Regional Security

India and Pakistan’s Energy Security: Can Afghanistan Play a Critical Role?

India and Pakistan make up close to one-fifth of the world’s population, yet most people in these countries are without stable access to energy and power. As a result of these deficits, overall growth of these nations is stunted by 3 to 4 percent annually, which undermines sustainable development and stability in Southwest Asia.

In India and Pakistan’s Energy Security: Can Afghanistan Play a Critical Role?, EWI Fellow Danila Bochkarev argues that the power shortages can be addressed by building new energy corridors or a “New Silk Road,” which would transform Afghanistan into a regional trade and transit hub. 

The report illustrates how this infrastructure would strengthen economic, political and social ties between Central Asia and South Asia and contribute to a more stable Afghanistan, allowing for improved economic growth.

"There is no shortage of energy resources in the Southwest Asia-Central Asia region and natural gas is abundantly available in this part of the world,” Bochkarev said. “Major centers of energy consumption in India and Pakistan are in proximity to the major producers of gas and hydroelectricity.”

The report describes two planned energy infrastructure projects that would run through Afghanistan—the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline (TAPI) and the Central Asia South Asia Regional Electricity Trade Project (CASA 1000)—to access Turkmen gas and Central Asian electricity. “Afghanistan’s role as a transit country for gas from Central Asia can hardly be overestimated,” Bochkarev added.

A major challenge to these projects is, of course, the unstable security situation in Afghanistan and lack of genuine multilateral energy cooperation. Nonetheless, Bochkarev argues that the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) could serve as an appropriate institutional umbrella for participating countries, providing for regional rules and regulations. ECT investment protection mechanisms, his report adds, would help to re-establish international investors’ confidence in the region’s economic and regulatory policies.

The release of this report coincides with the convening of the EastWest Institute’s 9th Annual Worldwide Security Conference in Brussels on November 12-13 at the World Customs Organization. The focus of WSC 9 will be “Reshaping Economic Security in Southwest Asia and the Middle East.”


For more information on the 9th Annual Worldwide Security Conference and to register, please visit:


Bridging Fault Lines

Southwest Asia's future depends on increased cooperation among countries in the region to confront diverse military and human security problems, and the Euro-Atlantic community can play a supporting role, according to an EastWest Institute discussion paper.

This region has few effective regional security organizations and none that attempt to bridge the main divides, the paper finds. It calls on the states of the region to commit on their own terms to the long-term goal of bridging serious geopolitical fault lines.

This goal, according to the report, holds out the promise of embedding the most serious and intractable conflicts in a wider regional vision to create new incentives and mechanisms for reducing tensions. The experience of Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Europe shows that bridging fault lines is not only possible but essential in times of high tension, military confrontation and military build-up.

"Russia, Turkey, the United States and the EU need to have a clearer, common plan for long term security in and around Iran, the Persian Gulf, Pakistan, and Afghanistan," said EWI Professorial Fellow Greg Austin. "This paper offers one element of that missing 'shared vision.'"

The paper provisionally defines the region as including: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and adjacent maritime areas. Though a final grouping could be different, this region stretches across cultural and political divides and lies at the center of global energy supplies, existing military conflicts, and other ongoing tensions.

One way to understand the importance of a regional grouping, the paper argues, is to look to Southeast Asia as a possible model. In the mid-20th century, Southeast Asia was the highly militarized site of several international and domestic conflicts. By 2000, regional organizations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had helped promote economic growth, international cooperation and increased stability. The region has been fundamentally transformed.

The paper emphasizes that Southwest Asian states must take the lead in a solidified regional framework, but the Euro-Atlantic community can play a significant role by encouraging the development of new organizations through funding and facilitating track-2 dialogues and developing various region-focused programs.

You can also read Greg Austin's column on this work for New Europe. Follow this link and turn to page 5.

Recognizing the Durand Line - A Way Forward for Afghanistan and Pakistan?

 The Durand Line, drawn up in 1893 as the border between Afghanistan and British India, continues to be contested today.

EWI’s Brad L. Brasseur argues that full mutual recognition of the Durand Line would allow both countries to more effectively police their borders, and would facilitate much-needed economic development in the border regions. The validity of the Durand Line is already supported by international law and practice, he writes, but only mutual recognition will allow the two countries to cooperate and move forward in peace.

Arguing that the international community has an interest in a stable and secure Afghanistan–Pakistan border, Brasseur adds that outside investors can incentivize a resolution to the long-standing border issue by promising investment on the condition that border control and local security conditions improve.


Third Abu Dhabi Process Report

On August 9, 2011, the EastWest Institute released Seeking Solutions for Afghanistan: Third Report on the Abu Dhabi Process, a report based on talks between Afghan and Pakistani leaders held in Abu Dhabi. Part of an ongoing series facilitated by EWI and sponsored by the Abu Dhabi government, the meeting aimed to build bilateral trust and produce new security solutions for the region. 

