In the wake of changing regional dimensions and ongoing political transitions, it is imperative for Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan to increase trilateral cooperation for seizing the opportunities available to them. These views were expressed by local and international experts in a seminar jointly organized by Center for International Strategic Studies (CISS) and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) at the Marriot International Hotel, Islamabad.
The conference focused on political, security and economic dynamics of the region in the backdrop of 2014 drawdown in Afghanistan and India-US-Iran and Pakistan-China-Iran triangles, and energy corridors, pipeline politics and regional trade relations.
The occasion was graced by chief guest His Excellency Cyrill Nunn, Ambassador Federal Republic of Germany. Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Chairman Standing Committee on Defense and Defense Production of the Pakistan Senate spoke as key note speakers in the inaugural session and while Ambassador Sherry Rehman, President Jinnah Institute was the key note speaker in post lunch session. Other prominent speakers included Dr. Riffat Hussain, Dr. Tahir Amin, Dr. Ashfaq Hassan Khan, former Iranian ambassador to Pakistan and India Mir Mahmoud Mousavi. Dr. Sohrab Shahabi, President IRS Ambassador (rtd) Arif Ayub and Ambassador (rtd) Aziz Ahmad Khan.
Conference Chief Guest Ambassador of Germany to Pakistan H.E Dr. Cyril Nunn congratulated CISS and KAS for organizing this important event. He said that the EU considers 3 neighboring countries i.e. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran as regional stake holders and both Iran and Pakistan are essential to peace and stability. The German Ambassador argued that fostering good relations is important for stability in Afghanistan as we need a strong and dynamic region. He praised the Pakistani government and said that it is committed to stability in Afghanistan and its seriousness was demonstrated by supporting Afghanistan elections. Ambassador Nunn said that the bulk of foreign troops will leave Afghanistan in 2014 but a certain amount for training will stay behind for training role and the German role is crucial in this regards. The Ambassador also highlighted that the BSA will be signed by new Afghan president. He concluded by saying that trust in bilateral relationship can lead to regional integration project in a quickly changing region.
Senator Mushahid Hussain in his keynote address said that this Seminar is organized at an important time. Our Region is changing and political transitions are taking place. Some New leadership has emerged in the region and some will emerge in India after its election. He also commented that the global balance of power is shifting from West to the East. 21st century is an Asian century characterized by the rise of China. He also expressed his apprehensions regarding the new great game in the region and argued that this is a negative trend for our region.
Ms. Sherry Rehman in her keynote address said that crucial interactions of think tanks are important to discuss important issues at public level. She argued that there seems to be emerging a mainstream consensus in Islamabad on promoting peace but certain difficulties remain intact. Commenting on Afghanistan elections she said that women voting in Afghanistan is a positive development and two front runners have committed themselves for BSA signing. Political deal making is critical in Afghanistan and will come out as an important factor in outcome of political order there. She stressed the need for assisting in stabilizing the Afghan border. On India, Ms Sherry Rehman said that politics there is tilting towards the right and we need to assess how this factor will effect on Pakistan.
Earlier in the beginning, Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi Executive Director CISS in his opening remarks welcomed the distinguished participants, speakers and the chief guest for their presence in the conference. He said that the trilateral cooperation amongst the three countries will go a long way towards establishing mutually beneficial interdependence. This cooperation can create the conditions for durable peace and stability in the region while adding strength to bilateral ties of the three states. He also deliberated briefly on the historical evolution of Pakistan – Afghanistan and Iran relations.
Mr. Ronny Heine, Resident Representative of KAS in his opening remarks said that trilateral cooperation can play an important role in promoting larger regional cooperation. He maintained that apart from being geographic contiguous region there seems to be less regional integration and that duration of peace and stability in Afghanistan is linked this regional integration.
Former Iranian envoy to India and Pakistan Ambassador Mir Mahmoud Mousavi in his talk said that problem identification is critical to understand the region as one hears different things in New Delhi, Kabul, Islamabad and Tehran. He opined that some of these problems are centuries old, some of them are few decades old and some of them developed in recent years e.g. extremism. Ambassador Mousavi discussed three questions. First is regarding problem being exported into the region from outside, second is the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan for the last 34 years and whether their presence have helped solve problem or increase it. Third question is how these problems matter to other states beyond regional countries e.g. US, China, India and Gulf countries.
Other conference topics included political dynamics (Emerging US-Iran rapprochement, Afghanistan post 2014 and India-Pakistan relations), security dynamics (ISAF drawdown in Afghanistan, India-US-Iran triangle and Pakistan-China-Iran triangle, counterterrorism efforts), economic dynamics (Energy corridors, pipe line politics and trade relations), regional security imperatives: perspective from Afghanistan, Afghanistan centric regional security scenario, regional economic interdependence and possibilities for political and economic cooperation in Post 2014 Scenario.
The conference was well attended by members of academia, media, diplomatic community, students from prominent universities and government officials. Each session was followed by an interactive discussion.