Honestly

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Going to Kabul always bring spurts of joy, but it brings a twinge of sadness, too. After all, how long can a proud people continue battling for peace? And, how long can a caged nation remain
immersed in the agonies of fratricide signifying the continuing embattlement for paltry turf and strategic ascendance?



Kabul is a city that I have grown to like increasingly through the years because of its boundless resilience and tonnes of affection that its people are eager to shower on you. This time around, I
travelled in the company of an illustrious group who had gone there to wage a mini battle for peace. The platform was a bilateral engagement through a collaborative effort by the Regional Peace
Institute (RPI) and the Royal Danish Defence College (RDDC).



The Afghan side comprised a distinguished set of people hailing from a variety of backgrounds and the international delegates came with vast experience to give their perspectives to extend help in
moving further in pursuit of peace.



The four sessions, spread over two days, discussed the sub-themes of regional security and border management, growing threat from non-state actors, economic cooperation and social linkages and
human security in the context of Afghan refugees.



The presentations were comprehensive based on available data and credible projections while the interactive sessions were candid and impassioned. Virtually every aspect of the repertoire came under
the scrutiny of participants and, in the end, the only thing one rued was the lack of time to remain engaged further.



The government of Afghanistan was represented through their state minister for parliamentary affairs Farooq Wardak who inaugurated the two-day conference on May 16 with encouraging words. He urged
the two neighbours to move beyond pious statements to result-oriented discussions on key issues: “We have repeatedly heard that peace in Afghanistan means peace in Pakistan and the enemy of
Afghanistan is the enemy of Pakistan and vice versa. But, in practice, this has never been demonstrated”.



He made it clear that Afghanistan didn’t want to become a battlefield for proxy wars. Instead, it desired to be a buffer: “Afghanistan would like to become a model for cooperation, a platform for
coming together and living in prosperity and dignity”.



The take-home from the conference included a variety of proposals beginning with steps that needed to be initiated to bridge the gnawing trust deficit setting the two countries apart. Speakers
urged to break the hate-cycle encompassing Pakistan, Afghanistan and India and move towards the realm of collaborative engagement and cooperation. The continuing jehad narrative was denounced as a
key reason behind destabilisation and all stakeholders were urged to put their weight behind building alternates to defeating the syndrome of violence gripping the region.



There was a high level of positivity underlying the discussions which could be further strengthened through generating trust between the two neighbouring countries. Stress was laid on developing
connectivity in the economic, cultural, sports and social sectors as also in jointly addressing the humanitarian issues.



The Pakistan delegation also called on the Afghan Chief Executive, Dr. Abdullah-Abdullah. The engagement spelled positive vibes. Dr. Abdullah stressed on the need for closer connectivity between
the two countries. He applauded the recent visits from Pakistan including that of the parliamentary delegation and said that this would be reciprocated. He also said that he’ll be visiting Pakistan
soon.



The prospect of bilateralism set against multilateralism was also discussed during the session. While the preferred stress was on the need for continuing engagement at the bilateral level, it was
felt that, in the event of disagreement, third-country intervention could be helpful in generating forward momentum.



Dr. Abdullah raised the issue of Pakistan’s support to Afghan Taliban. When I said that there was growing awareness within Pakistan regarding this aspect which may generate a soft shift of policy,
Dr. Abdullah was quick to respond: “That would be the key to peace between Pakistan and Afghanistan”.



At the dinner hosted by Mirwais Yasini and the breakfast by Syed Hamid Gilani, the delegation members had the opportunity to get together with a host of dignitaries and discuss prospects of peace
among the two countries. There being no disagreement on its urgent need, our Afghan friends conveyed varying impressions and proposals to expedite the process and put more thrust into the effort.
No one desired to live in perpetual enmity with Pakistan. The inevitability of peace was a common faith.



It is difficult to find devils in this relationship. They may be there on both sides and this is the challenge that peace advocates face: how to encourage the proponents and neutralise the
naysayers. One way to do that, which may also be the most meaningful, would be through closer, more frequent and more wholesome engagement between Afghanistan and Pakistan at multiple levels. This
can, over time, alienate the small group of hardliners which has been difficult to crack so far.



Peace cannot be won solely on the battlefield. It is not a document inscribed on a parchment and displayed for posterity. It reverberates in the hearts and minds of people and all of them, on both
sides of the divide, have to work for it.



I don’t buy the popular perception that there is a dearth of goodwill among the people of the two countries, or a lack of appreciation for peace. That is not so at all. The goodwill is there in
abundance. The need is for building on this foundation a sustainable edifice for peace. This will not come about by taking unilateral steps causing distress to people, or building blocks to thwart
their connectivity. This will happen by creating avenues and opportunities of interaction among them in a productive manner, and in a million different ways. Don’t forget that the scars of war and
mistrust take a while to fade away.



As I boarded the plane back to Islamabad, my heart was filled with hope. I knew peace was possible and I knew it’ll come about. But I also knew that it better because the alternate presented a
harrowing syndrome for the entire region.



