Anadi Naik

Last week Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran and Hamid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan met with Pakistani President Ashif Ali Zardari in Islamabad to explore peace in the region. Afghanistan borders both Iran and Pakistan. What happens there impacts on its neighbors and for the last three decades a lot has been happening in Afghanistan. Over the years the country has been constantly at war - with itself and others. Forces from outside may have imposed a war on Afghanistan. But the people there have not yet been able to extricate themselves from its scourge. Therefore, a genuine search for peace in the region is very important. Without the presence of peace in that area peace in the world is not possible.

Each of the three countries participating in the Islamabad conference has its share of woes that threatens peace around the world. To begin with, the Taliban forces are trying to destabilize Afghanistan and the Karzai Government, with the help from the countries of the North Atlantic Alliance, is fighting back. The Afghan conflict has remained a big headache. On the other hand one cannot talk about peace in Afghanistan without talking about peace in Pakistan. A “peaceful Pakistan” has become a contradictory term – an oxymoron. The country muddles through endless conflicts. Like Voltaire’s God, if there was no conflict then Pakistan would have to invent one. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan’s turmoil within and without threatens world peace in a big way. The impact of the situation in Pakistan also spills over to neighboring India. Then there is Iran whose hidden agenda of creating a nuclear bomb along with a delivery system is no longer a secret. It is out in the open. Many fear that Israelis on behalf of the world will blow up Iran’s nuclear facilities should Iran continue its pursuit of the bomb. This would create a dangerous situation.

The focus of the Islamabad convention was to bring the three countries Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan together to form a joint front for peace. The jury is still out to define their success. Each country has its own set of interests. There seems to be limited common ground among them to act coherently. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan are heavily dependent on the US with whom they are connected by a treaty. Iran is dead set to destroy the West and its leader the United States. Iran and Afghanistan presently have unresolved border issues. Afghanistan and Pakistan also have boundary problems. Most of Iran is Shia whereas the FATA areas of Pakistan and most of Afghanistan are dominated by the Sunni Pastoons who want their own homeland carved out with areas from all three countries. In spite of a common religion, there is plenty of conflict among the three neighbors.

A peace in the region is necessary and that is why any effort, however limited in its scope, is a step in the right direction. Should peace finally prevail, all of them and their distant neighbors stand to gain. India is one of them. The Indian people are busy building their economy. However, the conflict in Afghanistan remains a drag for them. And so is Pakistan’s suspicion of India’s design on Afghanistan. For years Pakistan has been using the Taliban to keep both Indian and Afghan Governments off track. Should the Taliban finally join the Government to build Afghanistan rather than fight against it, it will be a positive change. Afghanistan and its neighbors would have a sigh of relief. By inviting Ahmadinejad and Karzai and by showing a willingness to work for peace Pakistan has taken an important, positive step. However, this must be matched by sincerity and hard work. As it stands right now, Pakistan has too many problems – ethnic, economic, societal and political. In order to become an honest broker of peace Pakistan needs to put its own house in order. It lacks strength and stature to be effective. When Mr. Ahmadinejad said in the Islamabad press conference “A nuclear bomb does not make a country strong” he was practically referring to Pakistan.

Ever since the Afghan imbroglio took shape, India has been eying at it with worries and concerns. Over the years the Taliban forces trained and financed by Pakistan have remained a reliable adversary and a dependable nuisance. They continue to cause pain and horror in innocent people and cannot be wished away. India can only hope that things get settled in the region and good sense prevails all around and that there is peace in Afghanistan.

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