New factors/determinates

Fixed and agreed-upon borders

As the experience of the three prominent permanent neutral and other neutral states reviewed earlier indicates, absence of irredentist ambitions on the part of the candidate state and its neighbouring states, and the existence of fixed and agreed-upon international borders are vital prerequisites for declaration of pennanent neutrality. Neutrality agreements have always had a strong emphasis on mutual recognition and respect for territorial integrity of candidates and the guarantors’ states. Similarly, proposals for neutralisation of Afghanistan, reviewed in Chapter 1, and the recent suggestion for a neutrality-based solution for the crisis in Ukr aine, have underlined the issue of recognition and respect for cunent international borders.14

Given Afghanistan’s long-running disputes, first with British India and later with Pakistan, over its eastern and southern frontier, commonly known as the Durand Line, meeting this prerequisite is perhaps the most challenging hurdle facing the prospect of Afghanistan’s neutrality. The approximately 2,640 km long line, enacted under the 1893 Durand-Abdul Rahman Agreement, politically divided the Pashtun and Baluch tribes into Afghanistan and British India’s spheres of influence. While the line was supposedly intended to specify the limits of each side’s spheres of influence in the tribal areas, British India affirmed its dominion and consolidated its grip over the region through subsequent British-Afghanistan treaties of 1905, 1919, and 1921.15

The dispute over the legal status of the Durand Line took a new twist when in 1947 the newly created state of Pakistan declared the line as its international border with Afghanistan. The Afghan government refused to recognise the line as an international border and initially abstained from recognising Pakistan’s statehood. Drawing on the vague legal status of the Durand Line as an international border and emphasising the principle of self-determination for post-colonial regions, Afghanistan insisted that, during the 1947 referendum, the Pashtun inhabitants of British India, beside the options of joining either India or Pakistan, should have been given a choice of forming an independent state. As tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan heightened, in July 1949 an Afghan Grand Assembly (Loya Jirga) repudiated the Durand Agreement and the subsequent treaties and called for creation of an independent state of Pashtunistan. While major world powers, such as the United States and the United Kingdom supported Pakistan’s position, successive Afghan governments have since refused to recognise the Durand Line officially as an international border.

Most scholars and policymakers believe that the disprrte over the status of the Durand Line remains a constant source of hostility between

Afghanistan and Pakistan and has contributed to instability and prolonged conflict in the region.

Without tangible incentives, recognition of the Durand Line, as well as committing to a policy of permanent neutrality, is considered a lose-lose scenario for Afghanistan to which no Afghan Government could possibly commit itself. Hence, finding an amicable solution to the issue of the Durand Line is a prerequisite for achieving meaningful neutrality.

Based on the preceding elucidations and given the highly securitised and thomy issue of the Durand Line, Afghanistan fails to meet yet another prerequisite for successful peimanent neutrality concerning fixed borders and lack of territorial disputes.

No active involvement of violent trans-border non-state actors in the conflict

One of the major factors that contributed to the failure of Laotian neutralisation efforts was the presence of trans-border militias. Similarly, in Afghanistan, active involvement of violent trans-border non-state actors in the conflict and existence of support structures across the borders are the prominent features of the nearly four-decade-long war in Afghanistan. After the Soviet invasion in 1979, the Afghan war (Jihad) attracted hundreds of foreign fighters, mostly from the Arab world, to fight alongside the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviet forces. The fighters, known as the “Afghan Arabs”,16 formed several terrorist networks across the region, of which Al Qaeda became the most prominent one. To facilitate the war inside Afghanistan, the Pakistani Government, with funds from the Western and Arab states, built extensive support structures, including training and recruitment centres in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

These support structures, particularly hundreds of Madrasas (religious seminar) and training centres, were later used by Pakistan to raise the Taliban movement in the mid-1990s and facilitate their campaign of terror inside Afghanistan. The sanctuaries across the border still function as safe havens for dozens of violent trans-border non-state groups, such as the Taliban (both Afghan and Pakistani branches), the Haqqani network, Al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the East Turkestan Independence Movement (ETIM), the ISIL-affiliated Khorasan group, and other smaller splinter outfits.

During discussions with regional experts on the possibility of Afghanistan’s neutrality, the presence of these groups, and their traditional support networks in the tribal areas, were among the top concerns raised by sceptics about Afghanistan’s neutrality. Pakistani interlocutors emphasised that even if the Pakistani state recognised Afghanistan’s neutrality and

Afghanistan s permanent neutrality 111 committed to respecting it, there would be no guarantee that the violent trans-border non-state actors residing within the country would remain neutral in Afghan affairs. Indian experts had serious doubts about Pakistan’s willingness and ability to dismantle the Taliban and Al Qaeda sanctuaries from inside its territory and prevent their cross-border movement. Generally, there was a near consensus among all discussants that Afghanistan’s declaration of permanent neutrality, and Pakistan’s official recognition of it, would be meaningless until both states were capable of reining in these groups and controlling their territory, particularly the border regions.

Since neutrality as an instrument of conflict resolution was seen as fit for particular types of states and circumstances where states are perceived to be the sole actors, and agreement among stakeholder states is sufficient to guarantee neutrality, an eminent presence of non-state actors and insurgent groups in the Afghan conflict, and existence of entrenched support structures across the border in Pakistan, render the policy of neutrality unworkable.

Cultural and ideological outlook toward permanent neutrality

Tire final prerequisite identified in the revised analytical framework is connected to the compatibility of the concept of permanent neutrality with the prevailing cultural and ideological outlook of the population in the candidate state. While this factor may not be very influential in democratic, multicultural, and multi-faith societies, it is of peculiar significance for Muslim-majority states where it is established that major policies should not contradict Islamic law.

Afghanistan, though not officially following Sharia law, is one such state where Islam is entrenched in the culture, traditions, and legal system.17 Major policies, if they explicitly contravened the tenets of Islamic jurisprudence, would have no chance of ratification or implementation. For example, the ill-fated policies of the communist regime, such as land reform and compulsory female education, contributed, among other things, to the religious scholars’ call for a Jihad against the regime in the 1980s.

The modem scholars of Islamic international law (Siyar) see no objection in the adoption of a policy of neutrality by an Islamic polity on a temporary basis. However, there are ample textual sources, if not practical examples, to prove that declaration of permanent neutrality is against the fundamental principles of an Islamic society, particularly in case of a blatant aggression against a weak Muslim state, and when one country’s neutrality could endanger the unity of the Muslim Ummah.

Given the dominance of conservative and religious forces in the social, political, and cultural layers of Afghan society and state, and considering the lessons leamt from controversial policies of the previous regimes,

112 Afghanistan s permanent neutrality declaration of permanent neutrality and its preservation would be highly improbable, if not outright impossible.

 
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