Afghanistan started a new era of relationship with Pakistan after the appointment of Hamid Karzai as the new president of the country and the fall of Taliban government. Now there is a new president and a ruling junta that does not consider Pakistan as a friend. The situation has lately gotten even more precarious after an exchange of fire in which people from both sides if the border were killed.
One of the prime reasons for Afghan hostilities was the construction of a gate at the Torkham border. Ironically, Karzai’s allegation that Pakistan does not want good relations between India and Afghanistan and wants ‘no bilateral trade and no access to Central Asia for India’ sounds completely illogical.
Historically, Pakistan has offered transit trade facility to landlocked Afghanistan. The situation is likely to change to some extent after the construction of the Chabahar port in Iran by India, which offers an alternate route to Central Asian countries through Afghanistan. Now, there remains no binding force on Afghanistan to use Pakistan’s ports, road and railway links. It is at liberty to undertake its international trade through Chabahar.
Therefore, the accusation that Pakistan is a hurdle in Afghan trade with India is completely baseless. Knowing that Afghanistan is no longer dependent on Pakistan, the government is trying to open Pandora’s box by taking about old, but settled conflicts. No one can deny the fact that Afghans have had a hostile attitude towards Pakistan; they have not accepted the border.
In one of his statements Karzai has openly termed the formation of the Durand Line a ‘result of British imperialism’ in the region. He even went to the extent of saying that Afghanistan has never accepted this border since 1893, nor will they ever accept it in future.
“When Pakistan came into being in 1947, they received it this way, so we are not blaming them but Durand Line is a blow which no Afghan can ever forget. We do not accept this border but will not fight over this issue,” said Karzai.
He maintained that terrorism and extremism is a menace that has not only affected the people of both Pakistan and Afghanistan, but added that “we (Afghans) think they have found safe havens and are getting aid from Pakistan.”
Despite having remained President of Afghanistan and witnessed cross-border terrorism, he has deliberately avoiding talking about militants living in Afghanistan and their involvement in cross-border terrorism against Pakistan as well as Iran.
Trade going on under the disguise of ‘transit trade’ has been causing colossal damage to Pakistan’s economy. Maybe the time has come to let Afghanistan decide itself, if it wants to use Pakistan or Iran as a transit route.
As stated above, if Afghanistan wants it can route all its international trade through Iran and let Pakistan build fences and gates at the common border. This border, spread over hundreds of kilometers is highly porous and terrorists can easily pass it.
The movement of Afghanis and Pakistanis should also not be allowed without passports/visas and the old system must be discontinued immediately.
If the ground realities are changing, then the ‘rules of the game’ must also change. Let Afghanistan chose between Pakistan and India, but once the decision is made the new rules will have to be followed stringently.