Late on Monday, May 20, President Karzai, leading a group of high delegates, left Kabul for Delhi for a three day visit. His visit came amidst recent new round of tensions with Pakistan. Previously Kabul officials generally remained silent about what they call as constant missile firing from the other side of the border but the recent clashes between border police and Pakistani militants in Goshta
district of Jalalabad province which left one Afghan soldier and some others injured sparked huge reactionary movements inside the country.
Civilians held demonstrations in Kabul, Jalalabad and some provinces demanding cutting ties with Islamabad. They also voiced out support of National Army who succeeded to destroy a military building established by Pakistani soldiers inside Afghan territory.
The clashes occurred exactly when Pakistanis were voting for election of a civil government. However, within the country people celebrated the election and Pakistani analysts branded it one of the successful elections due to high turnout in spite of warnings from militants and because it was the first election handing power from one civil government to another civil government, but many Afghans interpreted the election under shadow of its effects on their country.
However the radical Islamist party did not make any major headway but secular parties terribly limped behind mostly because they could not make any campaign due to overwhelming threat from militants. The parties like Muslim League-Nawaz may not be as friendly with US as for instance PPP was because the party does not want to make conservatives angry through continuing relation with United States, for instance.
It is not clear what would be the stance of new Pakistani government towards Afghanistan. Will Islamabad officials finally conclude that Afghanistan would turn to an independent country that has the right to choose its own foreign policies and strategy or not? Or the strategy and policies of the country would not see a major change by administration changes?
It is really hard to answer the above two questions. In the case of first one, as we are all aware that Pakistani officials have not reached to a conclusion that Afghanistan like the rest of the countries has the right to develop its own policies. As demands put ahead by ex-Pakistani Prime Minster, Mr. Yousuf Reza Gilani in 2011 clearly shows that concept of an independent Afghanistan seems far-acceptable for Pakistan. Along with the rest of issues, he asked that Afghanistan should keep distance from India, sign a strategic contract with Pakistan.
However, thereafter huge efforts were made to restore the bilateral relation and Afghanistan appointed chief of the office Umer Dawoodzai a sophisticated Afghan diplomat as ambassador but the recent issues of closing the Turkham border and allegation of advance of Pakistani soldier inside Afghan territory again poured fuels into historical differences. The issue of Durand line was again rejected by Afghanistan and Afghan officials once again criticized its neighbor of sheltering militants.
It is not clear whether the recent visit of President Karzai to India was tit-for-tat action or it was previously scheduled but what is obvious is that the recent border clashes pushed Mr. Karzai to squeeze the hands of Indian officials harder. On the second day of his visit, Mr. President Karzai put a wish-list, asking India to get involved deeper in Afghanistan, which certainly angers Pakistan.
"We have a wish-list that we have presented to India. Now it is up to them to decide," Karzai said during an interaction with a group of journalists on Wednesday, a day after he held talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pranab Mukherjee. He also met BJP leader LK Advani and a number of Indian CEOs on Tuesday.
"We discussed the scope for broadening of cooperation in all walks of life” economic uplift of the Afghan people, education to the Afghan youth and of course within the means of India, equipment for Afghan forces," Mr. President said.
On the other hand, India also wants to come closer to Kabul in order to challenge its historical rival in the region. According to reports, India almost accepted the demands of Kabul in terms of military support but it is not clear will Delhi be ready to equip Afghan National Army with much sophisticated weapons. India itself buys major part of its military equipment from Russia but does it assert high value to its ties with Kabul to deliver some Russian missile to Afghanistan? It is not clear particularly when Pakistan showed willingness to hold talks serious with India.
There is also another issue. During and after the visit of President, the suicide bombings increased in the country tremendously.
The level of bombings and clashes increased to a level that sparked worry among common people. Such sharp increase was largely interpreted as warning of Islamabad about possible developing close ties with India. But due to lack of information, such claims may remain only within the circle of assumptions.
But there are some issues that both Kabul and Islamabad officials should notice. The cultural and economic ties between the countries are strong. Lack of friendly relation will affect both countries tremendously. It looks wise that Afghan officials should understand without getting the attention of Islamabad, a strong and stable Afghanistan is merely a wish. And Islamabad officials also notice that Afghanistan may fall back to status where it was eleven years ago. Its unfriendly approach may push it far away and close to its arch rival.