After more than 40 years of conflict, motivated by local, regional and supraregional interests, it is only right that the Afghan people finally reach a lasting peace and escape the poverty which affects more than 80% of the population. The current situation in Afghanistan is difficult and the prospects for peace remain distant. But many – including those here in Pakistan – are willing to take risks to promote a negotiated political settlement between the Republic government and the Taliban. Both sides will ultimately have to make concessions in the interests of peace and security in Afghanistan.
In considering the elements necessary for a lasting peace in the war-torn country, I believe that there is one that deserves special attention: the pursuit of a neutral Afghanistan, a proposal that could very well be a condition. prerequisite for the security and stability of the country. Here I can’t help but remember what happened in the heart of Europe after Napoleon’s defeat, when in 1815, at the Congress of Vienna, the map of Europe was redrawn. For more than 15 years, Switzerland was occupied by the young French Republic and finally absorbed by the Empire of Napoleon. Thus, the victorious Anti-France Alliance wanted to prevent new problems from arising in this strategic region of the Alpine passes. The aim was to ensure that Switzerland no longer takes sides in future conflicts between its neighbors and that its territory is not used to harm another country.
In addition, when the Great Powers at the Congress of Vienna formalized the permanent neutrality of Switzerland – which was already an old practice and self-proclaimed for centuries – they also undertook to respect it: active neutrality on the one hand, and guaranteed of its respect by regional actors (Austria, France, Great Britain, Prussia, Russia, etc.) on the other hand. So, when looking for a solution for peace in Afghanistan, isn’t it the right time to also reflect on this historical example?
However, what would this mean for Afghanistan? To begin with, all Afghan parties to the conflict should ensure that Afghanistan and its local components do not take sides in disputes between their neighbors, for example between Pakistan and India or between China and India. But above all, it implies a commitment from the regional powers and the international community to no longer interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. This commitment could be translated into a solemn declaration by all the States of the region as well as the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to guarantee the territorial integrity and neutrality of Afghanistan.
Achieving a neutral Afghanistan can be an extremely long process. Nevertheless, on the basis of our own experience in Switzerland, this is a fairly successful formula which could perhaps also benefit the peace sought in Afghanistan. Recall that Afghanistan has followed a policy of neutrality in the past, especially since the end of the 19the century until the middle of the 20e century.
Posted in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2021.