Afghan Summit in Moscow brings new hopes for regional peace – Hasnain Falak

A multilateral summit on Afghanistan recently took place in Moscow, Russia, where China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan were among participants. It was an attempt to gather all major regional stakeholders and find solutions for long term peace in the region. At first, Afghanistan was not invited to the earlier meetings in December, 2016, after which Kabul had sounded reservations on how foreign countries were holding summits in its absence. The US, which was also invited, refused to join the summit as it called it an effort by Moscow to assert its influence in the region.

Both Russia and Pakistan are paying a big price for the armed militancy in Afghanistan. Pakistan has faced problems of its own terrorism transpiring from Afghanistan, while Russia is suffering from the drug-related issues linked to Afghanistan. Russia is the biggest buyer of the drugs and narcotics produced by Afghanistan. Additionally, China is suspicious of extremist activities in Xinjiang province, and believes peace in Afghanistan is the key to solving its militancy woes.

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Mr. M. Ashraf Haidari, Director-General of Policy & Strategy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, lead the Afghan delegation

During the conference, Afghanistan reminded the organizers that any solution to its peace is incomplete without its presence and participation, and thus any future initiatives should keep Kabul in the loop. The Afghan delegates also called for increased regional support for the country.

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Ahmad Shakib Mustaghni – Foreign Ministry Spokesman

The issue at hand is that even with the growing number of initiatives against militant organizations, these organizations are gaining strength with each passing day. Even a 16 year long US military operation has remained ineffective in countering the Taliban. To make the matters worse, ISIS is now setting its sights on Afghanistan, with some of its activities already inflicting heavy damage in the country.

On a regional front, India and Pakistan still have extreme differences over Kashmir. On the other had, India has also developed strong relations with Afghanistan. Indian advances in Kabul are for sure set to upset Pakistan, and thus will provide any hindrance towards peace between both the neighbours. For any regional peace to be achieved, it is imperative for both India and Pakistan to come on the dialogue table and solve any outstanding issues. One can hope that the multi-lateral summit in Moscow would help in breaking the ice between New Delhi and Islamabad.

Pakistan is also playing a major role in creating a new regional alliance in shape on Russia, China, Iran and Central Asia. Such an alliance presents a great potential for the region in wake of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. It also seems that most of these regional stakeholders are also waiting for the US withdrawal for a full-blown action and strategy towards countering terrorism. Because for the time being, any actions, even good-intentioned, by Russia and China towards Afghanistan are opposed by the US.  If the US wants to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan, it has to take Russia and China in the loop, because after its withdrawal, the former regional powers could play a major in face-saving of the US, and help Afghanistan towards peace.

From recent developments, it is also evident that Russia and China are treating ISIS as a bigger threat compared to Taliban, with the latter being asked by Russia to start a dialogue with the regime in Kabul. The ISIS also found an easier operations base in Afghanistan compared to Syria, with the latter being subject to military operations from both the US as well as Russia. Thus, it is of utmost urgency that regional and global powers unite to fight terrorism in Afghanistan, as any failure to do holds great repercussions for the region, as well as the world.

The author is a research assistant with interest in International affairs, and can be reached at hasnainflk@gmail.com

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