Ground realities highlight cracks in ‘landmark’ trilateral summit


To many it was a landmark summit between the presidents of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan here in the capital on Friday with all three heads of state resolving to fight the menace of terrorism jointly and settling their problems on their own without inviting external actors for assistance, but it’s the other way round when it comes to ground realities.
Owing to various important factors, the realisation of all the announcements and decisions made at the Islamabad trilateral summit of these three nations seem to be a daunting task if not completely impossible.
And to those, who dub it as a historic meeting, it was not the first one of its kind, as two summits of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan had been held in Tehran previously on much or less the same issues with no tangible results and the fourth one is scheduled to be held in Kabul.
It was at the Islamabad trilateral summit that President Asif Ali Zardari said on Friday that Pakistan, along with Afghanistan and Iran, was committed to jointly work to rid the region of the menace of terrorism.
President Zardari also said that only joint efforts could help the region overcome terrorism that was being fuelled by billions of dollars of drug trade. The three leaders vowed that they would collaborate for regional peace and prosperity observing there was no need of any external assistance for the purpose.
As it was expected, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also targeted the United States once again, although indirectly, by saying that some foreign powers were up to controlling this region and different conspiracies are on for the purpose.
More importantly, President Zardari, while expressing his concern over the rising tensions between Washington and Tehran over the latter’s nuclear programme, reportedly assured his Iranian counterpart that Pakistan would not allow the use of its soil by the United States in case of its attack on Iran.
The Pakistani leader also reiterated his commitment to the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project which is supposed to be completed by 2014 despite US pressure and strong opposition.
He said that in return Pakistan could provide Iran with wheat to help overcome its food needs, a gesture welcomed by Ahmadinejad.
As for Afghanistan, its President Hamid Karzai’s request from his Pakistani counterpart was to help Kabul with access to the Taliban for direct talks along with the ongoing peace negotiations between US and Taliban representatives in Qatar.
Pakistan, on its part extended assurance of all possible cooperation to Kabul for bringing back much needed peace and stability to Afghanistan, where decades of war and strife killed and injured hundreds of thousands of people.
Nonetheless, the diplomatic circles here see grave hindrances in the way of fulfilment of all the announcements made by the three leaders during the trilateral summit and the decisions that they made on Friday.
They believe that most important thing is that Pakistan has been in the US camp for decades, and the post-9/11 cooperation is only a matter of one decade.
Off late, there are clear signs of thaw in Islamabad-Washington ties after several months of tensions in bilateral ties that erupted in the wake of last year’s NATO strikes on Pakistani border posts which killed 24 soldiers.
Its not only Pakistan’s position in the US camp that is the hurdle in the way of trilateral cooperation between Tehran, Islamabad and Kabul on the Afghanistan issue, but another serious obstacle is the bilateral differences between Pakistani and Iranian authorities on policies that they have been pursuing in the shared neighbourhood.
Pakistan is blamed for trying to secure and safeguard its interests in Afghanistan through the Taliban for years, and the Iranians are allegedly backing the elements within erstwhile Northern Alliance in their fight against the militants led by Mullah Omar.
Many believe that this indirect fighting in Afghanistan between Iran and Pakistan or to be more precise, the proxy war, is still going on and given that vital factor it is naïve to be optimistic about the positive outcomes of the Islamabad trilateral summit or another such meeting scheduled for Kabul.
And last but not the least, the much talked about Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. The future of that mega project also seems to be bleak despite the dire energy needs of Pakistan. The pipeline comes under the UN-backed international sanctions and it would be very difficult for Islamabad to defy those sanctions.
Many energy experts and economists believe that owing to international sanctions, it would be very difficult for Islamabad to arrange for the finances required to complete the mega project.