Tag Archives: Pak-Afghan

Afghanistan » Economy » Foreign Policy

The tenuous Pak-Afghan ties and its impacts on transit and trade

Published Date: March 10, 2018


For the first time last year, the Afghan and Pakistani military engaged in armed conflict at Turkham border, something that indicates the tenuous relations between the two countries in the past seven decades. Overall, relations between the two countries have witnessed many ups and downs; nevertheless, during the National Unity Government in Afghanistan, these ties have more deteriorated than ever.

Besides other areas, these tenuous relations have also affected transit and trade between the two countries. In the past 17 years, every time with the escalation of tensions between the two countries, trade and transit between them have also face major challenges.

During the past two years, when the relations between the two countries were deteriorating on a daily basis, trade between Kabul and Islamabad has reduced to more than 50% of its previous scale. This situation was, to a great extent, the result of efforts for regional economic integration on behalf of the NUG. As in the inauguration of the eight year of the Parliament, President Ghani said: “those days have passed, when some people could block the roads on us.”

Here you would about the tenuous ties between Kabul and Islamabad since 2001 and its impact on transit and trade.


The ups and downs of Kabul-Islamabad ties

Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have always been the victim of mistrusts and preemptive concerns. That is why Pakistan’s policy in Afghanistan is to get strategic depth in this country, which, on the one hand, aims at recognition of the Durand Line by Pakistan and, on the other hand, the restriction of Indian influence.

Since 2001, in both terms of President Karzai, relations between Kabul and Islamabad were not stable and mistrust was dominant in the relations between the two countries. Particularly, the Afghan government, during this period, had an unstable policy in this regard. During his two terms of Presidency, President Karzai had 21 visits to Pakistan. However, at the last days of his Presidency, still he complained from Pakistan: “The keys to Afghan peace lies with Pakistan and the US.”

After the formation of the NUG, once again the relations between Kabul and Islamabad, experienced unprecedented ups and downs. At the beginning days of the NUG, ties between the two countries was unprecedentedly warm. The Afghan President give some privileges to Pakistan and then during the Afghan President’s visit to Pakistan, Islamabad give the Afghan President the same courtesy that this country gives only to Chines and Saudi leaders.  

Nevertheless, this period of partnership was very short and with the escalation of insecurities and Pakistan’s shortcoming in fulfilling its promises about bringing the Taliban to the negotiation table, once again, mistrusts in relations between the two countries increased. Later, clashes between Afghan and Pakistani military occurred in Turkham and Chaman area and for the first time, Afghanistan rejected Pakistan’s aid during the Heart of Asia Conference.

The clashes in Turkham not only increased distance between the two countries, but also escalated hatred between the nations of the two countries as well. These situation highly affected trade, transit, health and soft power between the two countries. Trade between the two countries reduced to one billion dollars and due to the continuation of these tenuous relations, thousands of Afghan refugees returned from Pakistan.


Kabul-Islamabad transit relations

Landlocked countries are obliged to have trade with other countries only using the other countries’ soil. Pakistan is a country that Afghanistan relied upon for its trade with the world in the past seven decades. Transit relations between the two countries started in 1965 with signing the (ATTA) agreement. Based on this agreement, Afghanistan can use the Karachi and Qasem ports for entrance and the Turkham and Chaman ports for exit. Nevertheless, besides other issues in this agreement, Afghanistan was not allowed to extend its trade relations with China through Pakistan’s soil. Moreover, no final agreement was made about Afghanistan’s trade with India through Wagi port.

After 2001, with the formation of the new government in Afghanistan, the two countries began discussions to review the ATTA agreement. These negotiations started in 2008 and finally, on 28 October 2010, the two countries signed an agreement, which was reinforced as of 12 June 2011.

This agreement has 58 articles, two indexes, and four protocols. Based on this agreement, Afghanistan had three entrance points (Karachi, Qasem and Guader ports). Moreover, besides Turkham and Chaman ports, the two countries also came to an agreement about Ghulam Khan Port as well. In this agreement, Afghanistan was allowed to have trade with China through “Sost” area of Pakistan. In addition, the issue of Afghan exports through Wagi Port was also finalized but Indian imports to Afghanistan through Pakistan was not permitted. Routes for trade from Pakistan to Afghanistan and Central Asia are shown. Moreover, Afghan trucks are allowed to go until Wagi and Pakistan’s sea ports.

Despite all these agreements, these transit trade have face many challenges on behalf of the Pakistani officials and mostly, these transit ways were used as political tool to pressurize the Afghan government. Therefore, Afghanistan was forced to think about alternative ways, something that highly affected trade and transit between the two countries.


Trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan

In past one and half decade, the greater part of Afghanistan’s trade was with Pakistan. During the first year of the NUG in Afghanistan, when the bilateral relations were developed and some trade relations were resolved, imports and exports between the two countries increased. However, now it seems that trade between them is at its lowest rate possible. According to the head of Afghan-Pak Joint Commerce Chamber Motiwala, in the past two years trade between Kabul and Islamabad was $2.7m; however, it is reduced to only $1.2m now.

In an interview with Dawn, he has said that from 200 flour factories, 100 of them are closed. Moreover, according to him, before this 70000 containers of good were going to Afghanistan and now this number is reduced to 7000 containers.

According to Pakistani officials, the reason behind the bad market for Pakistani goods is the increase in imports from India and China. Nevertheless, there are some other reasons that has played a role in reducing the trade level between Kabul and Islamabad:

First; in the Afghan-Pak bilateral relations, Pakistan has always used transit and trade for political purposes. Whenever, tensions have escalated between Kabul and Islamabad, Pakistan had closed its routs on Afghan traders, which each time inflicts heavy losses to Afghan traders. Therefore, traders try to decrease their trade with and through Pakistan.

Second; Afghanistan’s access to some alternative routes such as Chabahar port is another factor in this regard. Afghanistan accessed Indian Ocean through Iran, which facilitated the Kabul-Delhi trade. India sent hundred thousands of grain through this way to Afghanistan. Furthermore, an air corridor was also opened between the two countries and the Afghan traders, to a great extent, turned to the Iranian rout.

Third; the expansion of trade relations with the Central Asian countries and China and in the meanwhile, people’s campaign against Pakistani goods in Afghanistan are another factors behind the reduction of trade scales between the two countries.

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Afghanistan » Foreign Policy

A review of the bilateral ties between Afghanistan and Indonesia

Published Date: February 3, 2018


The Indonesian President Joko Widodo, along with a high ranking Indonesian officials visited Kabul last week. In his meetings with the Afghan officials, the Indonesian President discussed about expanding and strengthening the relations between the two countries. In a joint conference with the Afghan President, President Widodo said that in addition to the peace process, Indonesia was ready to cooperate with Afghanistan in other areas as well.

This trip is part of President Widodo’s trips to the Asian countries. A few days earlier, he had visited Pakistan, where he met his Pakistani counterpart Mamnoon Hussain and proposed the formation of a joint committee of Afghan, Pakistani, and Indonesian Ulama so that peace could be maintained in Afghanistan.

All these come at a time that the insecurities in Afghanistan are escalating and only in the past two weeks, three bloody attacks were carried out in Kabul city, which left more than 400 killed and injured.

Here you would read about the bilateral relations between Afghanistan and Indonesia, the recent trip of the Indonesian President to Kabul, and this country’s role in the Afghan peace process.


The Kabul-Jakarta bilateral relations

Relations between Afghanistan and Indonesia dates back to about half a century ago. Afghanistan was one of the first countries that recognized Indonesia in 1949, after the end of the Indonesian revolution. The diplomatic relations between the two countries officially started in 1954. In this year, the Afghan Embassy in Jakarta was opened and one year later a Friendship Agreement was signed between the two countries on 24 April 1955. Sukarno was the first Indonesian President to visit Afghanistan (1961).

