Restarting the Pak-Afghan Relationship

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After a prolonged period of less than cordial relations and a refusal to come to the talking table, it seems better sense has prevailed on both sides. The one on one meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Ashraf Ghani is a welcome thaw in relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. A farewell call to the Afghan chief executive, Dr Abdullah Abdullah by General Raheel Sharif also inspires confidence in the future of Pak-Afghan relations.

There really should be not doubt about the necessity of healthy diplomatic relations with Afghanistan, after all, the flow of terrorism from Afghanistan and vice versa is a very real and serious problem that can only be solved if both countries work together rather than against each other.

Afghanistan still faces a much tougher and brutal war against terrorism than Pakistan. It is therefore imperative that the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) for Afghanistan is made active once again in order to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. Any efforts under the QCG will also remain futile if Pakistan is not included in the process due to its geopolitical significance.

Talking on the sidelines of a UNGA session with just America and India while ignoring other regional players can be at best one part of the effort to find a resolution to the Afghan conflict but certainly not the only one. Pakistan also cannot be stubborn in terms of relations with Afghanistan; rather it should be the bigger man and take the lead in addressing any grievances. So closing the border with Afghanistan for extended periods of time without warning does not help matters – such moves exasperate solvable issues.

The upcoming moot hosted by Moscow for a China-Pak-Russia strategic dialogue on Afghanistan and most importantly the ‘heart of Asia’ conference in Amritsar that Sartaj Aziz is thus far confirmed to be attending are important events. Both display our intention to resolve problems with our neighbours via a diplomatic approach towards conflict resolution rather than a confrontational stance.