Changing Regional Dynamics for Pakistan

By M. Tahir Khan.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office and Foreign Policy have suffered continued blow backs in the recent couple of months and have failed against the hostile policies of neighbouring countries and look totally dysfunctional. This is not only India, but Afghanistan’s foreign policy against Pakistan also remained hostile and on continuous basis charged Pakistan for interfering in their matters, but our response remained unsatisfied whereas all security problems in Pakistan also carried through Afghan’s soil. Some of the recent events have exposed Pakistan’s Foreign Policy including the arrest of Indian RAW Agent Kulbushan Yadav and the targeted killing of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, and have raised a lot of question marks on the credibility of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy.

Last month’s US Drone strike leaving Mullah Akhtar Mansoor dead concluded the peace process in the region and shattered the Pakistan’s efforts to bring all stake holders on dialogue table. This is not the first time peace process has been stopped; earlier in June 2015 peace process was blocked when Taliban and Kabul regime got engaged in one-on-one talks. The importance of the talks initiated by Pakistan was valued from the fact that it was being witnessed by US and Chinese representatives. All the credit to damage the peace talks goes to Afghan Intelligence who took the lead and broke the news that Afghan Taliban Amir Mullah Muhammad Umar is dead. National Defense Directorate (Afghan Intelligence Agency) is closely associated with Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of India, remained successful in bringing down the Pakistan’s peace efforts in the region.

However, this time on the incident of target killing of Mullah Mansoor Akhtar, the situation happens to be different as more stake holders are involved. As per media reports and details emerged out of his passport, Mullah Mansoor was coming back from Iran and after entering into Pakistan’s border from Taftan, he was being hit by a US drone near Pak-Afghan border. It was also reported in some segments of the Western Media that Iran shared the intelligence reports and finally Mullah Mansoor was droned.

If the travel details from Passport can be seen, it can be realized that this is not the first time Mullah Mansoor had visited Iran, this is his second trip to the country in less than five months. Mullah Mansoor’s frequent visits to Iran shows his confidence level, trust and his affiliations in Iran. It was also reported that he was getting medical treatment from Iranian hospitals and that also indicates his comfort level in the premises of Iran in contrast with Pakistan. Last year, in the main stream western media network, it was clearly pointed out that Iran is supporting Afghan Taliban financially and is also providing them weapons as well. This serves Iran’s interests manifold, firstly, weak Afghan Taliban, means a third force (ISIS) can fill in the vacuum that does not work out for their interest, secondly, Afghan Taliban, for the longer period of time, are standing against the US and coalition forces, that also serves their interests as they had a long history of variety of relations with the West.

In addition, it is not only Iran who was supporting Afghan Taliban, there were also some credible reports in Foreign Policy Magazine on the renewed relations of Afghan Taliban and Russians. In December 2016, Russian Foreign Ministry stated that contact between Russia and Afghan Taliban only involves intelligence sharing to speed up fight against ISIS. Russia is more worried about the passage of terrorists and insurgents with former Soviet Republics bordering Afghanistan. However, immediately after the publication of news, Afghan Taliban denied any contact with the Russians. Foreign Affairs Magazine reported that Russians fear that jihadist from its Caucasus Region and from former Republican States would joins ISIS in Iraq in Syria and then return home being more trained and more lethal than before.

However, last year’s Iran–P5 agreement brings decades-long relation to normalize the situation between Iran, US and Western World. This phase may also be regarded as the start of new friendly relations. Iran has started to build relations with Western countries including Italy, Germany, France and with one of the close allies of Iran who initiated and extended investments is none other than India.

Moreover, Chahbahar Port Agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan has also drawn more attention in the recent weeks and was declared by many experts as a security threat to Pakistan. While commenting on a three day conference in Islamabad organized by Strategic Institute Vision on National Security, two former defense secretaries termed Chahbahar Port connecting Afghanistan with a road link as a security threat to Pakistan. Former Defense Secretary Asif Yaseen Malik also stated that the alliance between India, Afghanistan and Iran is a security threat to Pakistan and added that he is feared that Pakistan is going into isolation. He further mentioned in the workshop that Pakistan is falling into isolation primarily due to its own mistakes and the hostile policies of the other states. He also blamed the ineffective foreign policy of Pakistan and the absence of a full time Foreign Minister.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office was unable to perform upto full extent as expected. In the recent cases of arresting of Indian RAW Agent Kulbushan Yadav and the target killing of Afghan Taliban Chief in a drone attack, response from foreign office looks completely ineffective. All the neighbouring states India, Iran and Afghanistan except China have encircled Pakistan and the death of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor has also limited the options for Pakistan on international level, whereas our weak foreign policy and hostile foreign policies of neighbouring states are enforcing and pushing us towards isolation. Being a state, Pakistan has to figure out few important steps on immediately. First of all Pakistan needs to appoint full fledged Foreign Minister, secondly, government of Pakistan needs to make Pakistan’s Foreign Office completely operational and functional. It has now become a need of time to review the relations and foreign terms with neighbouring countries to ensure our own security and national interests as well.

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