“Regional Reset” and “Strategic Clarity” needed in policies toward Afghanistan: Mushahid

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ISLAMABAD, MAR 6 /DNA/ – Pakistan needs to develop strategic clarity on relations with its neighbors. We need a regional reset through dialogue among regional state actors. Opening borders and minds, and delinking trade from politics are crucial to promoting mutually beneficial peace and connectivity.

These remarks were made by Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed during the opening session of Pak-Afghan Stakeholders’ Dialogue, convened in Islamabad, attended by religious, tribal, and trade stakeholders from both sides, and organized by the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), in collaboration with its Afghan partner, Organization for Economic Studies and Peace (OESP). The dialogue witnessed an insightful exchange of ideas and perspectives aimed at fostering stronger ties and addressing key challenges between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It highlighted the imperative for regional cooperation and economic connectivity to ensure stability and prosperity in the region.

The conference commenced with notable insights from Senator Mushahid Hussain, who emphasized the historical context of Pak-Afghan relations. Senator Hussain, reflecting on his extensive experience, underscored the importance of stability in Afghanistan and called for a reassessment of Pakistan’s Afghan policy. He urged a more inclusive approach towards Afghan migrants, advocating for their integration into Pakistani society. He argued passionately that those born in Pakistan should be granted Pakistani citizenship, drawing parallels with other migrant communities residing in Pakistan.

The discussion swiftly shifted towards the evolving regional dynamics, particularly the rise of Iran-Afghanistan trade surpassing that of Pakistan. Senator Hussain pointed out the international community’s acknowledgment of the Taliban as the de facto rulers of Afghanistan, highlighting Russia’s desire to engage with them despite facing obstacles.

“Pakistan’s internal security is inextricably intertwined with geopolitics”, said Senator Hussain while underscoring the interplay between Pakistan’s relations with its neighbors and its internal stability. He said that regional peace, security, and stability are also inextricably intertwined with the same in Afghanistan, as preconditions. He called for a reassessment of historical perceptions regarding Afghan groups and strategic clarity in Pakistan’s Afghan policy, advocating for a more cooperative and inclusive approach.

Senator Hussain saw the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a potential catalyst for regional cooperation and economic connectivity, proposing the inclusion of Afghanistan in this initiative, and stressed the need for open borders and strategic clarity in Pakistan’s regional policies.

The dialogue concluded with Hussain’s call for a “regional reset” in policies towards Afghanistan, emphasizing the need for collaboration and cooperation among neighboring countries. He stressed the importance of separating border trade from political tensions and terrorism concerns, while also advocating for greater engagement with the Taliban and highlighting the positive aspects of Pakistan’s relationship with China.

Fulfilling his pledge made during the gathering, he advocated for the key messages of the dialogue in the Senate session right after attending the dialogue, emphasizing the urgency of regional cooperation for peace and prosperity.

Addressing the gathering, various speakers echoed the sentiments of cooperation and collaboration. The dialogue will conclude on March 08 with jointly agreed policy recommendations on the mutually concerning areas of the relationship.