Analysis & Opinion

Pakistan, China and Afghanistan sign a MOU on anti-terrorism cooperation

The Afghanistan-Pakistan nexus is one of the complex stabilisation challenges presently facing the international community. The complicated security situation in Afghanistan has led to a large international focus and engagement. The situation is however also influenced by wider regional dynamics. Afghanistan has made considerable political, judicial, security, economic and developmental progress over the past decade. But the gains made are fragile and reversible. Thus, Afghanistan will continue to be a weak state with some of the lowest human development indicators whose future will depend on negotiating an inclusive political settlement with all major insurgent and militia groups; maintain security; tackle corruption; bring rule of law and effective governance to its population; and enact key economic and political reforms.

On December 15, 2018, Afghanistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs SalahuddinRabbani, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah MehmoodQureshi, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended the second China, Afghanistan and Pakistan trilateral foreign ministers’ dialogue in Kabul where a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on counter-terrorism was signed between the three countries. The second round of Pak- Afghanistan-China dialogue was held in Kabul to discuss peace, economic and counter-terrorism cooperation,“build(ing) political trust in Afghanistan-Pakistan relations; cooperation on counterterrorism; peace efforts and regional connectivity”. An excellent step was taken by the main regional players for intensification of their counterterrorism cooperation.The signing of the MoUwas alsowitnessed by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. 

As per the communiqué issued at the end of the dialogue, all three foreign ministers unanimously gave tongue todetermination to agitate, fight and decimate terrorism “in all its forms and manifestations, and without any distinction”.Although the details of the latest MoU are not public yet, but according to the communiqué,“there was agreement on augmenting logistical capabilities for fighting terrorism, including financing, recruitment and training; strengthening cooperation for counter-terrorism capacity building; denying terrorists use of internet; joint steps for deradicalisation; and collaboration to break the nexus between drug trade and terror financing.” Furthermore, it was also agreed upon that diverse mechanisms of the trilateral process, such as the trilateral Vice-Ministerial Strategic Dialogue, Vice-Ministerial Consultation on Counter-Terrorism and Security and Director Generals’ Practical Cooperation would be used for the implementation of the MoU.

There was unanimity in resolve that signatorystates will not tolerate their landsbeing used by terrorists verses any other regional state.Prior to this MoU, Pakistan and Afghanistan have signed many accords for joint action against terrorism with ‘Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS)’ preceding the latest trilateral MoU. Unfortunately, none of the previous agreements has really been successful in filling the mutual trust deficit. However, this time China has accepted the role of surety bond by becoming the part of a Pak-Afghan arrangement for countering terrorism, which is a welcome step in the right direction.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah MehmoodQureshi said, while speaking at the dialogue,the improved border coordinationthrough augmenting security cooperation and intelligence sharing would benefit both Pakistan and Afghanistan. At the MoU signing ceremony, Mr Qureshi said Pakistan’s position on terrorism was very clear as it unequivocally denounced it. In this context, exchange of information and sharing of arrangements under this trilateral arrangement would be helpful. Later speaking at a joint press conference with his Chinese and Afghan counterparts after the trilateral meeting, he said “accusing each other would not help anyone of us. … We should finish our mutual mistrust. Defeating terrorism is our combined responsibility.”In this vein, Confidence building could be achieved by talking toeach other. Foreign Minister Qureshi recalled that Pakistan had always supported negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict and the world powers had now begun to agree with that position.

Afghan Foreign Minister Rabbani said the meeting emphasised security, ending violence, and implementation of Afghanistan-Pakistan action plan. He said Pakistan had always talked of supporting Afghanistan and the time had come to take practical steps. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China supported all efforts for ending the war and conflict and restoring peace in Afghanistan. He hoped that the trilateral mechanism would facilitate improvement of relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan and advance cooperation in fighting terrorism so as to promote regional security, stability and development.

On the sidelines of the meeting, Foreign Minister met Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and Foreign Minister Rabbani.In their bilateral meeting, MrQureshi and MrRabbanidiscussed issues pertaining to mutual trust and reconciliation, development cooperation and connectivity and security cooperation and counter-terrorism, Afghan foreign ministry said. Additionally the two leaders discussed Pakistani visas for Afghan nationals and transfer of Pakistanis detained in Afghanistan. A Pakistani diplomatic source had ahead of the Kabul meeting told journalists in Islamabad that Pakistani and Chinese foreign ministers would during the talks raise with Afghanistan the issue of alleged support of Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies in the attack on Chinese consulate in Karachi. It was not clear if the matter was raised or not and what was the Afghan side’s response.

Pakistan, being a victim of terrorism, has always supported dialogue process for peaceful resolution of Afghan conflict and haswelcomed any step taken by international community for peaceful resolution of Afghan conundrum.

Successfully blocking terrorist activities highly depends on reaching a political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. So long as the war in Afghanistan continues, the terrorist outfits will find new ways of destabilizing the region. Last but not the least, eliminating terrorism and squeezing the funding of terrorist organisationswill need time, collective patience and recognition of the existing ground realities.

Writer Adeel Mukhtar Mirza is a research scholar at Islamabad Policy Research Institute. The author delivers lectures on international relations and the changing world dynamics. He has numerous published articles in the domain of International Relations. He graduated as a Strategic Studies’ scholar from National Defense University, Islamabad.