Pakistan has the golden opportunity to get its issues with Afghanistan resolved in Afghan Peace Process. There are four main issues Pakistan needs to talk with Afghans during Afghan Peace Process for Pakistan is playing a crucial role in pushing the process. Those four issues are the framework for water management, the return of refugees, smuggling and Durand Line issue.
Foreign Secretary reaffirms Pakistan's support for Afghan peace process and commitment to foster close bilateral relations with Afghanistan https://t.co/yv6Wbzw2Xo @ForeignOfficePk pic.twitter.com/0zDgpmSteB
— Radio Pakistan (@RadioPakistan) October 19, 2020
The first issue risking a major conflict in future between Afghanistan and Pakistan is related to water management of rivers. The trans-border Kabul River needs attention for there are no mechanisms or treaties between two countries to regulate the water flow. A mechanism like the Indus Water Treaty needs to be negotiated.
Afghanistan is building Shahtoot Dam on Kabul River which is a huge concern for Pakistan because it will reduce the flow of water for up to 16%. This can lead to a major conflict in future.
Return of refugees to Afghanistan
Secondly, Pakistan should build its case for the return of refugees to Afghanistan. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the country hosts 1.4 million refugees who can be a cause of social, political and economic issues in near future. A mechanism for the safe repatriation should be part of Afghan Peace Process.
Curtailment of cross border smuggling
Thirdly, Pakistan should initiate talks on the curtailment of cross border smuggling with Afghanistan. Afghanistan produces 90 per cent of the total heroin produced in the world and due to a porous border, this is smuggled to Pakistan. Although opium accounts for 90 per cent of Afghanistan’s GDP, the two countries must lay out a framework to suspend all smuggling, especially drugs.
Durand Line issue
Fourthly, Pakistan has a long-standing issue or border demarcation of the Durand Line with Afghanistan. In the past, Afghanistan has denied recognizing the Durand Line as its border. This can also be a source of conflict. Periodic clashes have caused casualties on both sides on the 2611 Km border.
Kabul wants to establish a stronger relationship with Pakistan; the latter must highlight the issues which may become a hurdle in the long-term relationship for two neighbours. Abdullah Abdullah on his Islamabad visit last month said: “I am confident that we are on the threshold of a new era in bilateral relations based on mutual respect and sincere cooperation for shared prosperity.”
Pakistan as a key helper in the Afghan Peace Process can demand resolution of four of its issues; there can not be a better time than this.