Deconstructing Misperception About Pakistan’s Afghanistan Policy – OpEd


Kautilya, when ousted by the Nanda dynasty helped in buttressing the Mauryan empire through his academic and worldly teachings. Theoretical perspectives and reminiscent of his commandment established the significance of a peaceful neighborhood for Arthashastra. Although the states always looks for alliance beyond the first Mandala (circle of states), peace and influence in the immediate neighborhood remains the topmost priority.

This in the current international political order can be understood in terms of balance of threat through alliance making. Conceptually, strategic depth is a dubiously intricate phenomenon. One has to compartmentalize that what is the actual nature of this sphere of influence, either internal or external. Technically, the term refers to as the distance from the main front lines to the Centre of Gravity of where the Centre of the power of a country resides. But this is the understanding developed when the concept is taken in its internal realms. Elucidation of the concept as an external phenomenon illustrates that a country finds political influence in the immediate neighborhood to balance the threat emerging from another state. 

It has always been promulgated in academic literature that Pakistan against the Indian threat tried to find some strategic depth in Afghanistan. A very simple question it raises is that how a state can find strategic depth in other state that is not much friendly. Pakistan is mired in tough neighborhood from its very inception. When threats from India had caused challenges for the country, Afghanistan also posed some serious concerns for Pakistan. Durand Line issue and Afghan leadership’s support to successionist factions in Pakistan’s tribal belt never let Pakistan to think of having a strategic depth in the country. Wishing to have a friendly neighborhood is not so seldom in international politics. Every state wants to seek prosperity in friendly external environment. Then why Pakistan’s policy is being conceptualized as influenced by its thirst of strategic depth. 

Pakistan with the help of American aegis trained Mujahidin so to neutralize the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan that instigated threats to regional peace and stability. Adopting a forward policy in the post-Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan has always wanted to bring peace in the country believing in the notion that stability in Afghanistan is directly proportional to stability in Pakistan. Dilemma for Pakistan emerged when it had to become a frontline state in US’s War on Terror against these Mujahidin.

Mired in these traditional security concerns, no country can think of a friendly government but just in the time of peace and shared connectivity. In the post 2014 era, Pakistan has seriously engaged the Afghan factions and international community for the sake of peaceful resolution of decades long turmoil in the country. The country has tolerated economic loss, welcomed millions of refugees, and has tried to mitigate threats in the tribal region that seek roots from Afghanistan. In the post US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan was hoping that Taliban would behave friendly with it, but all hopes looks lost seeing latter’s actions in the border and revival of terrorism in Pakistan. 

Firstly, the point to focus is that seeking strategic depth is a peace time phenomenon when countries build effective relations with the neighborhood based on shared connectivity. Afghanistan has never been at peace in the post-1960 era. When these traditional security concerns remain alive, Pakistan’s first priority have been to resolve these challenges.

Secondly, with the evolution of multiple diplomatic channels, aura of strategic depth has also evolved from traditional security to economic, political and diplomatic depths. States all across the world from major powers to smaller ones prioritize enhancing their influence in terms of political, economic or strategic sphere. Pakistan was also considering this aspect but emergence of terrorism and Afghan Taliban supporting TTP, is again dragging Pakistan’s policy sphere to focus on these traditional challenges first. So, it concludes that, Pakistan has never tried seek strategic depth in Afghanistan because there never have been peace in Afghanistan. 

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