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Stage set for another round of the ‘great game’

By Saeed Minhas

ISLAMABAD: Diplomatic activities and personalities continue to grip the capital throughout the current week. High profile visits and meetings remained under discussion at most of the late-night parties in and out of the Diplomatic Enclave. What stirred the most comments (perhaps criticism) from diplomats was the recent Compton lecture delivered by UK’s foreign secretary David Miliband at a post-modernist US institute, MIT, regarding Af-Pak possible solution.

If US diplomats consider these views conservative assertions then European neighbors of UK term them entangled, while the rest like to observe and take stock of the situation for reporting back home.

The best of the comments came from a UK diplomat that “let’s face the reality and get ready for the Great Game round three.” The diplomat had to leave early after burping out the secret that he had to catch an early flight next morning to meet some Sheikh-sponsored Mullah (certainly not Mullah Omer) meeting somewhere in Arabian deserts. Since Her Majesty’s special representative for Af-Pak, Sherard Cowper-Coles, who is also a close confidante of Saudi Royals and Israeli policy makers, was also in the city to closely monitor (or intermediate) the developing relations between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani front-man and real policy custodians, India remained very much an issue of mutual interest for all the stake-holders.

But before leaving the pool-side party, UK diplomat candidly explained that western countries are becoming more and clearer about the fact that India is a reality and it has to get its due share from Afghanistan. “No matter Pakistani establishment (Khakis so to speak) likes it or not, Indians have become a part of Afghan-quagmire,” he asserted and bid adieu to pack-up for the morning journey.

On another table, a friend from US embassy snapped that “just like us, UK is also groping in the dark to find not only a way out of Afghanistan but ensure that our interests are saved and we leave a set up which can ensure our continued attention in the region (perhaps referring to Kashmir).” What are the interests and what does US mean by continued attention was something which was taken up by all others around the pool-side table quite sarcastically, especially by our European friends.

European diplomats, sans UK, view David Miliband Speech at MIT as interesting but lacking intent and a procedure. “It is fine to be articulate and spell out a theory, but what is required here is how UK can ensure that all regional players gets involved when there is a huge trust deficit amongst all the stakeholders like Iran, China, India, Pakistan and the moderators like US and UK,” some of them commented.

Journalists are but a nuisance for these kind of casual get together, but if one sneaks in, he certainly creates some ripples and such was the case when Indian presence and growing importance in Afghanistan was brought to the table by one such pen-pusher. An Italian smarty, still in her decorated uniform cleared her throat to speak out that certainly Indians in Afghanistan causes concern amongst Pakistanis, but why cannot they understand that opening of trade links between all the neighbouring countries will benefit everyone and the masses.

A German couple, however could not resist his charge as he agreed with the pen-pal that there’s no practical plan in sight to any of the invaders of Afghanistan and without resolving the existing bones of contention between Iran and US (Nuclear-tussle), between India and Pakistan (Kashmir), between China and India (border disputes), between Russia and US (domain issues) and between China and US (trade war) nothing is going to hold its ground. Rather, he feared that this hit and trial method is certainly going to expand the world’s proxy-war-zone from within Pakistan towards Afghanistan, India, Iran, China, Turkey and even the central Asian states.

“If India willingly and knowingly want to be part of this quagmire in Afghanistan, then Pakistanis need not worry because sooner it’s going to be a problem for the whole world,” he added. As some shrugged off German couple while others asked them to explain, and they obliged by saying that so far a country of 170 million people (Pakistan) and another of 30 million (Afghanistan) were a source of worry for civilized world, but soon a huge minority within over two billion people (India & China combined) would become contagious to the anti-imperialist propaganda of Jihadi goons. Once India, China and Iran, as per David Miliband’s vision, enter the array, NATO and US might find them more entangled than ever and region might become a nightmare for the world community.

Our sporty figure from South African embassy endorsed this by chipping in that don’t forget the Royal Sheikhs of Arabian deserts and their interests and links in the region.

A never ending debate had to be called off with a closing bell by the organizers of the party but what this scribe could gather was that confusion is getting bigger than reality, illegitimate interests are mightier than legitimate ones, but let’s welcome India to the party, which Pakistan and Afghanistan have been enjoying for the last three decades at the cost of development, infrastructure and the people in the name of strategic depth.

The golden sparrow of Afghanistan will continue to flutter and flatter around its conceptual and real captors.\03\12\story_12-3-2010_pg7_37

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