During the Cold War, the two countries continued to have good relations, the main reason behind which was the beginning of the Non-Alignment movement, in which both Afghanistan and Indonesia were members. When Afghanistan was occupied by the Soviet Union (1979-1989), as a reaction, Indonesia did not participate in 1980 Olympic Games, held in Russia. In addition, the Indonesian Muslims provided many contributions to the Afghan Mujahedin. Nonetheless, After the Afghan Jihad and during the civil war in the country, relations between Kabul and Jakarta began to deteriorate.   

After the collapse of the Taliban regime, the ties between the two countries improved once again, and this country supported the Afghan government and people in various areas. During his second term as the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai traveled to Indonesia in November 2012. In this trip, in addition to participating in the fifth Bali Democracy Forum (BDF), the Afghan President also signed two agreements with the Indonesian officials, one of which paved the way for the political, trade, and cultural cooperation between the two countries and the other approved visa free travels for those who had political passports as well as bilateral services and consultations.

After the formation of the National Unity Government (NUG), these relations improved even more. On 5 April 2017, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani visited Jakarta, where he was warmly welcomed by his Indonesian counterpart. In this trip, six agreements of cooperation in areas of education, agriculture, statistics, reforms and civil services, science, and technology was signed. During his meeting with the Afghan President, the Indonesian President showed preparedness for any kind of cooperation in the Afghan peace process and announced 100 educational scholarships for Afghan students. After this trip of President Ghani, the Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs came to Kabul and met the Afghan officials. However, despite all these, trade between these two countries have not expanded and still the value of trade between Kabul and Jakarta is only $16m a year.


The recent trip of Widodo to Kabul and Islamabad

Widodo visits Kabul and Islamabad at a time that on the one hand, tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan have escalated and, on the other hand, the Afghan peace process is in a deadlock, due to these tenuous relations.

One week ago (26 January 2018), President Widodo visited Pakistan and in his meeting with the Pakistani officials discussed the regional issues, the situation in Afghanistan, and ending the war in Afghanistan. During this trip, the Pakistani officials accepted Indonesia’s proposal about establishing a joint committee of the Ulema of the three countries. However, while the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) welcomed this proposal, the Afghan government is yet to comment about it.

During his visit to Kabul, the Indonesian President reiterated on the cooperation of his respective country in the Afghan peace process. Another importance of Widodo’s visit to Afghanistan is also because it is the second time since 1961 that an Indonesian President visits Afghanistan.

In the meeting between the Afghan and Indonesian Presidents, President Ghani called Indonesia as the most populated and the largest Islamic country and said that this country was one of the important Asian economic powers and that its role among the Islamic countries was unique.


Indonesia’s role in the Afghan Peace Process

The NUG’s peace strategy is rather foreign policy centered. Many travels were done and meetings were held in this regard. However, none of these efforts have entailed any desiring and tangible outcomes.

Among the five circles of the Afghan President’s foreign policy, Indonesia is located in the second (the Islamic countries). During the NUG, the Kabul-Jakarta ties improved more than ever and the NUG seeks to attract Indonesia’s support in the Afghan peace process. That is why, two months ago, after President Ghani’s travel to Indonesia, Head of HPC Mohammad Karim Khalili and some members of this council visited Jakarta and during this trip, the Indonesian President Jako Widodo assured the Afghan delegation that his respective country will take part in the efforts towards maintaining peace in Afghanistan.

Although Indonesia have a similar experience of the war and instability as Afghanistan and, therefore, can help Afghanistan in areas of peace and stability, due to the following reasons, this county’s cooperation in the peace process will not have a major impact in the Afghan peace process:

First; the current war in Afghanistan was started by the US and NATO in 2001 apparently to suppress the Al-Qaeda Network and the Taliban. Nevertheless, the US was pursuing its long-term goals in the region. According to the analysis of the some analysts, the US’s goal in the region is to encircle its rivals, Russia and China. Therefore, the Afghan war has foreign factors behind it and it will continue as long as foreigners are present in Afghanistan.  

Second; after dozens of years of war in Indonesia, this country achieved peace through negotiations and political agreement and not through war and military force. Therefore, the only way to end the war in Afghanistan is also the intra-Afghan reconciliation; whereas, the US and Afghan strategy in Afghanistan is based on war and military option, as recently the peace talks were boycotted first by the US and then by the Afghan government.

Third; Afghanistan’s effort to attract Indonesia’s support in the Afghan peace process, pressure on Pakistan, and holding a meeting of the Ulemas of the three countries to issue a Fatwa against the war in Afghanistan are at a time that on the one hand, the Indonesian Ulema do not have an influence over the Afghan government’s armed opposition and on the other hand, it does not seem likely through such Fatwas and condemnations the Afghan war will end. Moreover, the Afghan government is not engaged only with the Taliban; as based on the remarks of the Afghan President, many groups fight in Afghanistan, which indicates the complication of the war in Afghanistan.

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Publications » Weekly Analysis

Weekly Analysis – Issue Number 237 (January 20-27, 2018)

Published Date: January 27, 2018


 In this issue:


The Regional Geopolitical Developments and Afghanistan

The geopolitical situation in the region

Afghanistan’s stance

What should Afghanistan do?

The Report of the Seminar on “Sino-Afghan Bilateral Ties”

Dr. Abdul Baqi Amin

Mr. Zhang Zhixin

Abdul Karim Khoram

Sultan Ahmad Baheen

Ahmad Bilal Khalil



Weekly Analysis-237

Events & Updates

The Report of the Seminar on “Sino-Afghan Bilateral Ties”

Published Date: January 27, 2018


The bilateral relations between Afghanistan and China and China’s role in the regional geopolitical changes were discussed in a seminar, held by the Center for Strategic and Regional Studies (CSRS) in Kabul.

In this conference, held on Saturday 20 January 2018, some Afghan and Chinese experts and researchers, political figures, the former and current government officials, the representatives of the media and hundreds of other people had participated.

The General Director of CSRS Dr. Abdul Baqi Amin, the Deputy Ambassador of China to Afghanistan Mr. Zhang Zhixin, the former Afghan Minister and the former President’s Chief of Staff Abdul Karim Khoram, and the former Afghan Ambassador to China Sultan Ahmad Baheen delivered their speech in the conference.

Besides the remarks of the Afghan and Chinese academics, a book about the Sino-Afghan relations, authored by the CSRS’s analyst Ahmad Bilal Khalil and published by CSRS, was also introduced.


Dr. Abdul Baqi Amin

Opening the event by his speech, the General Director of CSRS Dr. Abdul Baqi Amin pointed out the importance of the bilateral relations between Kabul and Beijing and said: “Both countries need each other; however, Afghanistan has more needs than China.”

Mr. Amin said that a country’s geopolitical importance becomes apparent when the powerful countries of the world seek to achieve their goals and interests through the political geography of that particular country and that since Afghanistan had a geopolitical importance and location, the super powers of the world had always paid attention to Afghanistan throughout the history.

“Unfortunately, the history gives testimony that this geopolitical location has not produced any gain for Afghanistan because Afghans have failed to use the politics of the super powers in their own interests. Therefore, this geopolitical importance and location will be beneficial for Afghanistan only when the interests of the great countries of the world are in line with the national interests of Afghanistan,” added Mr. Amin.

According to Mr. Amin, this is the responsibility of the Afghan government to, somehow, establish relation between the rivalries of the countries in the region and the national interest of the country and the Afghan government should not allow Afghanistan to turn into the battlefield for the proxy wars of the regional and international players.

“Among the neighbors of Afghanistan, China is currently an economic and military power and Afghans see this country as a partner country because this country has never been involved in a negative practice towards Afghanistan throughout the history,” he said.

Mr. Amin said that China was important for Afghanistan and that Afghanistan needed China in various areas. He stated that China could play a significant role in Russian-American, Pak-Afghan, and intra-Afghan relations towards bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan. Moreover, he said that Afghanistan needed China in areas of agriculture, industry, and comprehensive development. On the other hand, the security and stability of Afghanistan has a great value for China and, in the meanwhile, the untapped resources of Afghanistan is an opportunity for China to prosper its economy. Therefore, he added that China was important for Afghanistan and Afghanistan was important for China.


