Nepal: Russia’s role in Afghan peace push can’t be ignored

N.P. Upadhyaya;: Let’s recall. On September 11, the Pakistani foreign minister while talking to Ms.  Valentina Shvartsman of the Sputnik online portal in Moscow, Russia, had said that “if peace prevails or even improves the situation in and around Afghanistan they’ll have a direct positive impact for Pakistan and that when things deteriorate there (Afghanistan), we (Pakistan) get affected”.

FM Qureshi was in Moscow to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meet wherein the Indian Foreign minister Mr. Shankar (one among India’s gang of four) was also present.

In a way Pakistan has warned the fellow members SCO of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) about “spoilers” that seek to undermine the Afghan peace process from both within and outside the country.

The spoiling has in earnest begun as reports reveal.

He said that the “spoilers” were trying to undermine the Afghan peace process from both within and outside the country.

He was apparently referring to India as “spoilers”.

He said this a few days ahead of the Doha meet of the Talibans and the Afghani government brokered by the US.

The Doha peace talks are in progress but the sped is reportedly slow.

Most powerful was Qureshi’s note on the possible role of Russia in the Afghanistan peace process while talking to Sputnik online in Russia. Follows what he said.

Says Qureshi, “Given its growing influence in the region, Russia’s role in the Afghan peace process will remain ‘decisive’.

The Pak FM Qureshi termed “Russia as an important regional player” and reiterated that “We feel Russia’s importance has grown because of the very constructive approach it has adopted towards peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan,” he told the Sputnik media.

While in Moscow, FM Qureshi also met the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, he referred to the multilateral talks on Afghanistan, called the Moscow format.

Qureshi said Pakistan had participated in the Moscow-hosted talks multiple times. “So Russia’s role has been there and will remain there because of Russia’s global importance and within the region.”

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Afghanistan peace process that, all of us, the SCO members have a common position here. We are for all Afghan parties to be adequately represented in the future political process so that no one is artificially excluded from it. I repeat, such attempts are being made.”

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan need permanent peace in Afghanistan simply because both have paid a colossal price and lost many economic opportunities because of terrorism and insecurity in the region which has in some way made the entire South Asia unstable which has allowed the “spoilers” to extract political benefits from such instability.

The Afghan crisis resulted in the exodus of the refuges to adjoining Pakistan.

Moreover, peace in Afghanistan is also essential for the Central Asian countries for a variety of regions.

Central Asian nations are very close to Afghanistan and vice versa. The Gwadar port will be useful for the South Asian nations for trading with the Central Asian nations and this is what Beijing said the July 27 Webinar attended by Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China.

China had taken the webinar initiative.

All said, what is interesting is that more or less the contemporary world leaders prefer to ignore the importance of the Russian Federation in the Afghan peace process. However, the fact is that Russian role in the prevalence of peace in any parts of the globe can’t be minimized in that Russia still holds the status of a world power but prefers not to remind the world leaders.

But this should not mean that Russia be ignored though Russia has been active for the ending of the Afghan conflict.

And fortunately, Pakistan in South Asia is the single country to have taken note of Russia’s world power status that she holds.

Nevertheless, commentators in Nepal feel somehow or the other that the Russian interests in this part of the world is just limited to a particular set of country-the one who is expert in changing bed partners every now and then.

Pakistani forces are now in Russia for a joint military drill with Russian and Chinese soldiers. India preferred not to face the rival soldiers.

Nepal and Russia are longtime friends.

The level of contacts that Russia should have with the countries of South Asia appear not up to the mark which is what other regional/super powers fill in to the space left vacant by the former heir apparent of the USSR-that is today’s Russia under President Vladimir Putin.

Nepal also believes that Russian role should increase in South Asia for multiple reasons that Russia understands well.

The SCO is a Eurasian political and economic organization that was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

For the record, China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, and India are its main members, and Iran, Mongolia, Afghanistan, and Belarus are observers.

Iran has applied for the full membership of the SCO, however, due to the UN Sanctions, the membership issue is pending, say Russian media sources.

FM Qureshi may have taken the Indian establishment as spoilers, the declared and the recognized troublemaker/destabilizer in South Asia, because the Indian Defense Minister Raj Nath Singh forcefully dropped in Iran on his way back to India from his Moscow trip.

Close on the heels of the talks of Taliban with the Afghani government in Doha for the search of peace in Afghanistan last week, a US team led by the United States Central Command (US CENTCOM) commander General Kenneth McKenzie Jr called on Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and the two discussed the Afghan peace process as well as military cooperation between the two countries, Inter-Services Public Relations said Friday, reports Daily Times dated 12 September 12, 20202.

It was a meet by the US Military team to have visited Islamabad when in Doha, peace talks on Afghanistan was in progress.

Media sources claim that Gen McKenzie and Gen Bajwa discussed several pressing issues, including Kashmir, the geo-strategic environment ( meaning the Afghanistan peace process), and discussed on South Asian regional security and beyond, adds the Daily Times.

