The agenda at this year’s Heart of Asia conference was something already expected and predictable nevertheless it did create waves of tension in the already strained relations in the region as both, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Indian Prime Minister Modi, outright and blatantly dubbed Pakistan as “Sponsor of terrorism”.
Pakistan’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz was left isolated by not allowing the courtesy of any bilateral exchange on the side-lines with anyone from the host country and all that was consequently derivable from the gathering of forty foreign delegates from 15 countries at Amritsar was nothing but absolute blame game rhetoric against Pakistan.
A generous aid package of $500 million by Pakistan to Afghanistan was welcomed with sarcastic remarks by Mr Ghani that it should be spent on stopping cross-border terrorism and eliminating extremism from inside Pakistan. He held Pakistan responsible, in quite categorical and blunt terms, for harbouring the Taliban leadership and their ongoing offensive against Kabul. Furthermore he went on to quote a Taliban leader as saying that “if Pakistan had stopped its support, they would not have survived for a month”.
What was a failure for Mr Modi to achieve at the BRICS Summit was well tailored this time and he left no stone unturned to make sure that he gets to demonstrate his frivolities in order to entertain the guests. The juggler as always juggled with the three balls named Haqqani Network, Jaishe-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taibah and the issue of non-state actors and went on to dubbing the next door neighbour as ‘sponsor of terrorism’ and termed it as the ‘biggest threat’ in the region and called for a collaborative and determined action against what he commonly describes as ‘the epicentre of terrorism’ by never actually mentioned the name ‘Pakistan’.
Notwithstanding the bashing Sartaj Aziz clarified this in the conference that Pakistan is fighting terrorism as a matter of its own national security and will not act under anyone’s pressure. He added that in the last three years Pakistan has devoted itself in fighting terror more than anyone. Ashraf Ghani’s remarks were saddening but as Afghanistan has become a very unstable country, more and more people are dying and relatively more bomb blasts are happening which has promoted an air uncertainty in Afghanistan and as everything is always blamed at Pakistan it is not his fault that he gives such remarks. Aziz also commented to a question that Mr Ghani was giving these remarks in a country which is an opponent so he spoke what they wanted to hear.
Though the efficacy of the efforts in diplomatically isolating Pakistan is questionable but it sure is advertised and touted as being tremendously successful and in this case with Afghanistan in focus has turned out to work for now, as far as the Kabul regime is concerned. Afghanistan of all has turned a blind eye to what Pakistan has been through because of it for the last three decades. Despite being the host of more than three million Afghan refugees and rendering so many sacrifices and devoting huge resources Mr Ghani has opted to accuse Pakistan by uttering the words of Pakistan’s enemies. He has quite forgotten that like his predecessor Karzai he too would not have won the elections if it were not for Islamabad’s support.
The Commander of US-led Nato forces in Afghanistan General John Nicholson said, “We are concerned about the external enablement of the insurgent or terrorist groups inside Afghanistan; in particular where they enjoy sanctuary or support from outside governments.” When Mr Ghani directly pointed at the Taliban Sanctuaries in Pakistan and Modi spoke about ‘externally induced’ terrorism one can clearly make it out that who seems to be turning the keys and who is following whose lead.
Russia’s special envoy to Kabul, Zamir Kabulov, on the other hand seemed to follow a different line as he said the allegations made by India and Afghanistan are baseless and this blame game needs to be stopped as criticizing Pakistan is wrong. Moreover he appreciated Pakistan’s efforts to attend the conference amidst such tensions and termed Sartaj Aziz’s speech as constructive and friendly. Nevertheless on his part he assured that the agenda of the conference was not hijacked but the attendees did not mince words in expressing some issues.
The most ironic fact in this scenario is that no matter what the issue in this region is, whether it is the attainment of peace in Afghanistan, resolution of the Kashmir conflict, Kabul-Delhi connectivity or Central Asia-South Asia energy and infrastructure corridors it cannot be achieved without bringing Pakistan on board.
By mentioning a few non-state actors and ignoring all other terror outfits, especially the ones India and Afghanistan are using against Pakistan, does not solve the issue of terrorism in the region. Pakistan has proven that while protecting its territorial sovereignty and giving befitting answers to those who threaten it has also always took the first steps towards peace. No country in the world has done more or sacrificed more than Pakistan to counter terrorism. The duplicity of its enemies is the reason why Pakistan faces this propaganda and we all know by now this nation had and will continue to face whatever is thrown at it.