The 2nd 'Heart of Asia' Conference was held in Kabul on Thursday, June 14, 2012, with the commitments that regional cooperation will be further enhanced and efforts will be made to pursue the joint interests collectively. It was emphasized that the region will play a role in supporting Afghanistan after the international troops withdraw from the country completely.
The ministers and high-level delegations from 14 'Heart of Asia' countries, 14 ministerial and high-level delegations from the supporting countries and high-level delegations from regional and international organizations participated in the Conference. The meeting was particularly important in establishing sustainable approach to implement the confidence-building measures (CBMs), which were agreed at the Istanbul Conference in November, 2011.
There are about seven CBMs that are basically agreed on and there will be a follow-up meeting next year in Kazakhstan to keep the activities on track and achieve the objectives of the meeting. These CBMs included; Disaster Management CBM, Counter-Terrorism CBM, Counter-Narcotics CBM, Chamber of Commerce CBM, Commercial Opportunities CBM, Regional Infra-Structure CBM and Education CMB.
Afghanistan at the moment is in the position, where it can see a very challenging future ahead of it. The prospects do not seem very much hopeful and the hopes that the country would be able to stand strong against the threats of insecurity and stability are very much scanty. It would require a definite support both from international community and regional countries.
Though there have been very promising commitments in this regard recently, the scenario does not seem to be favoring a very encouraging outcome of all these commitments. After all, the political objectives are not what are basically promised in the conferences and agreements. They are in the interests of the countries that enter into them.
There cannot be unconditional and indefinite support for Afghanistan both from the region and the international community and Afghanistan needs to realize this fact. At the moment it has to consider one very important fact and that is the strengthening of the regional ties by keeping the international community happy, which is no doubt a very difficult task as the interests differ to a great extent. Even without involving the international community, it can be observed that the regional countries have differences in their interests, which can even clash at certain times.
However, it is possible for the region to get together (in the real sense of the term) on certain of the issues that are very common to them. Duality in the diplomatic attitude and dealings will not benefit the region at all. True efforts are needed at this juncture as the possibilities are very real that the instability and insecurity in a single country can harm the neighboring countries. And, even after a cursory look at the scenario, it can be concluded that the issues like insecurity and economic instability are threatening the region to a great extent. Therefore, starting from these very basic issues, the involved countries can make future cooperation possible and a regional integrity achievable.
Afghanistan is a country, where both the issues of insecurity and economic instability are top priority matters. In the post-withdrawal scenario, regional countries will have to play a key role in this regard. Realizing the importance of the regional countries in these matters, President Karzai emphasized for the full cooperation of the region. His especial emphasis has been on the two neighboring countries – Pakistan and Iran. President Karzai considers the reconciliation process with Taliban a key event that can decide the future of the stability in Afghanistan.
Relating to the same he, in the Conference, asked the neighboring countries, especially Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to play a role in the process. He even revealed that High Peace Council's (HPC) Chairman Sallahud din Rabbaniwill visit Pakistan and Saudi Arabia for the same purpose. It should, at this instance, be mentioned that HPC has not been able to achieve something worthwhile since its establishment.
In fact, the policies and efforts of the Council have not been very much comprehensive. It has always kept on emphasizing that it is ready to have reconciliation with Taliban and for that purpose it has maintained a very soft tone. Instead of making Taliban come to the fold, it itself has received grave losses. Moreover, Taliban have always kept on emphasizing that it would not proceed with the reconciliation efforts of the Afghan government as it happens to be a 'puppet government'. They say that they are only ready to talk after the foreign troops withdraw from the Afghanistan.
As far as the role of the Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are concerned in the process, it is possible that they make some difference to the situation. Again, the important factor is that they should see the reconciliation process important for the entire region and must consider the insecurity a common threat, which if not handled properly may prove to be fatal for the region.
As far as the economic infra-structure development and the prosperity are concerned, the withdrawal will certainly create a vacuum. However, the countries that have signed strategic partnership agreements (SPAs) with Afghanistan, have determined that their support will be there to make the country stand on its own. The participating countries in the 'Heart of Asia' Conference also pledged their assistance in order to develop the Afghan economy as it would play a key role in determining stability and development.
Though recently, there have been many promises and commitments made to improve the situation in Afghanistan both by national and international countries and organizations, yet the facts and figures suggest that it would be very difficult for Afghanistan to tackle the situation after 2014. There are many unresolved issues in the country that may give rise to instability and chaos soon after the international community withdraws from the country. The Western countries, at the moment, seem to seek a somewhat reputable exit policy, while the regional countries are more inclined to pursue individual interests.
History has been the witness that Afghanistan has been used as a playground by international and regional countries to practice the games of politics and conflicts. The neighboring countries, in this regard can be blamed to a large extent. They have never tried to see Afghanistan as a nation that is worth having development and better living standard.
It is now time they have to be more responsible. Along with promises, they have to carry out practical measures and play the role of true and honest neighbors. Moreover, the national efforts made are also to be blamed for not achieving what they could have achieved. The ill-governance, corruption and the greed for authority have made Afghan government and administration unable to offer and trust.