8 October 2020
Dr Ayesha Siddiqa Research Associate in CISD and the South Asia Institute has given evidence to the Lords International Relations Committee as part of their inquiry into the UK and Afghanistan.
Taking place on Monday 28 September, this section of the inquiry was looking into The US and Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan, specifically the US’s motivations for reaching an agreement with the Taliban, the ongoing Afghan peace talks in Doha, and Pakistan’s objectives and role in Afghanistan.
Commenting on the key features and motivations of Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan, Dr Siddiqa stated “...historically, the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan has never been a pleasant pathway. Afghanistan was one of the first neighbours that did not immediately recognise Pakistan when it was formed in 1947. It voted against Pakistan in the UN. What Pakistan wants at this point in time is, first, a secure border with Afghanistan. Secondly, it has always looked at Afghanistan through the lens of Afghanistan’s relations with India, so one of the primary factors that drives Pakistan’s policy is India. It does not want India to operate in Afghanistan. That is a complete no-no and is a major driver.”
Dr Siddiqa discussed the territorial bifurcations between Pakistan and Afghanistan and the Durand Line. In addition to the Pashtun and similar tribes who live across the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Pashtunistan nationalist movement, stating that “one of Pakistan’s motivations is to discourage a nationalist movement that overrides Pakistani nationalism.”
Dr Siddiqa also commented on Pakistan's strategic intentions towards Afghanistan, due to its current situation as part of the Financial Action Task Force, stating that “Pakistan believes that, if it manages to be central to a peace deal between the Americans and a future Afghan government, or the Taliban in Afghanistan, it may lead to concessions from the United States…”
During the inquiry Dr Siddiqa also discussed the contentious relationship between Pakistan and India and the context of this for Afghanistan. She expressed that India is determined to have a footprint in Afghanistan, stating, “There are even thoughts of India now wanting to begin talks with the Taliban. It has over 400 development projects. Pakistan finds that extremely irksome, and its entire Taliban policy in some ways is based on the perspective of how to counter that and push India back from Afghanistan.”
Dr Siddiqa pointed out that India and Pakistan have different desired outcomes from the Afghanistan- Taliban peace talks: “There is divergence between India and Pakistan. India will certainly want to continue to have a foothold in Afghanistan. Pakistan, on the other hand, wants there to be Taliban representation in the government, which helps it to push India out.”
Dr Siddiqa also discussed the Gulf states relationship with Afghanistan and briefly spoke about the US and EU’s relationship with the country.
Asked about the peace talks between Afghanistan and the Taliban, Dr Siddiqa commented that “What Pakistan wants in Afghanistan is managed peace. Managed peace can happen only with an American presence, thus the sudden insistence that America should not leave immediately.”
The full evidence can be found on the House of Lords committee website.