Mr. Zhang Zhixin

In his remarks in the conference, the Deputy Ambassador of China to Afghanistan Mr. Zhang Zhixin called Afghanistan and China as two neighbors and partners and said: “Today is the 63 anniversary of Afghan-Chinese relations and, therefore, this is a very particular moment and convening this conference in such a day has a particular importance.”

Mr. Zhang Zhixin said that the two countries had had close and historical relations throughout the history starting from the times of Silk Road. He added that in the past two thousand years, the region had witnessed a lot of changes, the only thing unchanged was the strong friendship between Afghans and Chinese. 

Mr. Zhang added that in the 19th congress of the Chinese Communist party in Beijing, new changes had been brought regarding the friendship between Afghanistan and China and this friendship entered a new phase.

Mentioning the bilateral relations between the two countries in the past three years, he said: “The Chinese President Chi Jinping and the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani have met thrice. In addition, the Afghan Chief Executive has also had several meetings with several Chines senior officials, which shows the direction of the bilateral relations.”

“In the past several years, the exchange of opinions between Afghans and Chinese and numerous trips of the Afghan senior officials to China was unprecedented. Moreover, the trilateral meeting between the foreign ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China was successfully held in Beijing, which discussed the trilateral relations. China has always supported a peace process led and owned by Afghans and want Afghanistan’s relations with its neighbors to be strengthened. Therefore, based on this mechanism, we continue our cooperation with Afghanistan,” he said.

He also added: “We support Afghanistan’s economic integration in the region and together with other countries, we will try to change Afghanistan to the center of regional cooperation between the countries of the region and the world.”

He expressed hope that the bilateral ties between the two countries would strengthen in the future and that in this regard the “One belt- one road” project was very important.

He also mentioned China’s contributions to Afghanistan and said that besides the areas of economy and science, China wanted to help Afghanistan in areas of military and building military capacity as well so that the region could become secure and stable.


Abdul Karim Khoram

The former Afghan Minister of Culture and Information and the former President’s Chief of Staff Abdul Karim Khuram discussed the Sino-Afghan relations considering the geopolitical situation in the region.

Mr. Khoram said: “In the Western world, the fear of China’s changing into a super power of the world that could alter the politics of the world had existed for very long. Today China is changed to that political and economic power. This country is Afghanistan’s neighbor and until now it has, in no way, inflicted detriment to Afghanistan.”

Pointing out the geopolitical changes in the world, he said: “After the Cold War, the axes of international relations and the center of the political relations have shifted from Europe to Asia, where China and India are the main players.”

“China and India are the most populated countries of the world and their economies are growing very fast. That is why their need for energy has also increased. A great part of China’s development element (energy) is provided by the Middle East, while the Middle East and the ways through which energy comes to China have altered to the center of crisis and Afghanistan is located between China and the Middle East. On the other hand, obstacles are being created on the ways of China’s energy supplies through ocean. Therefore, China is working to find alternative ways such as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Currently, China is the Second Economic power of the world and it will probably become the first very soon, something that can attract the US’s attention.” Khuram said.

Mr. Abdul Karim Khuram said that during the Cold War, Pakistan cooperated with all countries including the US but now Pakistan’s cooperation with the US, which wants war and security instability in Afghanistan, is against the interests of China. The US’s tensions with Pakistan is not due to the insecurities in Afghanistan but rather due to Pakistan’s partnership with China because the main reason behind the US’s presence in Afghanistan is to restrict China, according to Khuram.

Mr. Khuram said that Afghanistan’s stability was in the interest of China and that this country had made some efforts to achieve this end in the past and now as well, as China has recently started to establish a military base in Badakhshan; however, these efforts, the same as quadrilateral meetings, would not led to the desiring outcomes because the US was clearly saying that its main rivals were China and Russia. Khuram added that the Americans had written in their defensive strategy that their main focus would be on struggle against the great powers and, therefore, Afghanistan’s instability because of China was in the interest of the US.

According to Mr. Khuram, the only solution was to redefine Afghanistan’s relations with the US and the US should be hold accountable regarding the fight against terrorism at international level and that a government had to come in Afghanistan that should decide based on the interest of the country instead of blindingly following the US.


Sultan Ahmad Baheen

The former Afghan Ambassador to China Sultan Ahmad Baheen also delivered his speech about China’s role in the geopolitical changes in the region and the Afghan-Sino bilateral relations. With the economic and military power that it possess, he said, China wants to determine the world order where all nations would be engaged equally.

Mr. Baheen said: “There exist two economic zone in Asia; the South Asia and the Middle East. Afghanistan is located in the cross point of North and East, which we know as the heart of Asia. Therefore, Afghanistan’s importance is not due to its resources but rather due to its geopolitical location. As we were a cross road for the world conquerors in the past, now we could be a cross road and the path for economic cooperation between the powers of the North and South. If Afghanistan could manage these rivalries and specify the legal interest of the countries, it would be able to use its geopolitical location to its own benefit.”

“Whenever Afghanistan has been impartial, it has been in peace and whenever it has chosen a side, problems have increased in this country. Today, once again, Afghanistan must be able to create a situation where the super powers could cooperate with each other because Afghanistan is the only country that is not included in the regional tensions. Thus, Afghanistan can be transformed into a center of cooperation.” Said Mr. Baheen.

According to Mr. Baheen China is the only power in the region that has never had any problem with Afghanistan. “The Afghan-Sino relations are of great importance. The former Afghan President had attached great importance to China and the current Afghan President started his foreign visits from this country. Therefore, we have the best strategic relations and we see China as a partner, neighbor, and cooperator country and a country that could maintain the regional and international balance in Afghanistan.” He said


Ahmad Bilal Khalil

CSRS’s researcher and the author of the book “the bilateral relations between Afghanistan and China” Ahmad Bilal Khalil introduced the book through a presentation and talked about research methodology, the importance, and contents of the book.

According to Mr. Khalil, International developments and changes, China’s economic projects in the region, China’s increasing role in Afghanistan, and the need to filling the academic gap in this area were the factors for which he had decided to write this book.

He said that the importance of this book was rather because it had historically evaluated the Afghan-Chinese relations in the past six decades and that this book included a detailed description about the interests and foreign policies of both countries in dealing with each other in the past one and half decade.

He added that in writing the book, he had rather focused on historical and qualitative research methodology and mostly had used the archive documents and some historical books regarding the issue. He also said that he had used the discussions during meetings with Chinese experts, interviews, and analysis of the events.

“In the first chapter of this book, the historical relations between the two countries are discussed, in the second chapter, the bilateral relations between 1955 and 2001 are explored, the third chapter talks about the ties between Kabul and Beijing between 2001 and 2015. In the fourth chapter, China’s interests, concerns, and foreign policy in Afghanistan are analyzed. In the fifth chapter, the Afghan foreign policy towards China and Afghanistan’s interest in China is elaborated. And finally in the last chapter, a summary of research, conclusion, and recommendations are included.” Explained Mr. Khalil.

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Global issues & Politics » Region & World

The BRICS declaration and its impacts on the region

Published Date: September 16, 2017


In the declaration of its recent summit on September 11, BRICS, which is an organization of five powerful countries, condemned the activities of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Haqqani Network, ISIS, Lashkar-e-Tayiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Jamaat ul-Ahrar, and some other armed groups in the region and particularly in Afghanistan.

Most importantly, in this declaration the phrase terrorist groups “within Pakistan” was mentioned, something that sparked Pakistan’s reaction. Pakistan rejected the declaration of BRICS while its strategic partner China is one of its signators.

When was BRICS established and why? What was the contents of the Xiamen declaration of BRICS and what is its impacts on the region? These and other similar questions are analyzed here.


Introduction of BRICS

The scheme of BRIC organization was first brought by the then-chairman of Goldman Sachs Company Jim O’Neill in 2001 in one of his pieces. At first, this organization had four members; B-Brazil, R-Russia, I-India, C-China (BRIC). In 2010 South Africa also joined this organization and, thus, the organization was called BRICS.

