Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

from Afghan Journal:

Opening up Afghanistan’s trade routes

Afghan seller at the World Pomegranate Fair in Kabul. Pic by Reuters/Omar Sobhani

Afghan seller at the World Pomegranate Fair in Kabul. Pic by Reuters/Omar Sobhani

The United States is pressing Pakistan to allow Afghan agriculture products to pass through its territory to India, the U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said during a trip to the war-torn country this week. Opening India's huge and exploding market to Afghan farmers sounds like a perfectly logical thing to do. Their produce of dried fruits, nuts and pomegranates long made its way to India before the partition of  India and Pakistan in 1947, immortalised in Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore's classic story for children, Kabuliwallah.

Reviving that trade  from landlocked Afghanistan may well turn farmers decisively away from poppy cultivation, the United States hopes. It would also make agriculture, on which an estimated 80 percent of the population depends,  more worthwhile and make them less vulnerable to the Taliban.  

But this exactly the sort of thing that stirs anxiety in Pakistan. India's growing presence in Afghanistan since the ousting of the Taliban in 2001 has, after Kashmir, become the single biggest sore point in Pakistan. Islamabad fears that New Delhi's  vast Afghan aid programme, close ties with President Hamid Karzai's government and its expanded diplomatic presence is part of a policy of strategic encirclement. It is, in some ways, the coming together of its worst fears.

The virtues of doing nothing: Why focusing on Afghanistan’s opium makes the opium problem worse

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Joshua Foust is an American military analyst. He blogs about Central Asia and Afghanistan at Registan.net . Reuters is not responsible for the content – the views are the author’s alone.

It would be an understatement to call opium cultivation in Afghanistan America’s headache. The issue of illegal drug cultivation and smuggling has vexed policymakers for three decades, and led to a multi-billion dollar campaign to combat the phenomenon.

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