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Proxy wars the focus of ADI visit to Pakistan

Proxy wars the focus of ADI visit to Pakistan

Three of the Institute’s researchers have recently returned from a week-long trip to Pakistan to engage with international partners and policymakers about the issues of proxy wars in Syria and Afghanistan.

Experts in Central Asian and Middle Eastern politics, Professor Shahram Akbarzadeh, Dr Zahid Shahab Ahmed, and Dr Dara Conduit, are the leading investigators from Deakin University on a project funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York to investigate the role of regional actors in fuelling Middle East proxy wars.

The grant from the Carnegie Corporation funds research into the impact of regional actors in the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan, which are estimated to have led to the deaths of more than 600,000 people.

As one of the first opportunities to meet with their international partners from Afghanistan and Pakistan since the announcement of the grant last year, Professor Akbarzadeh, Dr Ahmed and Dr Conduit spoke extensively to the Pakistani media about the potential impact and role their research would play in the enduring issue.

“There is significant gap in the literature on the role of non-state actors in these conflicts,” said Professor Akbarzadeh. “The research we are undertaking with our international partners will help to provide the empirical underpinning, as well as concrete policy suggestions, to mitigate the conflicts in the regions of South and Central Asia and Middle East.”

“Regional proxy conflicts have become the most significant driver of insecurity in the broader Middle East, and external actors are fuelling the fires of conflict in Syria and Afghanistan. This project will provide an important evidence-based study to help us develop a new understanding of proxy conflicts.”

In conjunction with the Pak Institute of Peace Studies in Islamabad, the ADI held an international conference in Pakistan on the ‘Strategic Dimensions of Peace and Conflict in South Asia and the Middle East’. The conference featured expert speakers from Australia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, and attracted a local audience of 150 representatives from academia, think tanks and the diplomatic service.

The conference concluded with a policy roundtable discussion on proxy wars with 20 representatives from the region including two former Pakistani generals and a current Senator.

“The open discussion we had at this roundtable on the causes and consequences of proxy wars and how best to bring them to an end in the region was incredibly informative to the researchers and policymakers in the room alike,” said Professor Akbarzadeh.

“With issues as urgent and sensitive as these, we must make sure there’s an open and honest dialogue between research and policy to ensure that we have a full picture of the task before us: finding a long-term solution to these proxy wars.”

The Deakin University project, “Assessing the impact of external actors in the Syrian and Afghan proxy wars”, was granted to Professor Shahram Akbarzadeh, Dr Zahid Shahab Ahmed and Dr Dara Conduit and is slated to be completed in June 2020.


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