The five BRICS countries represent 41% of the world population, have 22% of gross world product, controls 27% of the land on Earth, has 50% of world’s economic growth, the value of its vote in the World Bank is 13.24%, and their share in IMF is 15%.


The Xiamen declaration of BRICS and reactions

The presidents of the three member countries and Prime Minister of the two member countries had participated in the 9th summit of BRICS held in Xiamen, China. Although the organization organizes meetings and issues statements and declaration every year, the importance of its recent declaration is due to its indication of “terrorism” in the region as well as the security situation in Afghanistan and the region.

For instance, BRICS condemned the violence of armed groups particularly the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Haqqani Network, ISIS, and some other groups in Afghanistan. That is why they also announced their support from the Afghan security forces. Moreover, the declaration has also pointed out groups in Pakistan that had threatened the security of the region. Besides the Taliban and Haqqani Network, the declaration also named Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Tayiba as well. It is certainly a backing of Afghan and Indian stances. That is why both Afghanistan and India have welcomed the BRICS declaration and have said that it was a historic declaration.

On the other hand, Pakistan has rejected the declaration. From Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to its Ministry of Defense, many officials have commented on the issue. According to the official stance of Pakistan, it is Afghanistan that has endangered the security of the region because they say that the Afghan forces do not have control over 55% of their territory. In addition, as before, Islamabad has also played the card of sympathy saying that it is Pakistan which is the victim of “terrorism” and not others.


Why is the recent BRICS declaration surprising?

Currently, our region is witnessing interesting geopolitical changes. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which is a security and economic organization, is now gradually adopting cultural aspects; the SCO Youth Camp is a proof of the fact. Moreover, BRICS, which is largely an economic forum, is gradually paying attention to the security aspects of the region. In the Xiamen declaration of BRICS, the security part was astonishing for everyone because:

First, for the first time China did not support the Pakistani stance regarding terrorism and the presence of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Haqqani Network in Pakistan, but quite contrarily indirectly supported Afghanistan and India’s position.

Second, for the first time, China named the anti-Indian terrorist groups in Pakistan as “terrorists” and expressed concern about their existence. It occurs at time that in the past 18 months, China has repeatedly blocked the Indian initiative to include the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad in the terrorist-list of the UN.

Third, despite the closing relations of Pakistan with China and Russia, Beijing and Moscow supported such a declaration, which was unexpected.

Fourth, the declaration was surprising also because some of its contents was for a long time the main lines of the Afghan and India foreign policies. Therefore, this declaration may be an indication of the triumph of Afghan and Indian diplomacy.


The impacts of the declaration of BRICS on the region

The Xiamen declaration of BRICS could have impacts on the region in the following aspects:

First; the Pakistan-China relations: since the past several years, China pressurizes Pakistan in official meetings to end its policy of using armed groups as instruments to further its foreign policy goals. These pressures were to a greater part hidden from the eyes of the public and cameras of the media. It is the first time that China publicly expresses its disgust regarding this policy of Pakistan. Despite all these developments, it does not mean that the Chinese-Pakistani relations are deteriorating, but China is putting pressures on Pakistan for the security of its major regional economic projects while Pakistan is no longer a strategic partner of the US.

Second, Afghanistan: since ever the beginning of his tenure, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was seeking regional consensus against “terrorism”. To achieve this end, he traveled to many countries but did not get any positive response except from China. However, the recent declaration of BRICS revived Kabul’s hopes because, on the one hand, it recognized Pakistan as an engaged party in Afghanistan and, on the other hand, condemning the violence of armed groups pledged assistance with the Afghan security forces.

Third, India-China ties: since July 2017, violence between India and China has increased in Doklam, and since 1962 it is the first time that tensions on the borders between the two countries have escalated. However, one week before the summit of BRICS, the two countries reached an agreement and settled the dispute between themselves. This situation also played a role in drafting the recent declaration. In the current year, supporting Pakistan, China blocked Indian efforts twice; India’s membership in the NIG and recognition of the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad as a “terrorist” in the UN. However, the question is how much naming the Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Tayiba as terrorist groups in the BRICS declaration will affect the India-China relations.

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Afghanistan » Foreign Policy

The Pak-Afghan ties Since Torkham Incident

Published Date: August 8, 2016

The Kabul-Islamabad relation reached to its lowest ebb since the establishment of National Unity Government (NUG), and the trust deficit is dominant between the two countries. However, now Torkham gate is nearly completed by Pakistan, while the afghan government on terms it as a violation of bilateral agreements. Besides, the Afghan refugees are made target of the escalating tensions between the two countries. According to the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, more than 20 thousand Afghan refugees had been repatriated in the last one week. The Afghan refugees in Kurram agency have also been told to return within week.

On the other hand, Pakistani official have also made successive statements about the Afghan peace process in the last two weeks. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz Pakistan has recently said that the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban would start in a near future. In the meantime, the US Commander in Afghanistan General Nicholson, in his meeting with Pakistani Chief of Army Stuff General Rahil Sharif has also spoken to reinitiate the Afghan peace process. Besides that, a delegation from the Taliban’s political office in Qatar has also traveled to China and the Pakistani Chief of Army Stuff will also visit to china on official visit.

At the climax of bilateral mistrust and before revival of peace talks, building trust seems priority. The question is why has Kabul’s suspicion has augmented against Islamabad? How much effective was the Torkham incident in deteriorating the bilateral ties? What are the main problems in Pak-Afghan ties? And to which direction is the Kabul-Islamabad relations heading?


Clashes at Torkham border and the deepening trust deficit

Recent border clashes between the Afghan and Pakistani security forces in Turkham which lasted for several days was the first of its kind in the history of Pak-Afghan relations at Torkham border. The clashes not only deteriorated relations between the two governments but also sparked hatred in two nations against each other. This situation had influenced trade, transit, healthcare and soft power.

After the incident, the trade level between the two countries began to reduce, wheat import to Afghanistan was affected; the number of Afghan patients in Pakistan decreased; the Afghan businessmen focused on transit through Iran rather than Pakistan; and the hatred between the two nations increased which led to reduction of the number of Pakistani workers in Afghanistan and gradual repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan.

The border clashes have raised mistrust and removing the trust deficit seems difficult at present times. . This mistrust between the two countries is clearly apparent from the Afghan President’s interview with Salim Safi and also from the interview of the Pakistani Ambassador in Afghanistan Sayeed Abrar Hussain.


Change in Kabul’s policy towards Islamabad

After the formation of the NUG, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani came ahead with the risky policy of rapprochement towards Pakistan and gave unprecedented privileges to Pakistan. Some members of the Afghan Security forces was sent to Pakistan for training; the bilateral cooperation agreement was inked between ISI and the Afghan National Directorate of Security; the Afghan government distanced itself from India and the Afghan President did not travel to India even after seven months from the formation of the NUG; the demand for heavy weapons from India was postponed; the leader of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan Latifullah Mehsud was handed over to Pakistan (although it was the Americans who had captured Mehsud, but it was a decision merely made by the Afghan government to hand over him to Pakistan) and later the Afghan government participated in the Quadrilateral Peace Talks an initiative by the Pakistani government.

On the other hand, Pakistani Political and Military officials successively visited Afghanistan and each made promises about peace in Afghanistan but Pakistan in a greater part failed to fulfill these promises.

After the bloody explosions in Kabul the Afghan President’s rapprochement policy towards Pakistan was highly criticized by the Afghan media, members of the Afghan Parliament and former government officials and thus the Afghan government’s stance against Pakistan gradually changed.


The roots causes of Pak-Afghan tensions

The followings are the reasons behind the deteriorating Kabul-Islamabad relations under the NUG:

First: showing off more than capability; After the formation of the NUG the political and military officials of Pakistan either intensively did not fulfilled its promises or had promise more than what they can deliver. Leaving aside the question of whether Pakistan deliberately did not fulfill its promises or was unable to do so; Pakistan’s promises had increased hopes in Afghanistan and when these promises went unfulfilled the hopes were replaced by disappointment and mistrust.

