The Afghanistan-China-Pakistan trilateral dialogue and a recurrent flaw

Wednesday, 30 May 2018 02:49 Written by  Read 115 times

Past experience has proved that any agreement with Pakistan without a reliable guarantee for implementation is futile. Islamabad made certain commitments as part of the Afghan peace initiative called “Quadrilateral Coordination Group” (QCG), comprising Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and the United States, but failed due to Pakistan’s betrayal of its promises. Such lack of commitment by the Pakistani side strained relations between Kabul and Islamabad, and continued until recently when both sides resumed talks at China’s mediation.
Besides the bilateral talks, the trilateral meetings of Afghanistan, Pakistan and China also continued. According to reports, preparations are already underway for another three-nation meeting in Beijing, the capital of China. The trilateral meeting series was a good initiative, but it also has not delivered any results yet, primarily because of absence of a guarantee to ensure promises are honored. Pakistan always makes promises in meetings, but starts to backpedal right when it comes to execution. Apart from Afghanistan, other sides also unfortunately do not press Pakistan to keep its promises though they wield significant influence over Islamabad. If Beijing and Washington had pressured Islamabad to fulfill its commitments under the quartet process, an important step would have been taken towards restoring stability in Afghanistan. Pakistan did not face any consequences for betrayal of commitments at that time, the very shortcoming that has also been repeated in the Afghanistan-China-Pakistan trilateral dialogue so far.
The success of the trilateral talks hinges on the implementation of commitments by the parties. If Pakistan again breaks its promises, the talks will definitely end up in failure. The parties to the trilateral mechanism, particularly China and Afghanistan, should make every effort to prevent the initiative from meeting the same fate as the QCG. It is only possible when Beijing fully exerts its leverage on Islamabad. It may not be logical for China to lose an all-weather friend like Islamabad for Kabul, but the threat posed to Chinese interests in Afghanistan due to continued instability triggered and fueled by non-state actors backed by Pakistan also cannot be ignored. Beijing should at least send a message to Islamabad that its support for anti-Afghan government elements threatens Chinese interests in Afghanistan and the wider region, which can have serious repercussions for China-Pak ties in the long run, if not in the short run.

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