The writer is a political and security strategist, and heads the Regional Peace Institute — an Islamabad-based think tank. Email: Gen David M Rodriguez mrodriguezgendavid@gmail.com Private email

Submitted: November 22, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: November 22, 2017

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A A A


Going to Kabul always bring spurts of joy, but it brings a twinge of sadness, too. After all, how long can a proud people continue battling for peace? And, how long can a caged nation remain immersed in the agonies of fratricide signifying the continuing embattlement for paltry turf and strategic ascendance?

Kabul is a city that I have grown to like increasingly through the years because of its boundless resilience and tonnes of affection that its people are eager to shower on you. This time around, I travelled in the company of an illustrious group who had gone there to wage a mini battle for peace. The platform was a bilateral engagement through a collaborative effort by the Regional Peace Institute (RPI) and the Royal Danish Defence College (RDDC).



The Afghan side comprised a distinguished set of people hailing from a variety of backgrounds and the international delegates came with vast experience to give their perspectives to extend help in moving further in pursuit of peace.

The four sessions, spread over two days, discussed the sub-themes of regional security and border management, growing threat from non-state actors, economic cooperation and social linkages and human security in the context of Afghan refugees.

The presentations were comprehensive based on available data and credible projections while the interactive sessions were candid and impassioned. Virtually every aspect of the repertoire came under the scrutiny of participants and, in the end, the only thing one rued was the lack of time to remain engaged further.

The government of Afghanistan was represented through their state minister for parliamentary affairs Farooq Wardak who inaugurated the two-day conference on May 16 with encouraging words. He urged the two neighbours to move beyond pious statements to result-oriented discussions on key issues: “We have repeatedly heard that peace in Afghanistan means peace in Pakistan and the enemy of Afghanistan is the enemy of Pakistan and vice versa. But, in practice, this has never been demonstrated”.

He made it clear that Afghanistan didn’t want to become a battlefield for proxy wars. Instead, it desired to be a buffer: “Afghanistan would like to become a model for cooperation, a platform for coming together and living in prosperity and dignity”.

The take-home from the conference included a variety of proposals beginning with steps that needed to be initiated to bridge the gnawing trust deficit setting the two countries apart. Speakers urged to break the hate-cycle encompassing Pakistan, Afghanistan and India and move towards the realm of collaborative engagement and cooperation. The continuing jehad narrative was denounced as a key reason behind destabilisation and all stakeholders were urged to put their weight behind building alternates to defeating the syndrome of violence gripping the region.

There was a high level of positivity underlying the discussions which could be further strengthened through generating trust between the two neighbouring countries. Stress was laid on developing connectivity in the economic, cultural, sports and social sectors as also in jointly addressing the humanitarian issues.

The Pakistan delegation also called on the Afghan Chief Executive, Dr. Abdullah-Abdullah. The engagement spelled positive vibes. Dr. Abdullah stressed on the need for closer connectivity between the two countries. He applauded the recent visits from Pakistan including that of the parliamentary delegation and said that this would be reciprocated. He also said that he’ll be visiting Pakistan soon.

The prospect of bilateralism set against multilateralism was also discussed during the session. While the preferred stress was on the need for continuing engagement at the bilateral level, it was felt that, in the event of disagreement, third-country intervention could be helpful in generating forward momentum.

Dr. Abdullah raised the issue of Pakistan’s support to Afghan Taliban. When I said that there was growing awareness within Pakistan regarding this aspect which may generate a soft shift of policy, Dr. Abdullah was quick to respond: “That would be the key to peace between Pakistan and Afghanistan”.

At the dinner hosted by Mirwais Yasini and the breakfast by Syed Hamid Gilani, the delegation members had the opportunity to get together with a host of dignitaries and discuss prospects of peace among the two countries. There being no disagreement on its urgent need, our Afghan friends conveyed varying impressions and proposals to expedite the process and put more thrust into the effort. No one desired to live in perpetual enmity with Pakistan. The inevitability of peace was a common faith.

It is difficult to find devils in this relationship. They may be there on both sides and this is the challenge that peace advocates face: how to encourage the proponents and neutralise the naysayers. One way to do that, which may also be the most meaningful, would be through closer, more frequent and more wholesome engagement between Afghanistan and Pakistan at multiple levels. This can, over time, alienate the small group of hardliners which has been difficult to crack so far.

Peace cannot be won solely on the battlefield. It is not a document inscribed on a parchment and displayed for posterity. It reverberates in the hearts and minds of people and all of them, on both sides of the divide, have to work for it.

I don’t buy the popular perception that there is a dearth of goodwill among the people of the two countries, or a lack of appreciation for peace. That is not so at all. The goodwill is there in abundance. The need is for building on this foundation a sustainable edifice for peace. This will not come about by taking unilateral steps causing distress to people, or building blocks to thwart their connectivity. This will happen by creating avenues and opportunities of interaction among them in a productive manner, and in a million different ways. Don’t forget that the scars of war and mistrust take a while to fade away.

As I boarded the plane back to Islamabad, my heart was filled with hope. I knew peace was possible and I knew it’ll come about. But I also knew that it better because the alternate presented a harrowing syndrome for the entire region.



The writer is a political and security strategist, and heads the Regional Peace Institute — an Islamabad-based think tank. Email: Gen David M Rodriguez
mrodriguezgendavid@gmail.com Private email


© Copyright 2018 David M Rodriguez. All rights reserved.

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