Second: Security in Afghanistan; the increased insecurity was the main factor behind the tensions in bilateral relations between the two countries. Bilateral relation with Pakistan is directly related to security situation in Afghanistan; the more upheaval in insecurity the more tensions between the countries.

Third: the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan; the presence of the Taliban in Pakistan is another factor behind Kabul’s suspicion.

Fourth: the Durand line and border management; the Durand line has affected the bilateral relations more than any other issue so far. The border management program of the Pakistani military which the Afghan government believes that this program may be a part of the efforts toward recognition of Durand line and hence this border management program has recently raised tensions in bilateral relations. Moreover, due to border management program the security forces of the two countries were engaged in armed conflict with each other at Torkham gate.

Fifth: Indian Influence in Afghanistan; India’s influence in Afghanistan has also deeply affected Afghan-Pak relations and this factor is the main element of Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan.

Sixth: instability in Pakistan’s policies; although Pakistani senior officials and Pakistani Ambassador in Afghanistan Sayeed Abrar Hussian criticizes the Afghan official by saying that the Afghan government’s stance regarding the Taliban is unclear; because from the one hand, the Afghan government demands peace talks with the Taliban and on the other hand, it urges Pakistan to conduct military operations against the Taliban. However a closer look into the Kabul-Islamabad bilateral relations in the past several years narrates that the unstable policy of the Pakistan towards Afghanistan. Pakistani government and military wants to maintain balance between the Afghan government and the Taliban and has lost its way to help whom? Taliban or the Afghan government?. On the one hand, if they wants to pressurize the Taliban to satisfy the Afghan government,on the other hand, they are afraid of the Afghan Taliban’s harsh response and are concerned that enmity with the Taliban would in the short run result in diminishing their influence over the group and in the long run would reduce their influence in the future Afghan government, if Taliban are a part of it.


The direction of Pak-Afghan relations

Currently the distrust atmosphere is dominant not only between the two governments but also between the two nations across the Durand line. Given the statement of the Afghan senior officials it seems that neither the Afghan government would participate in the Quadrilateral Peace Talk nor would it make effort to improve relations with Pakistan.

The deteriorated bilateral relations can only improve either by the efforts of Pakistan or a third party – such as China. China’s role seems to be effective in the issue because now not only China is interested in stability and security in Afghanistan but also it sees the improved Pak-Afghan relations are in its interest.

The end

Afghanistan » Foreign Policy » Peace

The rising tensions between Kabul-Islamabad and the future of QCG

Published Date: May 1, 2016

Following the ups and downs of bilateral relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, once again these relations have reached its most tenuous phase.

After the bloody explosion in Kabul, the Afghan President said that he does not expect Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table. He also added that in Quadrilateral Talks, Pakistan had pledged in writing to go after those Taliban who refused to join the Peace Process.

Before this, the Kabul-Islamabad relations were deteriorated when a similar explosion occurred in Shah-Shaheed, Kabul. At that time too, Ghani accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban and said that he does not trust Pakistan. But the question is what the direction of bilateral Pak-Afghan relations is?


The NUG and ups and downs in Kabul-Islamabad ties

After the formation of the National Unity Government (NUG), unlike his predecessor Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani adopted a policy of rapprochement towards Pakistan. He granted privileges to Pakistan and tried to reduce Pakistani concerns, and hence distance itself from India.

The main issue in new Kabul-Islamabad relations was “peace in Afghanistan”. In this regard Pakistan made many promises to Afghanistan; the senior officials of the two countries paid mutual visits to both countries and thus the hopes for peace in Afghanistan increased. But after several months of warm relations between the two countries, when security situation in Afghanistan was deteriorated and, moreover, Pakistan did not fulfill its promises to bring Taliban to the negotiation table in March 2015, and for the first time the Pak-Afghan relations started to change since the formation of the NUG.

Hence, after March 2015, the NUG changed its policy towards Pakistan, and tried to improve its relations with India. In March and April 2015, Abdullah and Ghani visited India one after another. Thus, Pakistan came under more pressure than before. Therefore, with the initiative of Pakistan and at the presence of Pakistani intelligence a meeting was held between Masoom Stanekzai Chairman of the High Peace Council Secretariat and some members of the Taliban in Urumqi, China; but the Taliban denied their participation in this meeting.

In July 2015, Pakistan for the first time became able to bring the Taliban to face to face talks with the Afghan government in Murree; but these talks became stalled with the disclosure of the death of Mullah Mohammad Omar. Later, a new wave of insecurity and instability began in Afghanistan. Kunduz came under Taliban control for two weeks and Kabul [1]and some other provinces witnessed many deadly explosions. Thus bilateral Pak-Afghan relations were deteriorated after one year of the NUG’s formation.

After the efforts made by China, United States and United Nations to improve bilateral relations between the two countries and the visit of Pakistani Pashtun parties’ leaders, the Afghan President met Nawaz Sharif Pakistani Prime Minister at the sideline of the Climate Change Conference in Paris. In this meeting, Nawaz Sharif proposed quadrilateral peace talks between Afghanistan-Pakistan-China-US, which Ghani accepted.

In December 2015, Ashraf Ghani traveled to Islamabad to participate in the Heart of Asia Conference and at the sidelines of this conference quadrilateral meeting between Afghanistan- Pakistan-China-US was also held. In this meeting the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) was formed to facilitate the negotiations.

Although four meeting of QCG is held in Kabul and Islamabad, but the Taliban has refused to participate in these talks. Refusal of participation in these talks by the Taliban made Afghanistan suspicious to the intentions of Pakistan. But after recent explosion in Kabul, the relations are more tenuous than ever.


Kabul’s recent stance against Islamabad

Since the beginning of the Quadrilateral Peace Talks, Pakistan has frequently failed to fulfill its promises to bring the Taliban to negotiation table. At the beginning of 1395, after the intensification of war by the Taliban, the Afghan government lost hope in Quadrilateral Peace Talks. It is why, a day before the explosion in Kabul, Ashraf Ghani had stated that he has boycotted quadrilateral peace talks[2].

On April 19, 2016, a massive explosion occurred in Kabul and Taliban claimed responsibility for that. According to the statistics of the Afghan government this explosion left 64 dead and 347 injured. In response to this explosion Ashraf Ghani adopted a harsh position against Pakistan and said that he no longer trusts Pakistan. ‘We do not expect Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table, but we want Pakistan to honor its commitments based on the four nation’s agreement’, said Ashraf Ghani in a joint session of both houses of the National Assembly on April 25. He further added, ‘Pakistan should no longer continue the good and bad terrorist policy, and have to act as a responsible state and in this regard, the world is with us’. He warned that if Pakistan did not change its policy, the Afghan government will complain to the Security Council of the United Nations, International Institution and international community[3].

On the other hand, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah postponed his trip to Pakistan after the Kabul explosion and thus somehow blamed Pakistan for it[4]. Postponement of this trip deteriorated the bilateral relations even more. This trip was the only opportunity that could decrease the mistrust in the relations between the both countries.


Pakistan’s stance

Pakistani Foreign Ministry rejected recent remarks of Ashraf Ghani about Pakistan and in response to the new stance of Afghanistan it has announced that bringing Taliban to the negotiation table is not solely the responsibility of Pakistan.

On the other hand, following the intensification of Kabul-Islamabad relations, military of Pakistan has once again began their rocket attacks on Lalpoor and Goshta districts of Nangarhar province. The Afghan Foreign Ministry summoned Pakistani Ambassador for clarification[5]. According to reports, in these rocket attacks, one Afghan border police is dead and two other are injured.


The future of Peace and Quadrilateral Talks

After deterioration of relations between the two countries, now the future of peace seems dark. Although failure in the Quadrilateral negotiation is the main reason behind the deterioration of relations between the two countries, but Pakistani officials are still talking about the initiation of these talks in near future.

