Afghan-Pak Talks Amidst Tensions

Pakistan and Afghanistan have resolved to make efforts to benefit from their geographic location to enhance regional connectivity and realise their true economic potential for socio-economic development, alleviation of poverty and welfare of people.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani made a rare phone call to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. The two leaders exchanged views on a host of bilateral issues that included matters relating to peace, security and prosperity in Afghanistan and the region.

The Afghanistan President and Pakistan Prime Minister vowed to strengthen bilateral ties and restore peace in Afghanistan and the South Asian region. Relations between Islamabad and Kabul are marred by years of suspicions and mistrust over mutual allegations of harbouring militants waging attacks in both countries.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said that for the sake of the people of the two countries, the aim of the leadership of both countries should be to help build peace, promote economic activities and advance connectivity for regional prosperity.

However, to build peace, Pakistan has to do more than a bit of introspection. The Kabul government is under relentless threat from Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence and also the Haqqani group, which is patronized by the Pakistani establishment. There have been many cases of violent attacks in Afghanistan, which have been carried out by the Pakistan based and Pak backed terrorist groups.

India has been a great benefactor of the Afghan people. India has committed more than $2 billion worth of development projects. India has built hospitals, schools, training centres, highways and dams for the Afghans. Indian workers have even laid down their lives in Afghanistan, while working on these projects. India is also providing scholarships to Afghan students in Indian universities.

India is of the firm opinion that for peace to prevail in Afghanistan, proxies should not be allowed in the trouble torn country. Since, the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Afghanistan has had a tenuous democracy. It is the duty of Afghanistan’s neighbours to strengthen democracy in the country.

Instead, Pakistan-backed forces have time and again tried to derail the democratic process in Afghanistan. The Kabul government also has not been strong enough to fight the extremist elements within its territory. The recent talks between the Taliban and the US facilitated by Pakistan, could add to the conundrum.

Pakistan Prime Minister reiterated his invitation to President Ghani for comprehensive talks on all issues of mutual interest. The latest interaction between Mr. Khan and President Ghani came four days after a terrorist attack from Afghanistan claimed lives of three Pakistani soldiers who were erecting a fence on the border between the two countries.

Skirmishes between Afghan and Pakistani forces are continuing. Seven Pakistani soldiers were injured when a group of soldiers from bases in Afghanistan attacked Pakistan Army troops in the Alwara area of North Waziristan tribal district, earlier this month.

Meanwhile, the United States and the Taliban have held a new round of negotiations in Doha, Qatar, in a bid to advance peace efforts in Afghanistan and to urge the insurgent group to participate in an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue.

US special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, led the US team for the talks with insurgent leaders based in the Qatari capital. Taliban sources said the discussions would focus on fleshing out “some remaining details” of a preliminary agreement the two sides had reached in their last meeting in early March. The insurgent group has underscored the need for finalizing an agreement on the withdrawal of US-led foreign troops before it discusses other issues. Prior to the formal negotiations, Mr. Khalilzad met with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy Taliban leader for political affairs and head of the group’s informal office in Doha.

India is of the view that Taliban is a terrorist organization and any talks with the group would only lead to the legitimization of terrorist organization.

Script: Padam Singh, AIR: News Analyst