Press Release – ISSI-FES International Conference on “Pakistan in the Emerging Geopolitical Landscape” Working Sessions I, II &III

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Press Release

ISSI-FES International Conference on
 “Pakistan in the Emerging Geopolitical Landscape”

Working Sessions I, II &III
April 24, 2024

Working Session I on the theme of “Unravelling Afghanistan’s Shifting Landscape” was moderated by Ms. Amina Khan, Director CAMEA. The speakers of the session included: Rangina Hamidi, Former Minister of Education of Afghanistan; Prof. Victoria C. Fontan, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, American University of Afghanistan, Qatar; Ambassador Mohammad Sadiq, Pakistan’s former Special Representative for Afghanistan; Dr. Ye Hailin, Professor and Vice Dean of the National Institute of International Strategy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (NIIS, CASS); Dr. Foad Izadi, Associate Professor, Faculty of World Studies, University of Tehran; and Dr. Bette Dam, Investigative Journalist, Author.

The speakers of the session provided a comprehensive analysis of the evolving landscape in Afghanistan, emphasizing the long-term consequences of investing in militarized education. They highlighted the destructive impact of divisive politics, which has weakened the economy and polarized society in the region. The speakers also pointed the role of ethnic discord in Afghanistan, with ethnic faultlines contributing to the complex on-ground situation. In particular, the speakers shed light on the challenging situation for women’s education in Afghanistan and emphasized the isolation and humanitarian crisis faced by the people of Afghanistan. They expressed optimism about Afghanistan’s potential, particularly its historic role as a transit route connecting East and West. To address Afghanistan’s issues, the speakers recommended a proactive approach and an inclusive strategy. They suggested regional dialogue and cooperation, border and refugee management, leveraging partnerships and engagement with locals, building the economic capacity of Afghanistan through connectivity, trade, and transit routes, and adopting a broader perspective on the Afghan issue. Lastly, the speakers concluded by recognizing the need for a nuanced understanding of the on-ground situation and the potential consequences of different policy interventions.

The second working session titled, “From Dependency to Diversity: The Evolution of the Middle East” was moderated by Dr. Shabana Fayyaz, Chairperson and Associate Professor, Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. Speakers of the session included: Dr. Ali Bakir, Assistant Professor Ibn Khaldon Center for Humanities and Social Sciences at Qatar University; Dr. Jahangir Karami, Member of the Scientific Council of IRAS and professor at the University of Tehran; Dr. Hanan AlHajeri, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Kuwait; Ambassador Riffat Masood, Pakistan’s former Ambassador to Iran; Dr. Moatamer Amin, Assistant Professor at The British University in Egypt; Adam Weinstein, Deputy Director Middle East Program, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, USA.

Speakers emphasized that the current geopolitical landscape of the Middle East is marked by a multitude of dynamic shifts and evolving alliances. Amid efforts towards economic diversification in the region, there is a growing apprehension surrounding security arrangements, particularly in light of the United States’ strategic reorientation towards the Asia-Pacific region. This shift prompts a reassessment of power dynamics within the region, as traditional Western influence faces challenges from the rising prominence of China.

Recent events, such as the war in Gaza, underscore the waning trust in the U.S. and its Western allies, further highlighting the need for a thorough reevaluation of regional dynamics. Within this complex landscape, there is an increasing recognition of the importance of prioritizing economic development over immediate security concerns. Short-term solutions are seen as inadequate in addressing the deeper geopolitical challenges facing the region, necessitating a more nuanced and long-term approach. In the midst of these geopolitical shifts, Pakistan’s position becomes increasingly crucial for regional stability, particularly through its potential contributions to economic integration. Given its longstanding adherence to fundamental principles in foreign policy, Pakistan is well-placed to engage constructively with Middle Eastern countries. By prioritizing diplomacy and cooperation, Pakistan can play a proactive role in fostering stability and prosperity in the region.

The third working session, titled “Rising Non-Conventional Security Threats in Afghanistan, Central Asia, and the Middle East”, was moderated by Dr. Simbal Khan, Conflict Prevention and Stabilization Expert at UNDP Pakistan. Speakers of the session included:  Ambassador Hamid Bayat, Senior Researcher Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS), Iran; Dr. Alexander Kornilov, Prof. Dr. Lobachevsky State University of Nizhni Novgorod, Dr. Mona Kanwal Sheikh, Head of the Global Security And Worldviews Unit, Danish Institute for International Studies, (DIIS);  Dr. Hu Shisheng, Senior Research Fellow and the Director of the Institute for South Asian Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR); Dr. Flavius CABA-MARIA, President and Director of the Political Department, Middle East Political and Economic Institute (MEPEI), Romania; and Dr. Islomkhon Gafarov, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Afghanistan and South Asian Studies, Institute for Advanced International Studies.

During the session, speakers discussed various security concerns and highlighted the shift from state-based to non-state conflicts post-9/11, emphasizing the rise of non-conventional threats like cyber-attacks alongside traditional ones. They also talked about security threats posed by non-state actors in regions like Syria and stressed the urgency of addressing emerging threats for global stability. Additionally, they noted the need for decisive action against terrorist groups and regional cooperation to mitigate risks, such as water conflicts and climate change impacts. Finally, speakers warned against the escalation of regional tensions and highlighted the fragile socio-economic conditions in affected regions, suggesting adjustments to address economic challenges.

The concluding remarks were made by Chairman ISSI’s Board of Governors, Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, who appreciated the Centre for Afghanistan, Middle East and Africa (CAMEA), and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), for highlighting important matters of concern for Pakistan amidst regional and global shifts in power structure. He stressed that Pakistan must act responsibly, taking good care of its national interests. Countries like Iran, Afghanistan, India, China and GCC are of crucial importance for Pakistan, and the leadership must act pragmatically in managing its relations with these countries. Mr. Hamayoun Khan, Programme Advisor, FES Pakistan, while expressing his views stated that this conference delved into the various facets of the challenges and opportunities for Pakistan in the emerging geopolitical landscape. He thanked the ISSI leadership for fruitful collaboration with FES.