WASHINGTON - Pakistan wants peaceful and stable relations with sovereign Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said on Friday, while declaring before an American audience that Islamabad was not seeking “strategic depth” in that landlocked country.
In a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, she raised Pakistan’s fears of fallout from unrest as Afghanistan moves towards the 2014 transition in the country, where security must improve.
Hina spoke a day after her Afghan counterpart Zalmai Rassoul raised in the UN Security Council what he called the issue of Pakistani shelling across the two countries border.
“Failure to end such attacks risks jeopardising Afghanistan-Pakistan bilateral relations, with potential negative consequences for necessary bilateral cooperation for peace, security and economic development in our two countries and the wider region,” Rassoul said.
Hina referred to the spillover of unrest from Afghanistan into Pakistan and the unintended consequences that Pakistan had to grapple with in the aftermath of Soviet pullout from Afghanistan when the US-led international partners disengaged from Afghanistan.
“We are, of course, very very concerned about the State —- because we know the entry goals in Afghanistan were very different than what is appearing to be now,” she said at the discussion, anchored by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
“What we want from the world, from the 49 nations operating in Afghanistan is that there is no security vacuum left behind,” she emphasised.
She also strongly defended her country’s anti-terror performance and said under the democratic government, led by President Asif Ali Zardari, Islamabad has made it clear that the fight against militancy is the country’s own fight.
She pointed out to the gathering that many of the challenges Pakistan today faces are rooted in historical events.
Islamabad, she said, fears for instability in Afghanistan, because instability from Afghanistan permeates through 2000 km border directly into Pakistan’s territory as it has in the last three decades.
She told the gathering of experts and intellectuals that as much as 53 000 people cross Pak-Afghan border everyday.
“We seek no strategic depth in Afghanistan,” she declared categorically.
“What we seek relations with is a peaceful, stable Afghanistan, a sovereign and independent Afghanistan.”
“We have no intentions nor any national interest to impose any type of government in Afghanistan. It is for the Afghans to do so,”she said.
Drawing attention of the American experts and intelligentsia to Pakistan’s unparalleled sacrifices in the fight against terror, she said the country has been gone through 350 suicide bombings in the last few years, while there was just one such attack before the 9/11 events.
The economic losses are a staggering 70 to 100 billion dollars, she added.
The biggest challenge the anti-terror allies face in the region is to “collectively fight the mindset” that was encouraged in the Jehad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and has haunted the region as a leftover of events three decades back, Hina stated.
“During the Afghan war,we all collectively chose to harness Jehadi ideology to fight the Soviets as instrument of war. It was done on our soil.”
“Pakistan was left with the mindset, arms, ammunition, the bombs with the Kalashnikov and the narcotics trade and till today we are suffering the consequence of each one of those,” she added.
She said lessons must be learnt from the past for a better future.
On barometers that may help determine the Afghan situation, she said until about 2007 a small stream of Afghan refugees was going back but now the trend has reversed.
“That does not give a lot of confidence that we are achieving the goals we set for ourselves collectively.”
Secondly, she referred to the recent the incidents of green-on–blue attacks in Afghanistan and the decision not to go through joint training, terming them as “huge concerns” for Pakistan.
“We will not be able to change our geography. We must make sure that the security situation in Afghanistan is good enough for us to be able to build a peaceful and stable neighbourhood,”she said.
Thirdly, she said militants using the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan have stormed into Pakistani territory in hundreds attacked the security forces inside Pakistani territory. In one incident, the militants infiltrating from Afghanistan slaughtered 17 Pakistani soldiers, she added.
“All of these are not signs that inspire a lot of confidence in the security situation in Afghanistan and we fear that through the long border we will have to face more challenges in the future. “
The primary core national interest of Pakistan is a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, she said.
“The best possible scenario that we can think of in 2014 is that elections take place in Afghanistan, all Afghan groups are able to demonstrate their strength, their will to the election process, not through violence, and that is the immediate future that we must be working together,”she stated.
AFP adds: Pakistan and the US are repairing ties which had plunged to an all-time low, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said Friday, despite violent anti-American protests rocking her country.
“The last 18 months were very, very difficult,” Khar said at the start of talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, adding the nations were doing “better than we could have expected to do in rebuilding the trust.”
The two women leaders were meeting at State Department as violent protests against anti-Islam movie flared for another day across Pakistan.
Khar insisted after efforts to renew the relationship over the past few months ‘we stand at a time of opportunity’. “At a time of opportunity to seize the trust deficit mantra and start building on the trust by walking the talk, that achieves the interests that are clearly common.”
Clinton said their shared top priority was “pursuing our joint counter-terrorism objectives to ensure the security of American and Pakistani citizens alike.”
The two nations ‘both recognised that we can achieve more when we work together on a focused agenda’, said Clinton who will meet with President Asif Ali Zardari next week on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
“At each meeting we are working to identify the strategic goals we share, and there are many. And the concrete actions we can each take to accomplish them.”
US ties doing ‘better than expected’: FM