The meet of the US General McKenzie with the Army Chief Bajwa has some visible security-political connotations.

The US General’s desire to talk on Kashmir issue is ‘news breaking’ for the Indian regime.

Peace in Afghanistan is needed in that Afghanistan is a distinguished member of the SAARC regional body.

The US general must have been adequately briefed by Gen. Bajwa on the existing security situation if South Asia where India is the self-declared dictatorial boss.

In yet another fresh political development, America’s peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad has visited Pakistan and conveyed Washington’s gratitude for the “important role” Islamabad has played in easing the start of reconciliation talks between warring Afghan parties, officials said reports Voice of America (VOA) dated September 14, 2020. The Pakistani special envoy for Afghanistan Ambassador Mohammad Siddiqui was also present during the talks being held in between Khalilzad and General Bajwa.

According to the US embassy in Islamabad, the US special envoy Khalilzad and his delegation met with Pakistan’s military chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, and some of the country’s other senior officials.

Remarkably, General McKenzie and Khalilzad both have met with General Bajwa. This must have meaning pertaining to regional security.

“Ambassador Khalilzad while being in Pakistan, expressed appreciation on behalf of the United States, especially the important role that Prime Minister Imran Khan and General

Bajwa played in facilitating the start of the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations in Doha on Sept.12, and stressed the need for ongoing regional and international support for this historic opportunity for peace,” the embassy said in a statement, reports the VOA.

The US envoy arrived Pakistan following the start of the Intra-Afghan talks in Doha that is aimed at deciding the future political system in Afghanistan to end the overly stretched war.

A Pak military statement quoted Bajwa as saying that Pakistan was determined to further its mission of promoting regional peace.

The statement quoted Gen. Bajwa as saying that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has given clear vision regarding peace and connectivity in the region and all the elements of national power are united towards making that vision a reality to ensure long awaited peace, progress and prosperity in the South Asian region including Afghanistan, adds the Xinhua agency from Islamabad dated September 15, 2020.

Later Zalmay Khalilzad also visited Delhi wherein he is reported to have met NSA Ajit Doval and FM Shankar.

Now the question is that why the rush to Islamabad by senior diplomats and military officials and that too when the Doha meet is in progress to chart the peace process in Afghanistan?

By and large it means politically that the US needs Pakistan as much as Pakistan needs the former ally during the Cold war era.

This also means by implication that the US understands better now that peace to prevail in Afghanistan, Pakistani support is crucial.

It is also a must in that both Pakistan and Afghanistan are immediate neighbors and thus any cataclysm in Afghanistan is bound to have its impact on the security of Afghanistan and vice versa.

This compels both of the neighbors to become serious and accommodative to each other security concerns.

The US appears to have taken seriously the role of Pakistan in Afghanistan’s peace process which gets testified by the rush of US diplomats and military men seated in the upper echelons to drop in Islamabad.

The future of peace in Afghanistan is important not only for the people of Afghanistan but also for the United States and its regional partners and allies (India implied?). The fight indeed has been very costly for the US adventure and the Afghani nationals and the country both.

In a statement issued last weakened, the head of the UN assistance mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Deborah Lyons said that the people of Afghanistan have “suffered for far too long”.

Not to forget, peace in Afghanistan is also very much shaped by the power play of the major regional powers who have a say in the world politics including China the European Union, the UN, India, Pakistan, and Russia. Unless all these forces converge at one point on the prevalence of Peace in Afghanistan, it will remain elusive. So when these forces will converge to restore peace in Afghanistan? It is time now.

In a fresh report it has come to the notice of Nepali observers that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, veteran Afghan Mujaheedin leader and head of the Hezb-e-Islami party talking on the role of the regional countries more so of India says that India, due to its rivalry with Pakistan, was dissatisfied with the peace push (ongoing) and had started supporting local militias to act as spoilers.

“China and Pakistan have a common and coordinated position on Afghanistan, not only do they support the peace process, rather they see it as beneficial to their regional interests, especially if it leads to a reduction in India’s presence in Afghanistan,” Hekmatyar said, according to Shadi Khan Saif of the Anadolu Agency dated September 19, 20202. 

Concluding remarks: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Dr Moeed Yusuf said on September 16 that Russia has supported Pakistan’s stance regarding the country’s new political map which was in accordance with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and international laws, writes the Express Tribune.

Talking to the media in Islamabad, Dr Yusuf said that the fresh virtual meeting of the National Security Advisers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) rejected India’s objections to the display of Pakistan’s political map in the meeting room, adds the Tribune.

India created problems for Nepal when the latter incorporated its lands gulped for decades and decades by expansionist and the sick man of South Asia that is surely India.

International relations expert in Nepal conclude that India may wish to kill the SCO as it killed the SAARC regional body. Thanks the foreign ministers of the South Asian region are scheduled to meet on September 24, 2020. Nepal is the current Chair of the SAARC. That’s all.


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