On April 25, the Afghan Refugees and Repatriation Minister visited Pakistan as a result of an official invitation by Pakistan; the main reason of his trip was to register unregistered Afghan migrants and to extend the validation date of migration IDs of registered Afghan migrants[6]. According to the Refugees and Repatriation Minister, Sartaj Aziz the Advisor to Pakistani Prime Minister has assured him of reinitiating peace talks.

On the other hand, Sartaj Aziz Pakistani National Security Advisor met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. In this meeting the both sides agreed to establish close cooperation to maintain peace and security in Afghanistan to expand the activities of the QCG[7].

The Afghan National Security Advisor also visited China on April 17, 2016, although expansion of military and economic ties are said to be the main purpose of this visit but it seems that Afghanistan is trying to pressurize Pakistan through China for one last time.

On the other hand, the sixth session of Senior Officials Meeting of Heart of Asia conference was held under Istanbul Process on April 26, 2016, in New Delhi where the Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai and Pakistani Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Ahmad Chaudhari had also participated.

Referring to the recent incident in Kabul, Hekmat Khalil Karzai said in his speech that, peace efforts will not have specific conclusions unless the support for terrorism is stopped. About the quadrilateral negotiation he said the overarching goal of this process was face to face talks with the Taliban and according to the agreement of these talks if the Taliban were not prepared to negotiate then necessary measures will be taken against them. But Pakistani Deputy Foreign Minister stressed on shared commitments of all parties of quadrilateral peace talks in order to initiate peace talks[8].

According to the reports, a delegation of senior officials of the Qatar Office of the Taliban has arrived to Pakistan. It is said that Shahabuddin Delawar, Jan Mohammad Madani and Mullah Abas Stanekzai are the members of this delegation. Media has quoted the Statement of the Taliban that the purpose of this trip is solving the problems of the Afghan Migrants in Pakistan, border issues and negotiations about releasing the Taliban prisoners from Pakistani prisons[9]; but some international and Pakistan Medias have released news that beside Pakistani Officials this delegation would also meet the representatives of China. If it is true, then in current situation China would be the last hope to initiate peace talks.

The end

[1] For instance on August 9, 2015, an explosion happened in Shah Shaheed area of Kabul which had vast financial damages and casualties. Although nobody claimed responsibility for the explosion but it highly impacted Kabul-Islamabad relations.

[2] http://csrskabul.com/pa/?p=2402

[3] http://president.gov.af/ps/news/76964

[4] http://ceo.gov.af/fa/news/59339


[6] http://morr.gov.af/fa/news/60726

[7] http://www.mofa.gov.pk/pr-details.php?mm=MzY4MQ,,

[8] http://www.mofa.gov.pk/pr-details.php?mm=MzY4Mg,,

[9] http://www.voanews.com/content/afghan-taliban-confirms-delegation-visiting-pakistan/3304525.html

Afghanistan » Economy

The Situation of Water: The Challenges and Opportunities

Published Date: March 13, 2016

The Afghan Media have recently released news which shows that Afghanistan uses 25% of its water resources and rest of the remaining waters either goes to the neighboring countries or is being wasted inside the country.

In recent years, the rainfall is decreasing and drought also threatens the country, thus the agricultural products have suffered vastly. But, yet, there is enough water in the country which is currently flowing to the neighboring countries.

Although the country has the capacity to build power dams and can produce more power than it needs, but, in this regard, no fundamental work has been done yet. Thus after each year, the country loses the opportunities to use its water resources; still no measures are taken to control water resources in the country. Water resources in Afghanistan, the challenges and the opportunities are the issues which we have tried to analyze in this part of the weekly analysis.

Water resources in Afghanistan

In international politics, water can be the reason behind friendship and cooperation among nations; but, in the meanwhile, it can also be a reason behind enmity and confrontation. According to the statistics of the United Nations, from 1.4 billion cubic kilo meters (Km3) of water in the world only two hundred thousand Km3 is available to be used by human beings; thus besides the energy and food , water security is a very significant issue in the foreign policy of the countries.

Waters in Afghanistan flow in the following basins:

  1. The Amu Darya river basin
  2. The Helmand river basin
  3. The Kabul (Indus) river basin
  4. The Harirod-Morghab river basin
  5. The Northern river basin

Afghanistan is a mountainous and landlocked country and has common water with five of its six neighbors. In the Amu river basin, Afghanistan has common waters with Tajikistan which then flows into Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan; in the Harirod-Morghab basin, Turkmenistan and Iran; in the Helmand river basin Iran; and in the Kabul river basin Pakistan have common waters with Afghanistan. [1]

Today water scarcity has grown into a major issue in the world. There are two types of water scarcity; first; physical water scarcity which in this case there is not enough water in a place; second; economical water scarcity which is the lack of the access to water due to the economic problems. According to the international statistics, Afghanistan is suffering from both physical and economic water scarcity. According to a survey in urban areas, 78% of the Afghans have access to potable water and this percentage is 39% in the rural areas but overall 48% of the Afghans have access to the safe drinking water which compared to other countries in the world shows a very low percentage[2].

Water related problems in Afghanistan

Although the water related problems in Afghanistan is a vast issue; we will briefly study them in three parts:

  1. Lack of legal water sharing agreements with neighboring countries

Afghanistan has signed water sharing agreement with only one of its neighbors which was then inked between the Afghan Prime Minister Mosa Shafiq and the Pahlavi king of Iran on sharing the Helmand river waters.

The lack of water sharing agreements with neighboring countries will face the country with major problems ahead, because, whenever the Afghan government wants to build dams on its rivers, neighbors will be there to respond[3]. But after signing water sharing agreements with the neighboring countries, these waters will improve relations with the neighboring countries rather than deteriorating these relations.

  1. Lack of Water Management

The lack of water management is a basic problem that can cause crisis in the future. Some statistics show that Northern basin lacks water (it only provides 676m3 waters for every individual annually) while there is enough water in the Amu and Kabul basins. Thus there is no balance between the population and water resources in the country. On the other hand there are different amounts of rainfall in each season and it is needed to reserve water in the seasons with large amount of rainfall in order to be used in low-water seasons. This problem can be resolved with building dams which will also prevent floods and damages caused by it.

  1. Water pollution

However water pollution is not raised as a fundamental problem in Afghanistan but from a health point of view it is starting to change into a serious problem; as from June 2009 to July 2010, about 20 people died as a result of drinking polluted water in five villages of Samangan province (Hassan Khiel, Kachanhali Bala, Kachanhali Payeen, Dalkhani and Larghan) [4].

The factors behind improper utilization of waters

The main reasons why Afghanistan has not used its water resources or lack water management are as follows:

First: Since water is freely available in all parts of the country and there is a very low level of public awareness about the role and significance of water among the people; they do not know the significance of water in the economic development.

Second: due to the prolonged war no infrastructural project was implemented to use water supplies in the country.

Third: In this regard there is no central decision making administration and the decisions are made by various administrations such as the Ministries of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Agriculture, Urban Development, Water and Energy and Municipality therefore every administrations implement their own separate policies.

Fourth: lack of a common view in the decision making administrations, mismanagement and lack of a master plan to use water resources nationwide.

Fifth: sabotage in the fields of financial support, design and construction of the water related projects by the neighboring countries.

Sixth: passivity and disorganization of the High Council of Energy and Water which is the coordinating and decision making administration in water related issues[5].

The Energy Situation

Afghanistan spends tens of millions of dollars annually to import electricity from the neighboring countries which has unpleasant impacts on the total trade of the country.

According to the Afghan Ministry of Energy and Water, Afghanistan needs 3000 megawatt electricity annually 6% of which is generated inside the country and rest of the remaining is being imported from Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Iran. Uzbekistan is the largest exporter of electricity to Afghanistan which provides 55% of Afghanistan’s needed electricity meanwhile Afghanistan imports 22% of its needed electricity from Iran, 16% from Turkmenistan and 7% from Tajikistan[6].

