'India, China, Pakistan should work more closely in Afghanistan'

India, China and Pakistan need to find areas to cooperate and collaborate and become strategic partners inside Afghanistan to ensure stability in the region and stave off threats from terrorists, foreign policy experts have averred.

New Delhi: India, China and Pakistan need to find areas to cooperate and collaborate and become strategic partners inside Afghanistan to ensure stability in the region and stave off threats from terrorists, foreign policy experts have averred.

The remarks come even as Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar is in Kabul to hold talks with the Afghan leadership as part of his 'SAARC Yatra' aimed at firming up India's ties with members of the regional grouping.

Stating that China and India were both important for his country, former Afghan ambassador to China, Sultan Ahmed Baheen, said it was imperative for the two countries to hit upon a model similar to that of China and America.

"We in Afghanistan expect more cooperation between the two countries, not only bilaterally but also as strategic partners. Afghanistan can be the ground for cooperation between the two," Baheen said.

Rather than trying to contain it, it is engagement with Afghanistan which would benefit everyone, said Amanullah Saleh, a former chief of Afghan intelligence.

"Based on realities and our histories, Afghanistan will never lose relevance... I think engaging with Afghanistan is far more to the benefit of everyone rather than disengaging and containing it. We are an actor in the region and a factor in the world. We are not a subject," he said.

"Discussions in Washington or in London, or Brazil, about Afghanistan, to be honest, we have zero influence on that. What we have is confidence in our history, in our land, in our people, in our indigenous capability. With that confidence intact, in one way or the other, Washington will engage with us," Saleh said.

Comparing Afghanistan to a little boutique shop in the vicinity of a big shopping mall, Saleh said, "We don't lose locational value by virtue of being surrounded by powerful countries... We remain relevant."

Commenting on the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) between India and Afghanistan, Saleh said, "We heard from government officials yesterday that the provisions of the SPA are implemented and thoroughly observed that there is no change in that."

TCA Rangachari, former ambassador of India to France and Germany, said that the "zero sum game" approach mentality towards security in Afghanistan should change.
"The approach that either India can be in Afghanistan or Pakistan can be in Afghanistan and not both of them together, that approach should change," Rangachari said.

Agriculture, education, security and medicine are various areas of interest that can be looked at as areas for cooperation and collaboration between India, China and Pakistan, he said.

"In terms of trade, if there is land connectivity, it will benefit Pakistan. It will mean a much bigger market for not only Pakistan, but also Afghanistan."

"It becomes important for China's foreign policy, which is talking of integrating markets across Asia, to persuade Pakistan in terms of opening up the process to benefit everyone," he said.

The policy experts from Vivekanda International Foundation, the Royal United Services Institute, London, and the China Institute of Contemporary Relations, Bejing, were participating in a four-day trilateral conference.

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