Russia, Pakistan, and other countries in Central and South Asia have historical connections with each other which can, and should, influence their current relationships. Lieutenant General (retired) Asad Durrani, former director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan and former director general of the Pakistan Army's Military Intelligence, spoke about situation in Pakistan and neighboring countries at a joint event held by the Carnegie Moscow Center and the Center of Political Technologies, PolitKontakt. Carnegie’s Dmitri Trenin and PolitKontakt’s Andrei Medvedev moderated.

Situation in Afghanistan

  • “Eastern Bermuda Triangle”: Durrani argued that, for the international community, the problem is not how to get into Afghanistan but rather how to get out of the country. Durrani quoted the nineteenth century Pashtun Khan of Kalat who, commenting on the occupation of Kabul by the British troops, reportedly said, “Yes, I have heard that the British forces have entered Kabul, and now I am wondering how they would get out of there.”
  • Afghanistan’s Self-Sufficiency: Durrani argued that in Afghanistan it does not matter which country claims to exert influence over their nation, even if it is Pakistan. Their self-identification as an Afghan is paramount for all people in Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s approach to other countries is based on hard bargaining, he added.
  • Drug Problems: Durrani expressed skepticism about Afghanistan’s drug problem. He argued that drug is important to everyone in Afghanistan; two million people are supported by it and it is a business that brings in billions of dollars.
  • After 2014: Durrani argued that the Afghan National Army will not be able to secure peace and security after 2014. If they are deployed, one part of the army will defect and another will be killed. This army does not pose a threat to anyone, either inside or outside of Afghanistan.

Phenomenon of the Taliban

Durrani explained that, before September 11, 2001, and after this date, his experts believed that the Taliban were not a unified organization, but rather a looser alignment. The same can be said about the Taliban in Pakistan, he added. The Taliban in both Afghanistan and Pakistan are more like a franchise, and their ruling ability is very limited. These Taliban groups do not have the capacity to act outside of their own countries, Durrani concluded, because they lack resources and have poor coordination.

What Does Pakistan Want in Afghanistan?

Durrani said that Pakistan wants a stable and unified Afghanistan with understandable politics. He emphasized two points:

  • Afghanistan can’t be ruled by a person, a group, or an outside country. It can be ruled only by consensus.
  • Pakistan cannot play very active role in Afghanistan because it doesn’t have enough resources.

Additionally, he highlighted two challenges to dealing with Afghanistan:

  • The Afghans can bargain but they don’t want foreign troops on their soil.
  • Achieving consensus in Afghanistan is not an easy task. Currently, while tactical agreements are possible, consensus is much more difficult.

“Strategic Game” in the Region

  • Weapons: Durrani argued that the turmoil in Afghanistan can be used by an outside country to sell weapons to one or several countries. There are conspiracy theories, but it is up to the individual whether to believe in them or not, he added.
  • Pakistan’s Lack of Resources: According to Durrani, Pakistan can’t play proxy games in the region because of a lack of resources. But other countries do have the resources to play such games, he added, including China and the United States.
  • China: Durrani doubted that it is possible to deter China from growing its influence in Central Asia. China wants a route to the Arabian Sea, he asserted.
  • United States: In Durrani’s opinion, keeping and establishing security in the region is not an American interest.

Regional Cooperation

  • Historically Connected Countries: Pakistan, Iran, China, India, Afghanistan, and Russia must develop their relations by remembering and acting on historical traditions, because these countries are historically connected with one another, Durrani said. He added that these countries should make use of international regional organizations, like the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
  • Denying Outside Powers Influence: Russia, Pakistan, China, and Iran all try to increase their influence in the region, Durrani said. It is in their interests to deny influence to other big outside powers.

India and Pakistan

  • A Possible Friend of Pakistan: Durrani asserted that India and Pakistan do not want to destroy each other. That is why, after the nuclear tests in 1998, the two nations established a hotline between each other, to maintain stability. While India didn’t participate in the second round of conferences on Afghanistan because of Pakistan’s opposition, they attended last year’s conference alongside Pakistan. Pakistan can work with India, Durrani concluded.
  • Kashmir: Durrani argued that the situation in Kashmir has improved in the last four years. Arrangements have been made to help Kashmiris meet each other, as part of a gradual process of building trust.

Pakistani-U.S. Relations

  • Low Intensity War: Durrani argued that Pakistan is in a state of low intensity war with the United States, because these countries have different objectives:

    • 1) The United States wants to use force in Afghanistan, while Pakistan wants talks.
    • 2) The United States wants to stay in the region militarily, while Pakistan wants them to go.
    But Durrani added that Pakistan has to manage its problems in bilateral relations with the United States, adding that neither country desires a confrontation.
  • Iran-Pakistan-India Pipeline: The U.S. objection to the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline is not important, Durrani added, but there are practical difficulties that impede the development of the pipeline, including the situation in Baluchistan and Afghanistan.

Zero-Enemy Foreign Policy

Durrani outlined several of the key points of Pakistani foreign policy:

  • There are friends of Pakistan in China and Afghanistan.
  • Relations with Turkey are important.
  • Pakistan is not an enemy of Iran.
  • Russia is a new partner for Pakistan. No bridges have been burnt between these two countries and Pakistani-Russian relations continue to be improved.
  • India is a possible friend.
  • Pakistan’s problems with the United States and Europe are accidental.

Internal Situation in Pakistan

  • Northern Pakistan: Durrani explained that Pakistan is not interested in opening any new military fronts, he said. But there are the groups in the north of Pakistan, sponsored by outside forces, that Pakistan is engaged in fighting. He added that many people in Pakistan support these groups.
  • No Army Intervention in Politics: Durrani said that there is no chance of the Pakistani Army intervening in political processes. The international community, as well as Pakistan’s domestic community, agrees that military coup is not possible.