The Joint Declaration is the result of many months of parley between policy groups from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Central Asia and regional experts from China, Russia, Turkey and Iran, who were brought together under the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) regional project, “Envisioning a Secure and Independent Afghanistan Post 2014: Perspectives and Strategies for Constructive Conflict Resolution from the Neighbourhood”.
This intensive engagement was initiated in 2012 with a clear aim to facilitate both the internal national dialogues and regional discussions so that policy recommendations could emerge from amongst the neighbours as to how they can support the transformation of Afghanistan into a stable, prosperous and neutral country in the region – an asset for all; especially in light of the withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan in 2014. Now that it has been launched here it will be taken to major international capitals: London, New York and Washington, to get the buy in from the policymakers there.
The principal goal of the Declaration is to provide a framework for relationships of trust between Afghanistan and its neighbours that can enable “Enduring Neutrality” of Afghanistan similar to that of Austria and Switzerland – Afghanistan: an asset for all.
Main recommendations of the five conveners along with other regional, national and international recommendations were
- The peace process in Afghanistan should involve Afghan people so there is a consensus on the reconciliation process.
- Efforts must be made to ensure peaceful security, political and economic transition in Afghanistan.
- Increase national revenue of Afghanistan and the region.
- Joint working group should be established between Pakistan and Afghanistan to address the causes of mistrust between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- Direct contacts between Pakistan and Afghanistan should increase.
- The proxy war between Pakistan and India must come to an end in Afghanistan and India and Pakistan must have a dialogue on Afghanistan.
- There should be a policy of non-interference in Afghanistan and a mechanism be established to check there is non-interference in Afghanistan.
- The peaceful transition requires a regional leader.
- There should be better border management and policing.
- Pursue regional commitments to fight terrorism, extremism and militancy.
- ANSF must be equipped to be able to take responsibility of security.
Chief Guest Mr Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs said in his speech that Pakistan’s foreign office has dedicated a lot of efforts and time to Afghanistan as a result there is a substantial reduction in the mistrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Pakistan cannot achieve its economic goals without peaceful neighbourhood. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan president had three meetings in last six months. The external powers come and go but Pakistan and Afghanistan will always stay together.We are trying for better connectivity through rail links. Pakistan is playing constructive role in the reconciliation process. We are following policy of no-favourites in Afghanistan. We must let Afghans to settle and find a solution for them. We believe in a regional approach to non-interference. We must encourage the Taliban who want to talk.
Participants argued that even if BSA is signed between U.S. and Afghanistan it is not guarantee that Taliban will not take over. It was also mentioned that Americans have residual interest in the region so the regional countries should to step up in the region and have to find people who have to act as facilitators to speed up the reconciliation process.
Guests included the conveners of the Policy Groups, (Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Central Asia) major international and regional country ambassadors, ex-foreign Pakistani Ambassadors, retired army personnel, diplomatic corps officers, foreign affairs analyst and prominent TV anchors. It was an interactive session moderated by the TV anchor Dr Moeed Pirzada.