The Foreign Minister’s first foray into international relations – the drive to improve relations with the United States – was certainly commendable in its initiative and intentions, but it is hardly contestable that the effort didn’t yield many positive results. Several high-powered bilateral trips later, the relationship between Pakistan and the US remains as fractured and confused as it was before, and following the recent exchange of barbs over the statements of the US President and Vice-President, it has visibly deteriorated even further. The divide in both nations’ perspective is widest, and bitterest, over Afghanistan; there is no clear solution to the problem, and both nations blame the other for their many troubles.
Therefore it is paramount that Pakistan looks towards other partners to solve the Afghan issue, and while the Foreign Ministry has been pursuing and championing ‘regional solutions’ for a while now, but nothing concrete has come to fruition so far.
The tripartite moot between China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan finally seems to be reaching a feasible end. The three countries have pledged to work together to eradicate terrorism from the region. While they have all agreed to work together, one clause that each country pushed for is that the peace process should be Afghan led and Afghan owned. In order to materialise the Afghan-led process, the three countries will improve their relations, deepen mutually-beneficial cooperation, advance connectivity under the Belt and Road Initiative, and fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestation without any distinction.
They have agreed on developing a Memorandum of Understanding on Counter-Terrorism Cooperation. Pakistan and Afghan ministers thanked the Chinese side for the successful holding of the first China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue. They agreed that the second China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue would be held in Kabul in 2018. Another major development in this regard was their urge to the Afghan Taliban to join the peace process at the earliest possible date. The parties involved are looking at all the options available to them to resolve the security situation of the region.
This is why regional countries are now resorting to finding solutions amongst themselves and increasing regional cooperation. Pakistan and China are also considering making Afghanistan a part of the $57 billion CPEC. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China hoped the economic corridor could benefit the whole region and act as an impetus for development.
Khawaja Asif needs to follow this thread in foreign policy. Regional partners with a greater stake in the area and more incentive to cooperate need to be incentivised to work in Afghanistan. If he brings the same initiative he bought to the US diplomatic advance, the region would be better served.