Germany's ambassador to Islamabad says the cooperation between Pakistan and India is vital for the stability of South Asia and that Germany will continue to help Afghanistan after the withdrawal of NATO troops.
As the time for the international troops to leave Afghanistan draws closer, the doubts about the stability of the war-torn country and the South Asian region are increasing. Not only the western governments are trying to ensure Afghanistan's stability, the non-government organizations, too, are busy organizing seminars and conferences to come up with ideas and recommendations for the future of the country.
In 2010, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, an independent German think tank, began their "track two diplomacy" to bring together diplomats, retired army officers and regional experts from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Central Asia, China, Russia, Turkey and Iran to initiate a dialogue on how to sustain peace in Afghanistan after the departure of international troops. On January 15, the organization held a two-day conference in Islamabad to discuss the current and future situation.
Cyrill Nunn, German ambassador to Pakistan, told DW after the conference that 2014 would be a year of enormous challenges. He is, nonetheless, optimistic about the future of the country.
"NATO forces will be moving out soon but that does not mean that the international community will abandon Afghanistan and stop taking interest in its affairs," Nunn said. "Germany will continue to be involved in reconstruction and provide economic help. It will also train Afghan security forces. So nobody should worry that the friends of Afghanistan will leave the region."
Talks with the Taliban
Some security experts believe that the future of Afghanistan is linked to the success of the Afghan government's proposed talks with the Taliban. Despite several attempts by Kabul and Washington, peace talks with the militant Islamists have so far failed to take off.
Nunn admits that after a decade of war against the Taliban, international forces have not been able to totally defeat the former Afghan rulers. He is of the opinion that it is crucial to start a dialogue with them. "We have to try to include the Taliban in talks as a political force. They will be one of the groups that might be part of a future setup. It is a challenge, and that is what we have talked about [at the Islamabad conference]." The ambassador added that it would be up to the Afghan government to decide how and when to initiate these talks.
Mahmood Shah, a retired Pakistani military officer and security analyst, told DW the failure of talks with the Taliban could lead to a bigger turmoil in Afghanistan. "The Americans are leaving Afghanistan. They have not been able to kick-off the talks and have failed to bring the Taliban into mainstream politics. I don't think things will get better in future."
Indo-Pakistani ties and Afghanistan
Nunn said the improvement of ties between two South Asia nuclear powers, India and Pakistan, was vital for the security and stability of not only Afghanistan but the entire region.
"Prime Minister Sharif's government understands that the ties with India need to be fixed. Both countries need each other as markets so that they can increase bilateral trade. Pakistan and India should look at each other as friends and not enemies. It will take time, but I am hopeful the two countries will get closer."
Retired Indian army general Ashok Mehta, who also participated in the FES Islamabad conference, said the perception that hostility between New Delhi and Islamabad is hampering peace in Afghanistan was "flawed."
"To say that Afghanistan will be become peaceful if India and Pakistan resolve the Kashmir dispute is incorrect. The Indo-Pakistan disputes have nothing to do with Afghanistan," the former general told DW, adding that the Afghan crisis was more about Pakistan's relations with Afghanistan.