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IPCS Colloquy # 47 : Young Voices, Alternative Ideas
25 January 2012,1500 - 1700 hrs

An Annual Review of India's Neighbourhood
Pakistan and Afghanistan

Organized in collaboration with IIC

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies organized the ‘IPCS Colloquy # 47: Young Voices, Alternative Ideas’ in collaboration with the India International Centre on 25 January 2012. The Colloquy was based on ‘An Annual Review of India’s Neighbourhood’ with the focus countries being Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The IPCS Colloquy is an effort to enable young scholars brainstorm on a topical issue. The objectives are to discuss an issue, explore tangents and engage in a constructive deliberation. The event was part of the IPCS Colloquy series, which since 2008 offers a platform for young scholars to share their ideas.

Aryaman Bhatnagar, Researcher, IPCS: The first presentation dealt with an annual review of Afghanistan. 2011 had been eventful for Afghanistan with considerable movement being made on contentious issues and the signing of pacts/deals with neighbouring countries like China, India and Iran. Three themes were touched upon in the presentation with the ultimate aim of reading into the effects of the 2014 deadline on the country. First was the issue of peace talks with the Afghan Taliban which witnessed considerable success towards the end of the year, despite setbacks following the assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani. Second was the issue of transfer of security from the foreign troops to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), the second phase of which was underway. The US- Afghan security pact also featured in the second theme with the Afghan demands like end to night raids and transfer of security prisons to the ANSF being the only roadblocks to the finalization of the pact. Third was the staging of the Bonn Conference where the main focus was on the commitment of the international community to Afghanistan post-2014. In the conference while, all the countries present pledged to “stay the course with Afghanistan,” grant of aid was made conditional to its commitment to fight corruption and provide good governance.

Shiraz Babu, Research Scholar, Jamia Millia Islamia: The second presentation on the annual review of Pakistan analyzed three events of the year 2011 to assess their short term implications on Pakistani polity. The first incident was the killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan. This incident not just questioned Pakistan’s complicity in providing safe haven to Laden but also led to the US raid being interpreted as infringement of Pakistan’s sovereignty. The second incident was the killings of Salman Taseer – the Governor of Punjab – and Shahbaz Bhatti – the Minister of Minority Affairs – by radicals appearing to be against the articulation of liberal ideas. This event brought to light the overt tussle between liberal secular space and religious radical space. The final event analyzed the case of CIA agent Raymond Davis who was arrested in Lahore on murder charges and was released only after American intervention.  This incident exhibited the vulnerability of the civilian government in the event of American pressure.

Sreelekha K.R., Research Scholar, Jawaharlal Nehru University: The year 2011 in Afghanistan-Pakistan relations started with signals from Afghanistan to end the decade old insurgency and the Pakistan response to such an Afghan initiative was an accommodating factor. Despite this, Pakistan chose to follow the old strategy of engaging with the civilian government in Afghanistan on the one hand and with their militant proxy groups on the other. Afghanistan-Pakistan bilateral relationship 2011 can be divided into four main phases. The first phase witnessed the priority given by Afghan President Hamid Karzai for a reconciliation process with Pakistan. However, the obstruction to this initiative with the Abottabad incident, thereby stagnating the dialogue process, built into the second phase. The third phase was marked with the high profile attacks and assassinations in Afghanistan, of which the assassination of former Afghan President and Chairman of Afghan High Peace Council Burhanuddnin Rabbani caused further strains in the bilateral relationship with a clear shift in Afghan policy towards India. The fourth and final phase saw Karzai’s repeated appeals to Pakistan to help in its reconciliation attempts with the Taliban in the last months of 2011. This phase also witnessed Pakistan’s decision to abstain from the Bonn conference organized with the motive of discussing the future of Afghanistan post 2014.

In sum, the colloquy aimed to strategically assess the developments of 2011 in the focus countries. It was aimed to sketch the implications, both short term and long term, of these developments on the country’s internal dynamics as well as each country’s relations with the other.    

Report drafted by Pradeepa Viswanathan, Research Officer, IPCS


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