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Pakistan key to Afghan peace process

By Zamir Ahmed Awan | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-12-07 13:49
Afghan families fleeing from the districts of Malistan and Jaghori, because of the conflict between Taliban and Afghan forces, arrive in Ghazni, Afghanistan, on Nov 14, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

US President Trump wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, seeking Pakistan’s help in the Afghan peace process. It is a much appreciated step that, after fighting an unnecessary and avoidable war in Afghanistan for 17 long years that involved the spending of billions of dollars and caused the deaths of countless innocent people, finally the US thinks about a peaceful solution to Afghanistan. In fact peace is the only option, as war in Afghanistan has endangered and destabilized the whole region.

The regional countries of China, Russia, Iran and Turkey all want a stable Afghanistan. Recently, Russia offered its offices for peace talks, proposing the “Moscow Format” for an Afghan solution. China, the regional political power, has been engaged in the peace process in Afghanistan, serving as catalyst for normalizing Pakistan-Afghanistan relations.

The true potential of the Belt and Road Initiative, especially China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, can only be realized when there is a stable and peaceful Afghanistan. After all, Eurasia, Russia and Central Asia can only utilize Gwadar as a newly emerged trade route through Afghanistan, where CPEC may later extend in the future.

Pakistan understands Afghanistan better than anyone else, as the two countries are neighbors and share a long border as well as a common culture, language and ethnicity. No other nation can play the same positive role as Pakistan in gaining peace and stability in Afghanistan, to which the country is sincerely committed. After all, Pakistan was the worst victim of the situation in Afghanistan for the last four decades, as Pakistan sacrificed 75,000 precious human lives and suffered $250 billion in economic losses and other serious consequences such as terrorism and extremism.

Pakistan was also a very close ally and friend of the US-led West for almost seven decades. We were partners during the Cold War, front-line states against the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, and strong supporters and close allies in the war on terror. Pakistan and the US have worked together in close coordination and understand each other very well. The US knows Pakistan’s strengths and weaknesses, while the US political and military leadership realizes our potential.

Given Pakistan’s close ties to Afghanistan and the US, Pakistan can play vital role in a sustainable Afghan solution. An Afghan-led solution, where the US completely withdraws from the country, as in Vietnam, is the only permanent solution, and Pakistan can facilitate this by providing a safe passage for a US withdrawal.

Peace in Afghanistan will encourage more economic activity among Central Asia, Russia, China and Gwadar. It will help Afghanistan and its neighboring states to improve trade and the economy and to eradicate poverty, potentially changing the fate of the whole region. China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization objectives can only be realized only when there is a stable Afghanistan. During the recently held SCO Summit, the Afghan president was invited as a guest and observer, and hopefully will soon gain full membership. CPEC could also extend into Afghanistan in the near future if the country achieves peace.

Pakistan wants good relations with all countries and would like to extend all possible support and cooperation for achieving the common goal of peace, stability and prosperity throughout the world, including in Afghanistan.

Zamir Ahmed Awan is a sinologist and a non-resident fellow at the Center for China and Globalization.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

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