Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Pakistan and Afghanistan: Suffering of frontline states
NUMATA Sadaaki  / Executive Director, Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership

September 11, 2008
On September 15, 2001, four days after 9/11, I made a démarche to the top official of the Pakistani Foreign Office urging Pakistan to join the international community's fight against terrorism. His response was that President Musharraf had just made up his mind to cooperate, recognizing that Pakistan had become a "frontline state" again. With the new frontline opened against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, President Musharraf must have sensed instinctively that Pakistan might not survive if it continued to cast its lot with the Taliban.

A "frontline state" is a notion unfamiliar to us Japanese, who have avoided entanglement in any conflict and lived in peace and comfort for over six decades. It is all too familiar to the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan, who have often been tossed around amid the rivalries of the greater powers, fearing for, and losing, their lives.

Peter Hopkirk's "The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia" gives en epic account of the fierce secret war of intrigue through the 19th century between Tsarist Russia seeking to expand southward and the British Empire jealously guarding India, for supremacy in Central Asia. A part of that war unfolded in the areas that today comprise Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan. With the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan at the end of 1979, a new great game broke out, and for ten years, fighting continued between the Soviet Union, on the one hand, and the Mujahideen, comprising the Afghan resistance and Pakistani jihadists, supported by the United States, Saudi Arabia, China and Pakistan, on the other.

Pakistani and Afghan leaders felt "abandoned" when, after the Soviets withdrew at the end of 1989, the United States walked away, leaving a power vacuum in Afghanistan, only to be filled by the fanatical Taliban. Many Pakistanis continue to resent this, and are wary about fighting another "American" war.

Today, seven years after 9/11, the international media refer to Pakistan, with the Taliban and Al Qaeda lurking in the lawless Tribal Area near the Afghan border, as "the most dangerous place in the world." President Musharraf has been unseated, and a civilian government has taken over. In the U.S, presidential election, the mounting toll of U.S. soldiers killed in action due to the Taliban's regained strength has pushed Afghanistan to the top of the national security agenda together with Iraq. The United States is increasingly frustrated by what they see as Pakistan's failure to wage an all-out war against the militants in the Tribal Area who are supporting the Taliban.

In Japan, the shock of the abduction and killing of a young NGO volunteer dampens the prospect for further Japanese human contribution to peace building in Afghanistan. The turmoil following Prime Minister Fukuda's announcement to step down is turning the nation's attention further inward. But there are so many things in Pakistan and Afghanistan that require Japan's help.

In Pakistan, the civilian political leaders, on whose shoulders parliamentary democracy rests, are still closely tied to the interests of feudal landlords and tribal chiefs. It has been the case that when national governance is jeopardized by corruption and other excesses of the political leaders, the Army steps in as an impartial arbiter, but ends up governing ...too long, only to be driven from office and replaced by civilian leadership. This time, the peaceful transition from the military rule under President Musharraf to civilian rule may be a sign of Pakistan's underlying political resilience. Instead of lecturing them as to how to proceed with democratization, we should try to encourage further manifestations of such resilience.

Pakistan has been waging its battle against the Islamist militants at great human sacrifice, the death toll reaching 907 in 2006 and 3,448 in 2007. It will continue to require the two-pronged approach of military operations and economic development to eradicate poverty. The new civilian government faces the formidable task of creating a groundswell of support for what many Pakistanis perceive as America's war. If the United States should decide to go it alone in the Tribal Area, which is within the border of Pakistan, it could ignite violent repercussions. Japan, for its part, should step up its efforts to help improve the social and economic conditions in the Tribal Area.

Afghanistan has now become the main battlefield in the fight against terrorism. Japan's humanitarian and reconstruction assistance has amounted to $ 2 billion. The "human" element is vital in this. The ISAF under NATO and the U.S. Forces deploy 70,000 troops there. In the case of Japan, it is the aid workers and NGO people that have been contributing on the ground with the sweat of their brow. The Maritime Self Defense Force refueling vessels in the Indian Ocean form an important part of international solidarity.

We can empathize with and help the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan as they try to overcome the challenges of a frontline state. It would be a serious mistake not to live up to this role befitting a responsible global citizen.

The writer was Japan's Ambassador to Pakistan from March 2000 to October 2002.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

沼田貞昭  / 国際交流基金日米センター所長

2008年 9月 11日










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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Pakistan and Afghanistan: Suffering of frontline states