Top leaders from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States are expected to discuss new measures to expedite the reconciliation process in the war-torn country at crucial talks on the margins of the upcoming Nato summit in Chicago this weekend.
The three capitals are currently discussing the possibility of a ‘core group’ meeting at the summit level when the presidents of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US will be in Chicago to attend the historic gathering slated for May 20-21, an official told The Express Tribune.
The group was formed in early 2011 to coordinate efforts for reaching out to the Taliban. Since then officials from the three countries have held several rounds of talks to work out modalities for holding direct negotiations with the insurgents in Afghanistan.
However, this is going to be for the first time the meeting of the core group will take place at the highest level, added the official.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official described the expected meeting among Presidents Asif Ali Zardari, Hamid Karzai and Barack Obama as ‘significant’, saying the three-way talks will likely involve discussion on new initiatives to seek a peaceful end to the Afghan conflict.
“We have a consistent position that the road to peace in Afghanistan goes through a meaningful reconciliation process,” another official pointed out.
“That is why we have stated a number of times that Pakistan is in favour of an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-driven peace process,” the official maintained.
It is expected that Islamabad will reiterate this position at the three-way talks with emphasis on having a clear roadmap for the Afghan endgame.
Islamabad believes that the centre of gravity as far as peace negotiations are concerned must be Kabul instead of any other world capital.
This approach comes in direct conflict with the US, which is currently pushing for the Qatar initiative to make peace with the ‘reconcilable’ Taliban.
Last month, top diplomats from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US in their talks in Islamabad took a major initiative to encourage insurgents to sit at the negotiating table.
They agreed to launch a new initiative that envisages providing safe passage to Afghan Taliban who are willing to enter the peace process.
The core group will help arrange a safe passage for the Taliban who will travel for peace talks through Pakistan, overseas and also in Afghanistan.
However, the success of the new initiative remains to be seen as many experts believe that previous attempts to lure foot-soldiers of the Afghan Taliban have failed.
Nevertheless, representatives from the three countries described the proposal as a step in the right direction.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2012.