28 December 2007

The End of Isolationism

Here we are, back again, after a very pleasant family Christmas. Quite clearly, the most significant event of the last couple of days — indeed, arguably of the year — is the assassination of Pakistan's opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

While The Sun headline, The Day Democracy Died, somewhat overstates the importance of yesterday's dramatic turn of affairs, it makes all the more pertinent the Taleban negotiation question, initially raised this week with the expulsion from Afghanistan of the acting head of the EU mission and the UN official criticised for having contact with the Taleban. For, peace and reconciliation are rarely if ever possible without dialogue. Yet, as the Conservative MEP Nirj Deva has written on ConservativeHome, western governments are now going to have to face the uncomfortable truth of "the dastardly and stealthy role the military regime in Pakistan has consistently played in perpetuating Islamic terrorism, both inside the country and in the wider international community."

The New Great Game is set to dominate the twenty-first century just as surely as the original British-Russian rivalry dominated Central Asian politics in the nineteenth. Sadly, for all the lives that will continue to be lost in what has become an internationalised conflict, there is no reason to suppose that the outcome this time will prove any more decisive or lasting than it was before.