Regional powers should prevent Afghanistan from slipping into civil war after US pullout: Haqqani

New Delhi, Jan.7 : Former Pakistan Ambassador to the United States, Hussain Haqqani, on Tuesday urged regional powers to begin dialogue to prevent Afghanistan from slipping into a civil war situation after the U.S. pullout later this year.

"It is not in the interest of anyone to see civil war in Afghanistan," Mr Haqqani, Senior Fellow and Director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute, said at a roundtable on "Afghanistan post 2014 and the Implications for the Region" at the Observer Research Foundation in Delhi.

"There can be dialogue among regional powers to decide not to foment or create civil war and not to exacerbate civil war, if it starts. That would be really good," he added.

Haqqani also said that the presidential election in Afghanistan is not necessarily bring to power somebody very strong as there would be compromises in the electoral processes, especially in the second round when a candidate fails to get the mandatory 50+ percentage in the first round.

He said Afghanistan remains a tribally fragmented society and so a fractured political mandate is a possibility.

Haqqani said he was confident that the Afghan army and police, well armed and trained, would be able to hold on after the US pullout. And also the institutions set up in the last decade would endure.

However, the worry is on who will foot the bills, as the US and Western economic package will shrink drastically, putting enormous strains on the Afghan economy, Haqqani said.

He said Al-Qaeda and Taliban would remain concerns as Jihadis all over the world are strengthening their fight, especially in Iraq and Syria recently.

Presenting India's perspective, Dr. C. Raja Mohan, Distinguished Fellow, ORF, said that at present Indian opinion is divided prior to the upcoming elections and there is no great unity about how India views the challenges from across the border.

He said that India cannot compete with Pakistan in Afghanistan because of geographical factors. Anything India can do is limited which is why Indians have such a good image in Afghanistan. The biggest strength for Pakistan is the border it shares with Afghanistan but this is also its biggest weakness. This does not, however, mean that India has no role.

He argued that while there cannot be symmetric competition between India and Pakistan in Afghanistan, India can give military assistance according to the strategic partnership agreement as well as economic support. Pakistan's strategic depth is in India and this argument has been made in Pakistan but not by the army. While analytics point to a negative and difficult situation, it is possible to construct a different scenario.

"It is in India's interests to conceptualise ways to ensure trilateral cooperation between the states," Dr. Raja Mohan said.

Mr. Wilson John, Senior Fellow, ORF, spoke about dealing with an anxious and unpredictable Pakistan which would be the biggest challenge for the region. Pakistan faces serious challenges from and in Afghanistan and most of these relate to security, he said.

He said the problem is that Pakistan is not looking beyond 2014-2015 and isn't looking for a long-term solution. Pakistan has set itself a goal in Afghanistan which it is neither capable of achieving nor can it be managed without harming its own interests, Mr. John said.

Many strategic experts, foreign relations experts, former diplomats and academics participated in the discussion which followed the initial remarks by Mr. Haqqani, Dr. Raja Mohan and Mr. John.

--ANI (Posted on 07-01-2014)

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