Kabul has a population of more than six million people which forms 20% of all the population in the country. On the other hand there are more factory and industries in this city than other cities in the country. Therefore; from all 3000 megawatts of electricity which is needed in all over the country, Kabul needs 530 megawatts of it. More than 260 of the needed electricity to the Kabul city is being imported from neighboring countries and passes through Salang where it can easily be disconnected due to the natural accidents or any other problems.

Overall, only 19% of the needed electricity in Afghanistan is generated inside the country which is mostly hydropower and a very small amount of it is solar and thermal energy; the remaining 81% is imported electricity from neighboring countries. On the other hand 70% of the Afghans have not access to electricity while the remaining 30% have relatively access to electricity meaning that they do not have 24 hours of electricity[7]. The current status of the electricity is worthy of considering because the country have the potential to generate 22 Giga watts of electricity which is much more that the amount of electricity that country needs.

The End

[1] the CSRS’s 107th issue of weekly analysis (Water management; the challenges and power potentials)

[2] Read more at:


[3] We have witnessed the various reactions of Iran about Salma Dam and the reaction of Pakistan about Kunar Dam.

[4] See the research of IWPR:


[5] Read the 62th issue of the Centre for Strategic and Regional Studies (the decision of building the Dasu Dam in Pakistan and the need to complaining reaction of Afghanistan)

[6] See the link bellow:


[7] the seminar on the energy sectors of Afghanistan, potentials, current status and the future by the CSRS online:


Afghanistan » Peace

Direct talks with the Taliban: The Past and the Future

Published Date: February 28, 2016

The fourth quadrilateral meeting was convened in Kabul. According to the joint press release of this meeting, the face-to-face talks with the Taliban will commence in the first week of March in Islamabad.

Prior to this, in the third meeting, the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) had decided to start direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban at the end of February; however, it is not yet clear why these talks have not started while the month is almost ended.

Recent decisions about direct talks come at a time when the Pakistani Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif talked about the Afghan peace process with senior Qatari officials during his one day visit to Qatar which took place two days before the fourth quadrilateral talks.

The background and importance of direct talks with the Taliban, and the possibility of holding these talks in March are the issues that will be analyzed here.

Significance of direct talks in the Afghan peace process

Whether there were conflicts between foreigners and the internal parties, or internal forces that were involved in armed conflict with each other; the conflicts were being resolved through face to face talks almost in every country; thus, one can conclude that only direct talks would put an end to conflicts. For instance, the “Paris Peace Agreement” which was made between the governments of the Northern Vietnam and Southern Vietnam, the U.S and Provisional Revolutionary Government of Vietnam brought the “Vietnam War” to an end.

It goes the same way in Afghanistan, the entire peace efforts that have not contained direct talks were either fruitless or had negative consequences. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Geneva Conference was convened, but due to the lack of direct talks with the real sides of the war, it had unwanted outcomes and became one of the factors behind the “Afghan Civil War”.

The direct talks will also make the country to get even closer to security, peace and prosperity. However, it is important that these talks should take place with the real parties of the war and it should not be due to the pressure.

The background of direct peace talks

The face to face talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban first happened during Hamid Karzai era and were mostly carried out with the Taliban individually; Mullah Baradar, Mullah Motasim Agha Jan and some other Taliban were among them.

The Muree talks were held in Islamabad between the Afghan government and the representatives of the Taliban that were really representing them and were ready to set around the negotiation table with the Afghan government. The talks were held after the Afghan government’s outreach to Pakistan for its peace process and when Pakistan was under pressure due to the promise of Raheel Sharif about bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiation table in March 2015. Therefore, the way was paved for the Murree talks to be commenced in June 2015, but it came to a halt after the disclosure of the death of Mullah Mohammad Omar.

After the Murree talks came to a halt and the regional and international efforts for Afghan peace process began, Quadrilateral peace talks commenced in December 2015, and its fourth meeting was recently held in Kabul. In the first and second meeting of this series the four countries decided about the procedure of the quadrilateral meetings and in the third meeting they discussed over the “road map” for talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban and in its fourth meeting they determined to commence direct talks with the Taliban in the first week of March in Islamabad.

Obstacles toward direct talks

Considering the realities on the ground, the obstacles to face to face talks with the Taliban through the quadrilateral meetings are as follows:

  • At the start of the quadrilateral meetings, all the efforts were focused on the Taliban to be brought to the negotiation table by Pakistan rather than gaining the confidence the Taliban which is the main opposition party of the ongoing Afghan war. Therefore, the Taliban does not trust these talks and is suspicious about its intentions.
  • Unrecognition of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar paves the way for the failure of the face to face talks; because the Taliban believes that their Qatar Office is the only address to carry out the talks and this has been proven in the past that the decisions made by the Qatar Office were acceptable for the Taliban.
  • On one hand, not removing the bans to which the Taliban influential leaders are subject can also be an obstacle towards the talks because if the influential Taliban leaders did not participate in the talks, then the talks would be mostly failed. On the other hand, releasing the prisoners and fulfilling some other conditions can build trust between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Will direct talks begin?

After the fourth meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, the Afghan Taliban’s political office in Qatar declared that they were neither informed about quadrilateral meetings and direct talks, nor were they contacted in this regard.

If one study the Taliban’s diplomacy in the past years, one will find that declaring difficult positions the Taliban either are not prepared for the talks or they wanted to talk directly, as in the cases of releasing the Russian pilot and the American soldier, Bowe Bergdahl.

Whether direct talks with the Taliban will commence within two weeks, is a significant question. Because in the past when Pakistan made solid promise to pave the way for face to face talks with the Taliban, it happened after long delay and with a lot of difficulties and only once in the past one and a half year.

The face to face talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in March is not a challenging task; but the question is who will represent the Afghan Taliban in these talks? If the representative of the Taliban’s Qatar office or the members of the Taliban’s leading council did not participate the talks, it will once again fail.


Afghanistan » Foreign Policy

The Heart of Asia Conference and a new turn in Pak-Afghan Relations

Published Date: December 12, 2015

The Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process (HOA-IP) held in Islamabad, Pakistan, on 08-09 December 2015. The first conference on this process was held in Istanbul in 2011. Senior officials of most of the regional countries participated in this conference; among them were the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, Indian External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj and Iranian Foreign Minister, Jawad Zarif.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani went to Pakistan in order to participate in this conference. Pakistan warmly welcomed Afghan President. The most senior Pakistani political and military officials were there at the airport to welcome him.

Along with participating in the conference, Afghan President also had bilateral meetings with officials from India, Iran and China on the sidelines of the conference.

Moreover, Pakistan and India also held a bilateral meeting on the sideline of the conference and discussed about mending the ties between both countries.

The Pak-Afghan ties have had a lot of ups and downs in the last year. The Pak-Afghan ties in last one year, the activities of HOA-IP conferences and also the impact of Ashraf Ghani’s recent visit to Pakistan on the Afghan peace process are analyzed here.

The last one year of Pak-Afghan ties

Last year, the Afghan president, unlike the past 14 years foreign policy, tried to build good ties with Pakistan; he provided several privileges to Pakistan and he, in order to please Pakistan, increased the distance from Delhi. Hence, the visits of senior officials increased between Kabul-Islamabad.

After the ties mended, strong promises on the peace process were given and hopes for the successfulness of this process were increased. By the way, a series of bloody explosions rocked the Capital Kabul, the war became extended to the North of the country and insecurity incidents became increased in the entire country. Besides insecurities, the promises of Pakistan on that it would make the Taliban to have negotiations with the Afghan government became delayed from a date to date.

After the Shah Shaheed bloody incident in Kabul, the Pak-Afghan ties went worse. This scenario made the Afghan media, Parliament and the local people suspicious about Pakistan and at all, the internal pressures on the National Unity Government (NUG) increased. Therefore, the NUG changed its policy and started efforts to rebuild ties with India. From the other side, Pakistan, insistently, emphasized on reinitiating the Afghan peace process and it got use of “Pashto” card, also. Besides that, the regional diplomacy also became active to resume Afghan peace process and due to this the ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan entered into a new phase.

