Pakistan may prefer weak and destabilised Afghanistan to a stronger and unified state: US Congressional report

According to a US Congressional report which highlights India’s lack of desire to pursue a deeper defence cooperation with Kabul, it has been pointed out that Pakistan may view a weak and destabilised Afghanistan as preferable to a strong and unified one.

The report claims that at least some Pakistani leaders had stated that instability in Afghanistan could act into Pakistan’s harm.

The report is titled “Afghanistan: Background and US Policy in Brief” has been prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

This comes after US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad recently arrived in Pakistan to seek Islamabad’s help in getting Taliban to return to the negotiating table to end the 17-year-long Afghan war.

“Pakistan may view a weak and destabilised Afghanistan as preferable to a strong, unified Afghan state [particularly one led by a Pashtun-dominated government in Kabul; Pakistan has a large Pashtun minority],” the CRS said in its report for lawmakers on Thursday.

“Afghanistan-Pakistan relations are further complicated by the large Afghan refugee population in Pakistan and a long-standing border dispute over which violence has broken out on several occasions,” added the report.

“Pakistan sees Afghanistan as potentially providing strategic depth against India, but may also anticipate that improved relations with Afghanistan’s leadership could limit India’s influence in Afghanistan,” said the report.

The report also claims that India’s interest in Afghanistan is rooted in India’s broader regional rivalry with Pakistan, which ‘impedes’ Indian efforts to establish stronger and more direct commercial and political relations with Central Asia.

The report however acknowledges that India has been the largest regional contributor to Afghan reconstruction, while still taking a backseat towards a deeper defece relationship with Kabul.

The Afghans themselves appeared divided regarding stronger ties with India, according to the report.

The report concedes that Congress may sought to help mould the US approach to potential negotiations around amending the Constitution or otherwise altering the highly centralised Afghan political system, through legislation and public statements.

The CRS is an independent and bipartisan research wing of the US Congress. It prepares reports on various issues of relevance for the US lawmakers to make informative decision. These are not official views of the US Congress.

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