Q. What are the implications of the Afghan Peace process for the Central Asian region?
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Replied by Dr Pravesh Kumar Gupta

The outcome of the ongoing peace process in Afghanistan will be a defining moment for the Afghans and the Central Asian states. Peace in Afghanistan is rebound to the entire region's immense benefits in terms of security and increased regional connectivity, trade, and development. Similarly, prolonged conflict or a hostile takeover by Islamist forces in Afghanistan would threaten Central Asia’s stability, given their geographical proximity, historically shared cultural and religious links, and ethnic affiliations with Afghanistan. The Central Asian countries, all former republics of the Soviet Union, have been closely involved with developments in Afghanistan since the Soviets invaded in 1979. During the 1980s, the newly independent countries of Central Asia were adversely affected by the rise of terrorism in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Over the last two decades, Central Asia provided access for NATO troops and supplies to Afghanistan through the Northern Distribution Network. Today they provide foreign assistance support, technical know-how, and opportunities to obtain education to young Afghans and affordable energy resources and market access to Russia, Europe, and beyond. Therefore, Central Asian countries have an important role to play in encouraging the Afghan sides- the government and the Taliban to overcome the persisting challenges.

The recently concluded Moscow conference included four primary representative countries - Russia, China, the US and Pakistan. At the end of the conference, these four countries issued a joint statement that they would not support the Islamic emirate system’s return to Afghanistan. The statement also recognized the Afghan people’s will for peace, called for a reduction in violence from all sides and the Taliban to not launch a spring offensive, and reiterated calls for a negotiated settlement for the conflict. However, the absence of Central Asian states from the conference was a notable observation. Any successful peace plan in Afghanistan would require the cooperation of neighbouring Central Asian states. In this regard, the US State Department’s C5+1 initiative—consisting of the five former Central Asian Soviet republics (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) and the United States—is one regional framework that could more meaningfully include Afghanistan and deepen regional integration. It serves as a format for dialogue to facilitate joint efforts to address common challenges. Similarly, India-Central Asia dialogue with Afghanistan’s participation has also the potential to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Date : 24/03/2021
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