Trilateral summit on Afghanistan


Prime Minister Imran Khan said Friday prayers at Bestepe Nation Mosque in company of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan before having a marathon one-on-one meeting with the latter in the adjacent Presidential Palace Complex, one of the world’s most imposing buildings. After the meeting, Erdogan announced in a joint press conference with Khan that Turkey, along with Pakistan, will hold a trilateral summit for durable peace in Afghanistan. This has endorsed the claim that Afghanistan is the elephant in the room.
US President Donald Trump has recently raised questions about why American forces should stay in Afghanistan when even Russia is not there. He was of the view that more than the US, neighbours of Afghanistan – especially India – need to be engaged in that country for resolution of the bloody conflict that has long been refusing to end. India simply shrugged off its responsibility stating that it was engaged in construction of the society and country. Pakistan, however, became active and arranged a summit of Afghan Taliban in the UAE, where they said they will talk to the US representatives and not the Afghan government. Later, they also agreed to hold another moot in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
There is no clear timeframe for this moot but one thing is clear that it will eclipse all other such initiatives involving international players for two reasons. First, the level of confidence that the Kingdom has with Taliban and the US is unmatched by Turkey or Pakistan. Second, the Kingdom also has the capacity to initiate a process to solve financial problems of the war-ravaged country. The Kingdom is not very happy with Turkey and fault line between the two was set off by murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Consulate in Turkey in the most inhuman manner.
Logically speaking, it was not a wise move for PM Khan to be part of the Turkey-sponsored trilateral summit on Afghanistan as Pakistan has already done its part. The Kingdom has given the newly formed PTI government financial aid and oil on deferred payment, which is vital to slow down economic decline of the country until it wins an IMF bailout package. So at this point, how Pakistan will be able to maintain balance between Turkey and the Kingdom while dealing with Afghanistan? The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leadership maintained this balance but Jamal Khashoggi had not been assassinated and hostility between the two countries heightened so much then.
However, the trilateral summit that Turkey has proposed will be exhaustive in nature as it will engage almost all stakeholders for Afghan peace including the government and Taliban representatives. The summit will be held after elections in Turkey conclude in March. Pakistan will have enough time to mobilize different players of Afghan peace by that time.
Presence of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi along with the PM has made this initiative all the more meaningful as he has been part of international moves for peace in Afghanistan since joining the office of the foreign minister.
The PM also took with him Finance Minister Asad Umar and leading investors to Turkey. During his stay in Turkey, he said he had learnt a lot about how to follow the concept of state of Madina. He invited investment of Turkey in construction of 500,000 houses in Pakistan, the PTI government’s flagship project. Though head of states are not supposed to castigate their political rivals at international forums, PM Khan said that Pakistan was derailed from the path to progress in 1970’s through nationalization drive, without naming Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He perhaps had forgotten that Bhutto, being influential foreign minister, was the architect of Regional Cooperation for Development (RDA), bringing Pakistan, Iran and Turkey on one table to look after regional affairs like Afghan crisis.