Islamabad, Pakistan: The International Institute for Global Strategic Analysis (IIGSA) in collaboration with the Association of Iranian Political Sociology, The Union of Iranian Political Science Students Associations, Student Association of International Relations of Allameh Tabataba’i University, and the Iranian Association of West Asian Studies hosted conducted a webinar titled, Afghanistan Under The Taliban: Options For Pakistan & Iran to view analyze the contemporary crisis in Afghanistan and provide mutually inclusive and workable solutions for the stakeholders.
Panellist’s of the international webinar included leading academic from both Islamabad and Tehran and was attended by researchers, policy makers, journalists and students from the U.S., Europe, Middle East and South Asia.
Mr. Sarmad Ali Khan, the Founder of IIGSA, said that the current situation in Afghanistan is a mix of socio-political, religious, economic and strategic tectonic shifts that is leading to a snowballing crisis. It is not only deteriorating the internal conditions of the country but has greater repercussions for the international community. Pakistan and Iran should work to diffuse tensions at regional level and serve as bridges to fill the gap between the Afghan government, society and the international community.
Ms. Maryam Nouri, Non-Resident Research Officer at IIGSA, stated that the two countries need to find a common ground and adopt a constructive approach to address the crisis.
Dr. Rahmat Hajimineh, Assistant Professor in International Relations at East Tehran Branch of the Islamic Azad University of Iran emphasized that trade and economic aspects are the key converging factors to integrate not only Iran and Pakistan but also Afghanistan. He highlighted that Tehran’s foreign policy towards Afghanistan is conditional to the behavior of Afghanistan vis-à-vis humanitarian, security, socio-religious and ideological concerns. He also said that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan makes it an unreliable partner for its allies and opens up an opportunity for regional cooperation. He also discussed various converging and diverging factors between Iran and Afghanistan which must be addressed to end the Shadow of Past and analyze the Shadow of Future.
Dr. Manzoor Afridi, Tenured Associate Professor at International Islamic University Islamabad talked about how the role of Pakistan’s Tribal Areas has evolved over time when it comes to the country’s engagement with Afghanistan. He reflected on the history of tribal areas which remains intertwined with Afghanistan based on Pashtun Wali, cultural and ethnic similarities and the fact that many families of Pashtuns live on both sides of the country. He also clarified the position of Pakistan’s government when it comes to the Durand Line issue stating that it is a non-negotiable aspect. Dr. Afridi held the view that an opportunity lies today for Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan to cater to each other’s need, increase people to people contact and promote trade while simultaneously curb smuggling, drug trafficking and terrorism.
Dr. Somaye Morovati, Senior Researcher at Scientific Research and Middle East Strategic Studies Center (CMESS) spoke on the Challenges and Inconsistencies of the Iran-Pakistan Relationship. Dr. Morovati stated that relations between Pakistan and Iran have seen turbulent relations in the past.However, from a relatively long time, the two countries have accepted it as a natural setting. She was of the view that a safe line exists between Iran and Pakistan which does not damage the national interest of the two countries. Although, the two countries have conflicting interests in Afghanistan, there are many options on which they can collaborate. CPEC is the driving force in this regard followed by border management. An instable Afghanistan would affect Iran, Pakistan and China and currently the three of them maintain by or large common economic alignments. However, she said, that quality of integration between Iran and Pakistan cannot be increased.
Dr. Saira Abbasi, Director IIGSA, spoke on the Russian Foreign Policy and the Afghanistan Crisis. Dr. Abbasi said that the hasty withdrawal of Washington from Afghanistan not only led to the Fall of Kabulbut also resulted in a chaotic environment. The miscalculation, on part of the U.S., has created a chronic humanitarian crisis and an instable region. She highlighted that the use of operational realism in American foreign policy has proved to be a failure because of which the country’s unilateralism declining. When it comes to Russia’s foreign policy, Moscow has been cautiously optimist in Afghanistan. It continues to analyze the outside role (of external stakeholders) and observe shifts in their foreign policies. Russia is more focused on non-western platforms to engage with the Taliban government and other countries.
Russian foreign policy is based on two areas: systemic world changes and assertions in Afghanistan.
She said that Russia is far more interested in Central Asia than South Asia because it is convinced that the U.S. will not act there. However, Russia fears the spill over effects of Afghanistan crisis towards North in which terrorism and drug trafficking are the two main aspects.
Lt. Gen. Sikander Afzal, Distinguished Guest, said that every country is looking at Afghanistan in the prism of their own interests without taking into consideration the insecurities of Afghan government. He said that international community is not allowing the Afghan Taliban to settle and is looking towards them to cater many of their needs. In reality, it is us (the stakeholders) who need to defend ourselves and not rely on Afghan government which is incapable of doing so. We should help the country in any way possible to establish and then plan the future.
The webinar concluded that the two countries must help the Afghan people and government to establish itself and not pressurize it to do what it is incapable of. Pakistan and Iran both support an inclusive government in Afghanistan which adheres to international law, norms and treaties.