“Participants  agreed that the relationship between the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan will determine the success of reconciliation.  The recent increase in tensions between Afghanistan, the U.S. and Pakistan gives reason for concern,” said Guenter Overfeld, EWI Vice President and Director of Regional Security.

Discussions with the insurgency require that Kabul and the international community make more efforts to work towards a successful transition not only in the military field, but also through strengthening good governance and economic development. A political settlement is particularly urgent, according to participants, given that NATO intends to hand over responsibility for Afghanistan’s security to the government in Kabul by 2014.

To speed up reconciliation, participants repeated their earlier call for an “address,” or standing political office, for the Taliban. With an office, it would be easier to streamline fragmented negotiations efforts and ensure the safety of negotiators.

Participants also discussed how to build intergovernmental trust, recommending the establishment of a Pakistani body committed to working with the Afghan High Peace Jirga and a format for talks between the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan that is more effective than the current trialogue meetings.

“It is difficult to imagine that a final settlement can be achieved without greater clarity on the future of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan,” the report points out.
Still, participants emphasized that “reconciliation must be Afghan led and Afghan owned.” They called on Afghan authorities to deliver better public services, improve governance and emphasize that there will be no return to the Taliban policies of the 1990s.

“Ironically, some of the older Taliban leaders, who are committed to a largely nationalist agenda, may be less militant on these issues than the ‘neo-Taliban,’ the younger generation of Taliban leaders,” participants observed. “It may be easier to strike a deal with the Taliban now, while the old leadership is still in place, than with their successors.

The report also stresses that reconciliation must not jeopardize the Afghan constitution and human rights. “Any return to the Taliban policies of the 1990s, including their attempts to banish female education, would be a recipe for disaster,” it states.

Click here to download the first and second reports from the Abu Dhabi Process

Seeking Solutions for Afghanistan

On March 3, 2011, the EastWest Institute released a report on reconciliation with the Taliban, Seeking Solutions for Afghanistan: Second Report on the Abu Dhabi Process. The report is based on a recent meeting between Afghan and Pakistani leaders held in Kabul, part of an ongoing series facilitated by EWI and sponsored by the government of Abu Dhabi to build trust and regional stability.

“Afghan and Pakistani leaders sat down to create a road map for political settlement that looks at how Pakistan can contribute to the search for a peaceful solution,” said Guenter Overfeld, EWI Vice President and Director of Regional Security. “Reconciliation is a central security issue for Pakistan as well as Afghanistan.”

Meeting participants called for President Hamid Karzai’s government and the Taliban leadership to commit to unconditional talks in a trusted environment, ideally in a ceasefire zone with a mediator from a neutral country. Participants also recommended making talks more inclusive, saying that the engagement of tribal leaders along the border is “vital to the success of reconciliation.”

To improve the Afghanistan and Pakistan relationship, meeting participants suggested a “mechanism for a regular and genuine information exchange and cooperation,” such as an Afghanistan-Pakistan Jirga process.

Participants also recommended that to decrease the trust deficit between Pakistan and Afghanistan, both countries should address the role of India in Afghanistan in a frank and transparent manner.

The meeting was also a step towards building person-to-person trust between Pakistani and Afghan leaders, according to Ambassador Overfeld: “To the participants’ credit, palpable tensions gradually gave way to a constructive spirit -- a real determination to bring sustainable development and peace to the region.”

Seeking Solutions for Afghanistan: A Report on the Abu Dhabi Process

The EastWest Institute released a report laying out several recommendations for rebuilding regional cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan following Afghanistan’s National Consultative Peace Jirga.  The report, Seeking Solutions for Afghanistan: A Report on the Abu Dhabi Process, discusses the first in a series of off-the-record meetings facilitated by the EastWest Institute and hosted by the government of Abu Dhabi to reinstitute open communication and trust between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Bringing together Afghan and Pakistani politicians, diplomats, scholars and former military officials, the meetings seek to build confidence, ensure stability, and enhance regional development.

“There is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.  A dialogue leading to political settlement should therefore begin soon,” the report concludes.

Among the report's key recommendations: the use of open dialogue to solve the conflict in Afghanistan, rather than the use of military force; the active pursuit of delisting selected Taliban leaders; the continuation of the Abu Dhabi Process to help build trust between Afghanistan and Pakistan and create strategies towards a political settlement.

The report points out the need to address the bilateral trust deficit at three levels: senior government, the wider bureaucracy and civil society: “Both Afghanistan and Pakistan may wish to consider the appointment of a respected personality from each country to a senior position solely dedicated to the bilateral relationship.”

"The quality of the Afghan-Pakistani relationship is a decisive factor for political reconciliation in Afghanistan and stability and development in the region," added Guenter Overfeld, EWI Vice President and Director of Regional Security. "A fundamental lack of trust has persisted and has prevented substantive cooperation and collaboration."


