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The Speakers from Afghanistan included; Dr Abdul Baqi Amin, Director General, CSRS, Dr Fazal Hadi

Wazeen, Dr Waheedullah Muslih and Engr. Hamid Durrani. From the Pakistan side the key speakers were
Amb. (r) Rustam Shah Mohmand, DG-IPS Khalid Rahman, Air Cdre. (r) Khalid Iqbal, Brig. (r) Said Nazir,
Amb. (r) Ayaz Wazir, Irfan Shahzad, Dr Anwar Shah, and Mairaj-ul-Hamid.

T
he relationship between Pakistan and broad understanding between the participants of
Afghanistan – despite the two nations the event.
being closely interwoven historically, • There are many sources of affinity between
culturally, religiously and ethnically – has the two nations – historic, cultural,
continuously been witnessing ups and down religious, and ethnic. Out of these many
during past close to seven decades. In the present basis of affinity the religious teachings
day context where foreign forces are drawing- naturally are the best possible framework
down drastically after a misadventure of about a for resolving the issues between them
decade and a half, and regional players are today. Yet, the intricacies involved in the
gearing up for enhanced roles, a smooth and inter-state interactions and relations in
mutually beneficial relationship becomes today’s world, can also not be ignored
particularly significant both for Islamabad and altogether.
Kabul. Global and regional factors have always • There is an immediate need to rebuild the
been at play, and at times decisive. So, will they confidence and trust between the two
remain, cropping up time to time. Same is the countries with visible and tangible steps. A
case with divergences of opinions, and at times process of sincere dialogue with clear
interests, at bilateral level. The question in front goals and objectives, inclusive and
of two brotherly nations today is as to how to addressing all issues, respecting each
maintain a desired level of bilateral harmony, in other’s national interest and bringing them
months and years ahead. It is in this context that on the table, should be initiated
the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad immediately. The two countries, however,
and Center for Strategic and Regional Studies should refrain from airing messages to
(CSRS), Kabul jointly organized a two-days each other through media.
conference titled “Pakistan and Afghanistan: • Rebuilding of relations between the two
Towards an Ideal Bilateral Arrangement” on brotherly nations should be approached
September 16-17, 2015 at IPS, Islamabad. with an enhanced focus on positivity and
The conference had four sessions spread over banking upon commonalities, than the oft-
two days and the following points emerged as a

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beaten path of sticking to the issues, important security institutions of the two
differences, and divergences. countries.
• It has to be understood that external forces • The issue of ‘strategic depth’ has often
would always like to focus on achieving been highlighted negatively in the past and
their interests, creating problems for the prevailing discourse. It needs to be realized
local people and the region; but the point that friendly relations between any two
for the leadership and people of the two neighboring countries of the world provide
countries is to ponder over is that how to mutual strategic depth. In case of Pakistan,
steer clear of pushes and pulls being the phrase has by and large been used and
motivated by the external forces, and move highlighted as a desire for control over
towards a smooth bilateral relationship. Afghanistan, which has neither been an
• As to the intra-Afghan peace process, it has official policy of any government or
to be recognized that Afghans themselves institution in Pakistan; nor an aspiration of
are responsible as well as best suited to its people. A balanced discourse needs to
solve the problems and issues between be forwarded concerning this.
them. Intra-Afghan understanding is the • China’s role – economic cooperation and
key. Public opinion in Afghanistan does that of prompting stability – is increasing
not support war; the American-led war has in the affairs of Afghanistan. Afghan
remained meaningless for the people of opposition is of the view that China can
this region and the presence of foreign stand in front of the US, stronger than as is
forces remains an obstacle to peace. the case with Pakistan. As Pakistan and
• There however are entrenched lobbies China already enjoy excellent relations,
which do not favor peace. These include and Pakistan’s affinity with Afghanistan is
the forces of status quo which are well-established, this can be a mutually
benefiting from the prolonged conflict; beneficial three-way relationship.
hardened positions of the parties involved • It is needed to build a team of dedicated
which diverge widely; and now the Daesh researchers and experts from Pakistan and
factor is also coming up. Any move Afghanistan who remain focused upon
towards peace will have to keep these building an in-depth understanding of the
factors in view. issues facing the two countries from within
• Role of regional countries is also and outside; the opportunities and basis
important. While Pakistan has its that exist for a broad-based, deeper
limitations, it is well positioned to play a cooperation between them; and the
facilitating role. This role and position of challenges/obstacles coming in the way in
Pakistan may be targeted constructively – this regard; finally suggesting strategies
provided that the Afghans so desire – with for the policymakers of the two countries
an aim to achieve lasting peace in to cope with the challenges and to build
Afghanistan, and in the region, as a result. upon the opportunities.
However, Pakistan’s steps and initiatives • A list of common interests of the two
should very clearly be treating all Afghans countries may be developed by institutions
as equally important and having equal such as IPS and CSRS (involving others as
status. well) and may be disseminated for the
• Broad-based intelligence cooperation consumption of academia and media as
needs to be developed between the two well as faculty and students of institutions
countries. This will be a step towards of higher learning on both sides. This will
building mutual confidence among the all- help in developing a balanced discourse
about each other, on both sides.

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• Some sectoral and specific issues were also o The issue of refugees and displaced
discussed during the conference; and the persons should be approached as a
understanding emerging from discussions long-standing linkage between the
was, as follows: two societies; and a conducive
environment needs to be created for a
o Economic collaboration and people- smooth, mutually agreeable, lasting
to-people contacts need to be solution which, above all, is
strengthened and made broad-based. respectable for refugees and displaced
Immense opportunities exist for persons themselves. Tensions in the
promoting mutual collaboration in relations between the two countries
trade, investment and other joint should not affect the status of refugees
ventures; and in the mining sector. and displaced people. Peace and
Energy sector, particularly hydro- economic stability / development are
power, also presents bright prospects pre-requisites for long-term solution
of collaboration. Well though-out to this issue.
strategies need to developed on fast- o Water and drugs related issues also
track for benefiting from these highlight the need for collaborative
possible avenues of cooperation and strategies.
to surmount the legal, infrastructural • And last but not the least, the civil society,
and trust-related obstacles that come research centers and think-tanks in
in the way in this specific area of particular (such as IPS and CSRS), can
cooperation as well. Similarly, play a vital role in promoting relations
opportunities of cooperation in social between the two countries. They can
sectors such as education and health influence the policymakers and
may be capitalized upon for further stakeholders; therefore such institutions
closeness and mutual cooperation should come forward actively, and
between the two sides. collaboration between them should be
strengthened for mutual understanding.

Prepared by IPS Task Force
For queries: Mairaj-ul-Hamid, Asst. Research Coordinator, mairaj@ips.net.pk | www.ips.org.pk

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