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Pakistan’s interaction with Afghanistan has been influenced and fashioned by the historical legacy of pre-1947 Afghan-British Indian relations. This legacy laid the basis for the development of an acrimonious bilateral relationship between the two states after 1947, which was complicated by the Cold War power politics. The nineteenth century geo-strategic rivalry between the Great Britain and Tsarist Russia (the so-called Great Game) on the Afghan chessboard created an environment of mistrust and suspicion against foreign powers in the eyes of the Afghans. The relations were further aggravated by the three Anglo-Afghan wars (1838-1842; 1879-1880; 1919-1920). The unsettled borders in the northwest of British India, where the writ of the British government was not fully enforceable, gave Afghanistan an opportunity to create security problems in the days of British Raj and more so after their departure from the subcontinent. Pakistan, therefore, inherited an unfriendly neighbor on its western border, making it difficult to formulate a policy of having friendly ties with Afghanistan.
Its security threat perception as being sandwiched between a hostile India in the east and an irredentist Afghanistan in the west compelled Pakistan to seek a friendly regime in Kabul. Afghanistan’s territorial claims on the Pashtu-speaking areas of Pakistan coupled with the pro-Indian posture of its ruling elites further reinforced Pakistan’s strategic belief that a hostile Afghanistan ill served Pakistan’s security needs.
The logical corollary of this threat perception was that, regardless of its costs and difficulties, Pakistan had to pursue a sub-imperial engagements in Afghanistan to secure a client regime, which would not only give it a ‘strategic depth’ against India but would also help stabilize its volatile western border.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan forced Pakistan to wage, with the support of western and Arab allies, a proxy war in Afghanistan and ultimately forced Soviets to withdraw from Afghanistan. Since the end of the Cold War, Pakistan continued its “forward policy in Afghanistan mainly through the support of the Hizb-i-Islami of Gulbadin Hikmatyar and, later, through the Taliban.
Following the events of Sep.11, 2001 the political landscape of South Asia transformed dramatically. The September 11 incident provided Pakistan with an opportunity to reconsider its Afghan policy and regain its lost status in the international community. Pakistan took a U-turn in its Afghan policy and became a front line state in the US war against terrorism and helped topple its erstwhile Taliban allies from power. Though this course of action helped Pakistan get out of regional as well as international isolation, its long involvement with the Afghan groups locked in internal struggle for power has left it with fewer friends and more enemies in Afghanistan, particularly among the literate urban middle class and non-Pashtuns. Its relations with Afghanistan continue to be bedeviled with skepticism and fear, even as both countries are cautiously revitalizing bilateral relations.
Though the historical, geographical, cultural, religious, ethnic, security and economic affinities and interdependence between Pakistan and Afghanistan are bound to play their role in strengthening the relations between the two countries, there are certain stumbling blocs in Pak-Afghan relations like Pak-Afghan border issue, the Pashtunistan issue, Afghanistan’s skepticism on Pakistan’s resolve to fight ‘war on terrorism’; and Pakistan’s strong reservations over Indian anti-Pakistan activities from Afghanistan.
For improving the relations both Pakistan and Afghanistan need to allay their mutual misperceptions and distrust. The ongoing blame game by the two countries led an Afghan expert to write, ‘Owing to increasing Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, one cannot hope for any improvement in the security situation in the war-ravaged country. The embattled Afghan government is expected to become even more critical of Pakistan in future on account of the increase in Taliban attacks. Pakistan is likely to reply in the same currency, and there are already signs that its tone in denying accusations of support for Taliban is becoming aggressive. The fireworks will continue, and it would be futile to expect any major improvement in their uneasy political and diplomatic ties in the near future.’
It is in this context that we felt the need to establish a research organization that will identify examine and analyze the factors that continues to adversely affect relations between the countries that have so many overlapping layers of common history, culture, religion, geography and security.
We believe that if both the countries were able to allay their mutual misperceptions, distrust, and suspicions the relations between the two are bound to improve. The relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan are symbiotic in nature. When Afghanistan pains, Pakistan bleeds and vice versa. Both are destined to sink or sail together and now time has come for them to think conjointly to find ways and means for putting an end to recurring power vacuums in this region, which frequently sucks in external state actors.
IPAR provides the analysis, training and tools that prevent and end regional conflicts, promotes stability and professionalizes the field of regional peace building.
It is essential that the Pakistan & Afghanistan, adopt a regional approach to find out solution to their existing problems and play an active part in preventing, managing, and resolving regional conflicts to achieve a lasting peace and stability on both sides of the Durand line.
The Institute of Pak-Afghan Relations is an independent, nonpartisan, non-governmental, progressive think tank working for comprehensive cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which would provide a solid basis for multi-disciplinary cooperation. The IPAR emphasizes the vital importance of brotherly relations in pursuance of policies of mutual respect, non-interference and peaceful coexistence and recommends further expansion of economic, social, and cultural relations between the two countries. Its goals are to help:
Prevent and resolve regional conflicts
Promote post-conflict stability and development
Increase conflict management capacity, tools, and intellectual capital by empowering others with knowledge, skills, and resources.
Aims and Objectives
Emphasizing the deep historic, religious, spiritual, cultural and commercial bonds among Afghanistan and Pakistan, IPAR focuses especially on the treatment of terrorism, extremism and militancy, bilateral cooperation in political and economic fields, and regional and international issues of common concern. The institute will work for the following objectives:
Improving bilateral relation between Pakistan and Afghanistan culminating into a perennial strategic partnership carried forth to coming generations;
Supporting programs that foster independent research, enabling our scholars to produce articles, reports, and books and hold roundtables that analyze Pak afghan foreign policy issues and to make concrete policy recommendations;
Sponsoring Independent Task Forces to produce reports with both findings and policy prescriptions on the most important foreign policy issues; and Providing up-to-date information and analysis on Pak-Afghan relations;
Programs and Activities
In order to achieve the above goals, the Institute undertakes a unique combination of activities, including the following:
Performing cutting edge research, to produce publications for practitioners, policymakers, and academia.
Building mutual trust and confidence by Parliamentary exchanges complement political-level interaction and promoting people-to-people contacts including the exchange visits of journalists, poets, writers, musicians and artistes.
Educating students about conflict, organizing study tours, and increasing the peace building capabilities of future leaders.
Supporting policymakers by providing analyses, policy options, and advice, as well as by sponsoring a wide range of region-oriented working groups.
The Institute draws on a variety of resources in fulfilling its mandate, including Institute staff, grantees, fellows, and a broad set of governmental and non-governmental partners:
Institute Specialists: The Institute employs specialists with both geographic and subject-matter expertise. These experts are leaders in their fields. They come from the government, military, NGOs, academia, and the private sector.
Partners/Grantees: The Institute works with an extensive network of partners, including non-profits, academic institutions, government agencies, international organizations, and the military.
IPAR approach is grounded in field of research. Our surveys and policy analyses are informed by the work of a team of researchers, reporters and political analysts located in different areas of Pak-Afghan region. Based on information and assessments from the field, the institute produces analytical reports, weekly updates and policy briefings containing practical recommendations targeted at key national and international decision-makers. We also publish survey-based reports, research journal and books, providing in-depth analysis of various issues.
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