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    Moscow Conference 2022 – By : Maheen Ahmad

    Moscow Conference 2022 – By : Maheen Ahmad

    Currently, when Western countries are ignoring the Afghanistan issue, there is a growing realisation within and among Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours (Pakistan, Iran, Russia, China, and Central Asian nations) that the region can no longer rely solely on the international community, and that it is time for them to take ownership of the region and fend for themselves by overcoming their differences, building positive relations, and a shared vision for the region.

    The Moscow conference on Afghanistan was launched in Moscow on November 16, 2022. This conference was attended by ten leading countries including U.S.A, China, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. However, the Taliban were not given representation in this meeting while they were given representation in the meeting last year held in Moscow in October 2021. The reason behind refraining the Taliban from this year’s Moscow meeting was that they are still not able to create a political government that represents all the factions of Afghanistan and their progress toward women’s rights is progressive but slow. According to Russian representatives they had already demanded the Taliban create a political government that truly represents all the factions of Afghanistan but they have failed to do so. That is why they are not given any representation.The UAE took part in the Moscow Format of Consultations on Afghanistan as a guest nation.

    Moscow consultative format was launched in 2017 to create a mutual consensus among than US-backed Kabul government and Kabul. Moscow format is launched to create a mutual solution by all the regional countries to solve the problem of Afghanistan. With the withdrawal of US forces situation is different now. Taliban have taken control of Afghanistan now. Taliban have been able to administer government properly except for the few  domains relating to security, women’s rights and politically inclusive government.

    Although Russia has hosted a number of conferences and initiatives centred on Afghanistan, such as the Russia-China-Pakistan Trilateral Dialogue on Afghanistan, the current Moscow Format is exceptional and unmatched because it has given the Afghan peace process a new, much-needed dimension, which has given people hope once again.

    In an effort to promote national harmony in the nation riven by conflict, the Moscow Format called for the rights of all Afghan ethnic groups and minorities. After the conference, a joint statement was released in which it was emphasised that all terrorist infrastructure must be destroyed in Afghanistan and that it was unacceptable for other nations to establish military infrastructure facilities there and in near states.

    Moscow format is also very important in this aspect that they are stressing the USA to unfreeze Afghanistan assets. Afghanistan is now experiencing one of the world’s most severe humanitarian crises. There is no money in the Afghan economy to pay salaries or purchase food. Western aid has been halted, and millions of Afghans are at risk of acute malnutrition and famine in the coming months. Afghanistan also needs money to run the government effectively and efficiently. So, it is the right time for the USA to unfreeze Afghanistan’s foreign assets so they can better work for their regional security, and in return, regional stability will be established. Moscow format is demanding the USA to unfreeze Afghanistan’s foreign assets.

    The participants in the discussions also demanded that Washington “completely unfreeze” Afghanistan’s assets. Following the Taliban takeover on August 16, 2021, the US has frozen at least $9.5 billion of the Afghan Central Bank. Although the Taliban regime has called for the fund to be defrosted, major nations have so far refused to recognise it, which has complicated its international relations.

    The participating nations urged the Taliban to keep its promises to end the continued flow of terrorism and drug trafficking out of Afghanistan. The panel also talked about “crop substitution programmes,” which are creative ways to stop the growing of poppies.

    Participants in the Moscow Format acknowledged that one of the most significant impediments to achieving peace in Afghanistan has been the military stakes of foreign nations in the country. The Moscow format deemed other nations’ military infrastructure facilities to be inappropriate.

    Inclusive Government:

    The delegates and special envoys emphasised the significance of establishing a “truly inclusive administration in Afghanistan that represents the interests of all major ethnopolitical groupings in the country.” The Moscow format praised Afghanistan’s neighbouring neighbours for hosting Afghan refugees and emphasised the “importance of a safe, dignified, time-bound, and well-resourced repatriation of refugees back to Afghanistan.”

    The demand for national reconciliation and the recognition of the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, as well as women, reflects the content of the “intra-Afghan” conversation, which was also included in the 2020 Doha agreement between the US and the Taliban. However, the intra-Afghan conversation was left unfinished as the Taliban started a military campaign immediately following the Doha Agreement, resulting in the fall of the Ashraf Ghani administration as US soldiers withdrew.

    Although there have been tremendous advances in the field of Afghan peace, the process must be accelerated. In many aspects, the security of Afghanistan is critical for Asian nations as well as the world community.

    The writer is a student of International Relations (IR) at the International  Islamic University Islamabad and a research intern at CAMEA at Islamabad Strategic Studies Institute(ISSI).


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