Central Asian Security: Two Recommendations for International Action

An Experts’ Group on Euro-Atlantic Security, convened by the EastWest Institute as part of a larger Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative, is pleased to offer its first series of policy recommendations—an international Central Asian security initiative. Given the Kazakh chair-in-office of the OSCE, this is an opportune time to engage in concrete issues in the region.


In the first recommendation, members of the Experts’ Group propose launching a comprehensive multi-year OSCE Central Asia Security Initiative aimed especially at countering the spillover threats from Afghanistan, such as northward flows of narcotics and violent extremists. A Security Initiative could begin as a new, intensive dialogue in the OSCE with its Central Asian members.  It might focus on how to improve situational awareness about threats and how to assist regional members to carry out concrete measures to enhance security and lessen vulnerabilities. It is hoped that this recommendation be considered as a potential agenda item for the possible OSCE summit that Astana is seeking to hold while it is chair. 

A second recommendation is also offered—one that seeks a larger role for organizations already having a strong presence in the region (notably the CSTO and SCO). While noting that the Kazakh chair-in-office is a unique opportunity, this recommendation does not prescribe a leading role for the OSCE. Instead, it proposes an international action plan to coordinate the efforts of the countries of the region themselves, international organizations with a presence in the region, and leading neighboring powers in the spheres of economic development and external security.

The Experts’ Group is composed of diplomatic, military, and policy officials as well as experts from NATO states and Russia. The group was first convened in the 2009 to discuss broadly discuss visions for Euro-Atlantic Security. The results of those discussions were published in a short policy paper Euro-Atlantic Security: One Vision, Three Paths. Earlier this year, the group was reconvened to undertake a series of discussions to come up with concrete policy suggestions that could contribute to the stabilization of international security interactions among Euro-Atlantic states by catalyzing new confidence building mechanisms and strategies. The group meets regularly to discuss major issues in the Euro-Atlantic security realm. Additional recommendations will be forthcoming that we hope will also be items that could usefully put on an OSCE summit agenda, as well as discussed throughout the relevant capitals.


Making the Most of Afghanistan's River Basins

This paper reflects the discussions at a number of public seminars and private meetings during 2009 on water cooperation in Afghanistan and its region. These meetings, convened by the EastWest Institute (EWI) in Kabul, Islamabad, Brussels, and Paris, collected the thoughts and recommendations of more than one hundred experts and policy makers from Afghanistan, its neighbors, and the international community. The aim was to facilitate discussion that would lead to new ideas and viable policy options on how to improve regional cooperation on water between Afghanistan and its neighbors.

Executive Summary

The almost total absence of bilateral or regional cooperation on water between Afghanistan and its neighbors is a serious threat to sustainable development and security in the region. The ever-increasing demand for water, the unpredictable availability of water, and the inefficient management of water resources combine to form a complex but solvable challenge to regional security and development. Currently there are hardly any spaces in which to cooperatively address trans-boundary water issues. There are hardly any forums for dialogue or bilateral or multilateral agreements, and possibilities for data sharing or joint action are limited.

The EWI’s consultations made abundantly clear that the regional nature and importance of water cooperation is fully recognized by all stakeholders. However, stark differences in capacity, combined with contextual issues such as historic mistrust and competing regional security priorities (in particular from the international community), have kept stakeholders from engaging in a process of dialogue on water cooperation.

This paper outlines current challenges to effective and sustainable cross-border cooperation on water and makes the following recommendations to overcome them.

  • Cross-border data-sharing schemes should be examined to improve the hydro-meteorological knowledge base in Afghanistan and the region. Afghanistan’s water sector has suffered immensely from decades of conflict and needs significant improvement. Exchange of hydrological data between Afghanistan and its neighbors would speed up that process and may be done through a shared, transparent repository of scientific hydrological data on each of Afghanistan’s trans-boundary river basins. Data sharing would need to be a joint effort of Afghanistan and its neighbors, with assistance from the international community.
  • Building on eventual successes of data-sharing schemes, regional stakeholders should regularly exchange their water policies, thus building trust across borders.
  • Assistance from the international community to Afghanistan’s water sector should adopt a regionally sensitive approach rather than one focused on individual states. Donors have not yet made the regional dimension a priority in their assistance policies.
  • Assistance from the international community to Afghanistan’s water sector needs to be coordinated. Afghanistan’s water sector should be strengthened to bring it in line with the capabilities of its neighbors by coordinating resources and targeting them on building the human, financial, and technical capacity necessary to help Afghanistan take a full part in regional initiatives.
  • As a first step toward shared hydrological data and a needs assessment for the sharing of national water policy plans, senior water experts from the region should meet regularly. In light of the geographic and political specifics of each of the river basins, these meetings should be river-basin based.



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