Decoupling Afghanistan from Pakistan

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Gauri Khandekar argues that Europeans must cease to look at relations with Pakistan through the prism of the Afghan War.

Gauri Khandekar is a junior researcher specialised in EU-Asian relations at Madrid-based think-tank FRIDE.

"Every day Pakistan appears in the main international headlines and EU-Pakistan relations are in the spotlight again, in part because of questions being asked about strategy in the wake of Osama Bin Laden's death. The real issue is that the security dimension of EU-Pakistan relations are still evaluated through the 'Af/Pak' prism.

Although the challenges are of course linked to the Afghan 'problem', it is time for the EU conceptually to separate Afghanistan and Pakistan and to deal with each country on its own merits. It has proven a costly mistake to see Pakistan primarily through the lens of the Afghanistan conflict.

A much tighter link is required between security and development in Pakistan.  A decoupling of Pakistan from the Af/Pak policy through a security-sustainable development nexus would be the most productive way forward.

An integrated approach needs to improve the coherence, coordination and effectiveness of the EU's engagement with the country. Such a strategy could be modelled along the lines of the recent EU Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel, which is anchored on four strands of action: development, good governance and internal conflict resolution; political relations; security and the rule of law; and countering violent extremism.

The international community must assess the challenges affecting Pakistan in their own right. The EU's experience in governance and development internally and internationally gives it much expertise to offer.

Pakistan's weak democratic structure is subsumed by its practically independent army and intelligence services. Working in close cooperation, the EU must cluster its efforts in Pakistan on enhancing political stability, governance, security and social cohesion.

A strengthened democratic structure with well channelled spending will also ensure against misuse of funds. EU aid to Pakistan has been 538 million euros since 2000, with 225 million allocated for the 2011-13 period.

With high levels of corruption in the country, aid accountability and indeed security are compromised, spilling over into trade relations. To this extent, trade too must be evaluated as contributing to development and security.

The European Parliament has supported the preferential trade agreements the EU seeks to offer Pakistan in light of the flash floods of 2010 and managed to incorporate targeted clauses on human rights and terrorism. The EU must begin to use this leverage.

Consolidation of justice, police and customs and state institutions too will reinforce security and the rule of law with a view to alleviating internal tensions and challenges posed by violent extremism, terrorism and organised crime.

The recent siege of Pakistan's major naval air base by only six terrorists raises questions [concerning] the reliability of the military to protect its people and the nation, not least ensuring the safety of its sizeable nuclear arsenal.

Border security too must be underscored to tackle the issue of porous frontiers with Afghanistan. It is time to recognise that a distinct strategy addressing the complexities of Pakistan will be essential to build on existing national, bilateral and multilateral engagement.

Pakistan's highly complex security challenges must be examined independently under a sharpened EU policy. While much attention has been given to Osama Bin Laden's death inside Pakistan, it is time to move past this episode and reframe the EU's own strategy towards Pakistan. A shift in paradigm on Pakistan, through a more sophisticated EU strategy, is overdue."

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