ISLAMABAD: A ten-member Afghan delegation comprising members of civil society and parliament arrived in the capital on Sunday for a landmark series of seven Track 1.5 meetings.
This is the initiative of the Center of Research and Security Studies (CRSS), in partnership with its Afghan counterpart DURAN Research and Analysis (DRA), who has launched a major Pakistan-Afghanistan Track 1.5/II project Beyond Boundaries, as part of its efforts to help improve relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Beyond Boundaries comprises two working groups, the Regional Security Group, and Civil Society and Youth Group, aimed at facilitating and promoting people-to-people contacts.
The first in a series of seven meetings, the Youth and Civil Society Group meeting is taking place from November 9-10 in Islamabad and has assumed unusual significance because of the current tensions and the stalled dialogue between the two governments. The arrival of the Afghan civil society and youth delegation marks the resumption of dialogue between non-governmental and political stakeholders from the two countries to the backdrop of a politically difficult and challenging environment.
The Track 1.5/II is also important because the bilateral relationship has been fraught with mutual mistrust being the proxy battleground for complicated regional relationships. An unstable Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship is fundamentally detrimental to peace and development in the region. Initiatives like Beyond Boundaries will bring together influential government and non-governmental stakeholders who can help lessen tensions, address misconceptions, and revive some level of confidence. More importantly, they will eventually urge both governments and key stakeholders away from the prior behavior of confrontation and an antagonistic-approach towards a more trust and collaborative-based approach for peace, security, and regional cooperation.
The working groups on regional security and civil society and youth will address varied themes that are important in the peace process between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is also supposed to build upon existing and increase future people-to-people contact. The key objectives of the initiative are: expanding the peace constituency through friendship groups in both countries; and improving support for better Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship through dialogue among the influential stakeholders and informing policy makers through consensus recommendations.