustainable peace and security in the region. The summit had also asked the international community to continue to contribute to the efforts aiming at supporting Afghan-led and Afghan-owned processes, including those concentrating on further enhancing the Afghan National Security Forces.
The two-day summit, possibly the last in the series attended by a lame duck President Hamid Karzai, was characteristically regional in form and content, with Afghanistan imbroglio more as a regional affair and not of the West-dominated United Nations. Of course, the Afghan leader didn’t have much to add to these perceptions. Not only is he increasingly critical of so-called counterterrorism operations of foreign troops, he is also trying to win back the support of the Afghan Taliban — just the opposite of his rejection of Washington-planned Doha peace process; he then had dubbed as a Pak-US conspiracy. That he has let off some 50 Taliban prisoners in clear defiance of the Americans and remains adamant that not he but the next Afghan president would sign the Bilateral Security Agreement is a development that shows that President Karzai is perhaps undergoing some kind of ideological metamorphosis. Still, it is a “better late than never” situation. If President Karzai is now talking to the Taliban while others at the Ankara summit were supportive of his move then there is every hope of stitching up an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned solution.
A pronounced sentiment prevailed at the summit to lend regional context to the member countries inter-state differences, a trend Pakistan would very much like to hold the field. But even a relatively subdued Hamid Karzai would not look at it in that spirit. Since intelligence-sharing was high on the agenda of the Ankara summit the ways and means to do it extensively figured at the meetings and a broad agreement to that was reached between the summit leaders and the delegates. Pakistan had expected a cooperative input from the Afghan president on the issue of Maulana Fazlullah now sheltered in bordering provinces, but it was not to be. Asked if his presence on the Afghan soil came under discussion and was there any agreement on it, President Hamid Karzai as usual was hiding behind clichéd debate over the Durand Line. To him, it was a ‘complicated issue’ rooted in history, and a direct consequence of ‘inaction’ — an oblique reference to Kabul’s insistence that the present Pak-Afghan border should be redefined. He offered no hope of action against Maulana Fazlullah, the chief of Pakistani Taliban, though he signed the joint statement committing the two countries not to allow terror sanctuaries on both sides of the common border. Having served western interests to the hilt for over a decade Hamid Karzai is trying to look nationalist at the fag-end of his presence in the Kabul Presidency; after all, nationalism is a social construct, belief, creed or political ideology that involves an individual identifying with, or becoming attached to, one’s nation. There is the concern and trepidation that his antics would foreshadow the march of events as they unfold in the wake of drawdown of foreign troops from Afghanistan. His refusal to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement insisting this should be left for the next government tends to inject uncertainty into the already fragile Afghan political scenario. This would diminish chances of accord being signed before September 2014. So, as the leaders at Ankara summit have reaffirmed their resolve to enhance sustainable peace in the region, they have to work to help Kabul overcome its inhibitions and determinedly move towards a peaceful political transition.