The trilateral meeting of what is called a ‘Core Group’ of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States, which took place in Islamabad on Tuesday, did not produce any significant result on the process of reconciliation in Afghanistan.
Senior officials from the three countries made little headway in accelerating the process of peace-making with the Taliban due to ongoing tensions between Islamabad and Washington.
US special envoy for the region Marc Grossman, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Javed Ludin attended the three-way talks to seek a peaceful end to the war in Afghanistan.
At a joint news conference, the Afghan deputy foreign minister said, “I came here with an urgent message that we need to make the process of reconciliation the central piece of our discussions.”
His remarks highlighted Kabul’s frustration over the slow pace of reconciliation process apparently due to strained ties between Pakistan and the US, both of which are considered to be the major players in any future political dispensation in Afghanistan.
US envoy Grossman acknowledged that his country’s relations with Pakistan had been going through a tough period but insisted the two countries would soon sort out the issues.
Grossman is the first senior US official to visit Islamabad after Washington recently withheld $800 million in military assistance to Pakistan. He insisted that Pakistan and the US shared “common interests and both countries need to identify those shared interests to work jointly.”
Acknowledging Pakistan’s importance in Afghanistan, Grossman also dispelled the impression that the US was in any way going to repeat the mistake from 1990 when it pulled out of Afghanistan in haste leaving Pakistan alone to handle the mess. The Kerry-Luger-Berman Act is a clear manifestation by the US that it is not going to abandon Pakistan, he maintained.
Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir tried to down play the ongoing tensions between Pakistan and the US saying that he was, “quite confident that the two countries would soon find a way out.”
Restrictions on diplomatic travel
The US and Pakistan were working to smooth over curbs on diplomats’ travels in the country on Tuesday, officials from both sides said.
The Foreign Office has said that the measure is for the safety of diplomats themselves but a senior US official said it smacked of “harassment.”
US embassy spokesman Alberto Rodriguez tried to play down the dispute, saying much of the ire over diplomats’ travel was a “misunderstanding” blown up by the raucous Pakistani media.
“We’re working with the Pakistan government to resolve the issue,” he said.
A foreign ministry official also confirmed that efforts were underway to “address” the matter.
Foreign ministry officials say the restrictions – requiring diplomats get “No Objections Certificates”, or NoCs, from authorities before leaving Islamabad – are neither new nor specific to US officials. Rather, they were meant to ensure the security of diplomats.
The US, however, says the Vienna Convention allows freedom of movement for diplomats, especially when travelling to its consulates in Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar.
NoCs have always been required for certain areas of the country, and the US acknowledges that, a US source familiar with the talks between the two countries said.
What is new is a requirement for diplomats to apply for a NoC to leave the capital, especially to travel to consulates, the source said, adding: “We’re getting to an agreement that gives us what we want, and something everyone can live with.” (WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM REUTERS)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2011.