The fresh wave of bilateral ties

In the last few months, the Kabul-Islamabad ties were so frozen and as the insecurities increased in the country, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani clearly stated that “Afghanistan is in an undeclared war with Pakistan” and therefore, it conditioned the mending ties and reinitiating the peace process to an international guarantee from Pakistan.

Some days ago, a number of Pakistani Pashtun nationalist leaders visited Kabul and they were also carrying the message of Pakistani premier that if President Ghani meet him on a sideline of the Paris Climate Change Conference.

However, meeting with Nawaz Sharif in Paris was not a part of the Afghan President’s agenda, but due to the encouragement of Pashtun leaders and the pressures from China and the US, Ashraf Ghani met Nawaz Sharif in a trilateral meeting and, then, in another bilateral meeting as well. In these meetings, Nawaz Sharif invited the Afghan President to participate in HOA-IP and, for the first time, announced the quadrilateral policy regarding the Afghan peace process, in which China, America, Afghanistan and Pakistan is taking part.

According to some sources, the Afghan president was impacted by Nawaz Sharif’s words, and of course, he became more encouraged after the Pakistani Army Chief of Staff held a video call with him and invited him to Pakistan. Also, the increasing interest of the US and China in Pak-Afghan close ties caused pressures on Ashraf Ghani to become increased in order for relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan to become normal. Due to these two reasons, Ashraf Ghani traveled to Pakistani in order to participate in HOA-IP.

Warm Welcome to Ashraf Ghani

Ashraf Ghani was welcomed so warmly in Pakistan. It was the sort of welcome normally reserved for visits from prominent Pakistani allies like the president of China or the king of Saudi Arabia. However, that sort of welcome also surprised the Afghani side itself. The reasons for this sort of welcome to Ashraf Ghani in Pakistan are as follows:

  • Pakistan wants not to lose the Afghan government alongside the Taliban;
  • Pakistan wants not to lose Kabul due to latest visits of Haneef Atmar and Hekmat Khalil Karzai to India;
  • The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has changed the minds of Pakistani political and military leaders; now, they are also busy on negotiations with Balochs and Bugti’s family in order to solve this problem. Besides that, it wants security to be provided in Afghanistan because it has role in succeeding this great project;
  • It was a diplomatic protocol in order to show their veracity to the international community and the participants of HOA-IP.

Reinitiating the Peace Process

As long as the HOA-IP ended, hopes for resumption of the second round of the peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban emerged. In the bilateral meeting between the Afghan President and Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistani Prime Minister (PM) in Paris, Nawaz Sharif suggested a quadrilateral meeting for the peace process to be held this time; America and China alongside Afghanistan and Pakistan would be also participating in this process.

Afghanistan-Pakistan-USA and Afghanistan-Pakistan-China trilateral meetings and Afghanistan, Pakistan-USA -China quadrilateral meetings were held on the sidelines of HOA-IP. The Afghan-led peace process was emphasized in these meetings, according to the statements released by Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Three new topics regarding the peace process were discussed in these talks; they are as following:

First: Afghanistan, Pakistan, USA and china agrees to work together to create a conducive atmosphere that encourages Taliban groups to engage in meaningful and sustained negotiations[1];

Second: China and America would also participate in the negotiations directly in order to eliminate the mistrust and suspicion between Kabul and Islamabad;

Third: The Constitution of Afghanistan would be respected[2].

On Wednesday night, Pakistan’s military chief General Raheel Sharif held a meeting with Ghani to discuss a possible timeframe for “reinvigorating” the Afghan peace process. Therefore, the Afghan Foreign Minister said: ““… our allies, in this case U.S. and China and of course Pakistan, have expressed their willingness to work with Afghanistan on peace and reconciliation process. And we very much hope that his effort will result in a result-oriented peace process where we will see some positive moves in the coming weeks…”

Impacts of this Conference on relations of Afghanistan and the Regional Countries

The leaders of regional countries met each other in a part of the HOA-IP in order to mend their bilateral relationships, and this conference also played a role in mending the Pak-India and Pak-Afghan ties.

Pak-India Ties: However, the Indian premier, Narendra Modi, as an initiative, invited the leaders of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to India, and so the Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif was invited in this group, also. If this symbolic action was neglected, the Pak-India ties were too knotty. Both of the countries fought on border issues for several times, they suspended the negotiations and their frozen political relations even impacted Sports (start of Cricket matches between them is influenced by politics).

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj attended Islamabad as a result of Pakistan’s invitations and since 2012; she is the first Indian senior officials that travel to Pakistan.

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj held separate talks with the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his advisor Aziz on the sidelines of HOA-IP. In this bilateral meeting, both sides condemned terrorism and resolved to cooperate to eliminate it. Also, they noted the successful talks on terrorism and security related issues in Bangkok by the two NSAs and decided that the NSAs will continue to address all issues connected to terrorism. Both sides, accordingly, agreed to a Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue and directed the Foreign Secretaries to work out the modalities and schedule of the meetings under the Dialogue including Peace and Security, CBMs, Jammu & Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project, Economic and Commercial Cooperation, Counter-Terrorism, Narcotics Control, Humanitarian Issues, People to People exchanges and religious tourism[3].

Pak-Afghan Ties: The participation of President Ghani in the “Heart of Asia” Conference caused a fresh wave of ties with Pakistan; both sides expressed coordination for the resumption of peace process. This conference, temporarily, eliminated mistrust between both countries; however, fruitfulness of it would be directly linked to the successfulness of the second round of the peace process and it consequences would be seen in the upcoming month, then.

Afghanistan-China Relations: President Ghani met Chinese Foreign Minister on a sideline of the conference; the important improvements in these talks are as following:

  • Afghanistan requested tojoin the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in order for this bank to help Afghanistan in building railway in Afghanistan and connecting Afghanistan with China through Wakhan Port;
  • The Afghan side suggested for joint cooperation with China, Afghanistan and Germany in electricity production, house construction and development sector. The Chinese Foreign Minister welcomed this suggestion and called for establishing a committee regarding this issue;
  • The Afghan side is ready to transfer gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China;
  • The Afghan government officially requested the Chinese government to encourage the company working on the Aynak Copper Mine to fulfill its promise regarding building the railway.
  • Afghanistan officially requested for Chinese assistance in equipping the Afghan Air Forces (AIF)[4].

Afghanistan-Iran Ties: Emergence of Daesh group in Afghanistan, Chabahar Port and the Water Management were the issues discussed by Afghan and Iranian officials. The Iranian side, to a large extent, enlightened the issue of Daesh and the importance of Chabahar Port; and the Afghan President talked about concerns of Iranians about the issue of Helmand Water and said that there is an agreement present regarding this and the representatives of both sides would talk about its implementation, later[5].

Evaluation of the “Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process” Conference

The HOA-IP that was started due to Turkey’s initiative in 2011, it provides a new agenda for regional cooperation in the ‘Heart of Asia’ by placing Afghanistan at its center and engaging the ‘Heart of Asia’ countries in sincere and result‐oriented cooperation for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, as well as a secure and prosperous region as a whole. However, these conferences are held from a while and the Afghan side, unlike past, has taken more interest in it in the last two year; but it has not done anything beyond mending relationships.

In 2011, the ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan were frozen; however, it, for several times, as a result of Turkey’s intercession, through Heart of Asia Conference, was tried to mend relations between both countries.

Besides that, this conference has played role in mending relations between other countries in the region. For example, the relations between India and Pakistan were so frozen and it was nearly impossible for them to hold a meeting on the level of foreign ministers; but the Heart of Asia Conference 2015 paved the ground for bilateral meetings between both countries.

The End

[1] For further studies see http://mofa.gov.pk/pr-details.php?mm=MzMyMw,,

[2] For further studies see http://mofa.gov.pk/pr-details.php?mm=MzMyMw,,

[3] For further studies see Pak-India joint statement http://mofa.gov.pk/pr-details.php?mm=MzMyMg

[4] For further studies see Presidential statement president.gov.af/ps/news/56708 

[5] For further studies see Presidential statement http://president.gov.af/ps/news/56709