In the recent weeks, especially after the harsh statement made by the American President Trump on Pakistan while announcing his new Afghan strategy, Pakistan has been repeatedly emphasizing about Pakistan’s “legitimate concerns” in Afghanistan. Foreign Minister Asif Khawaja during his two recent trips to the US made this point repeatedly. The same point will remain as the focus as two major US officials are visiting Pakistan during October 2017.
What are Pakistan’s legitimate concerns in Afghanistan? The Afghan population in Pakistan (refugees and otherwise) has been substantial since the 1980s. Though over 4 million Afghan refugees have been repatriated (according to UNHCR statistics), the Afghan population in Pakistan is substantial. Though primarily in KP and FATA, and substantially in Balochistan (due to geographic proximity), they have also moved into other provinces. Given the history, sociology, ethnicity and economy, this movement will continue for Pakistan.
The second major legitimate concern should be those Pakistani militants (belonging to the TTP and its affiliates) hiding in Afghanistan and continuing violence against the State and Society. Pakistan would want to prevent this.
And what cannot be considered as Pakistan’s legitimate concerns? Growing Indo-Afghan relations and the American acceptance of the same – why should these become Pakistan’s “legitimate concerns”? Pakistan cannot have a veto over Kabul and Washington on Afghanistan’s external relations. Would Pakistan like to accept a similar dictation by the US or even China? Even when Saudi Arabia wanted Pakistan to be a part of the Islamic Military Alliance, the debate in public and in media called for an independent policy. Afghans should be the only people to decide with whom they would work with.
Similarly a “friendly regime” in Kabul and using non-State actors to achieve the same (through the Afghan Taliban and Huqqani Network) cannot be considered as a legitimate concern. Certainly not using non-State actors and violence in Kabul and other places, against what Pakistan consider as not in their own interests.
India will have to strongly voice its opinion and draw a stronger redline in Afghanistan.