Pakistan and the United States have restored full military and intelligence ties after relations hit a low point last year, and Islamabad will take further steps to support a nascent Afghan peace process, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said on Wednesday.
“There was a fairly difficult patch and I think we’ve moved away from that into a positive trajectory,” Khar told Reuters in an interview, referring to Pakistani-US relations.
“We are coming closer to developing what could be common positions. We wish to see a responsible transition in Afghanistan.”
Relations between the uneasy allies were severely strained by a series of incidents in 2011. The crisis in ties began when a CIA contractor shot dead two men he suspected of trying to rob him in the city of Lahore.
Months later, US Special Forces killed Osama bin Laden in a raid and kept the Pakistan military in the dark, humiliating the country’s most powerful institution.
Then a Nato air raid killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in Mohmand Agency in November that year.
In response, Pakistan expelled US military trainers and CIA agents and placed limits on the numbers of visas given to US diplomatic personnel.
Pakistan, which relies heavily on American aid, also closed supply routes for trucks carrying supplies to US-led Nato forces in Afghanistan.
Now, Khar said, relations were fully repaired, including military and intelligence contacts.
“We are having very useful, deep conversations with the US,” she said, as the two countries try to find common ground on Afghanistan ahead of the scheduled 2014 pullout.
Both the US and Afghanistan have long regarded Pakistan as an unreliable partner in the drive to bring stability to Afghanistan, accusing Pakistan’s intelligence agency of backing Afghan insurgent groups.
Pakistan denies that.
The government recently released mid-level Afghan Taliban prisoners to help facilitate peace talks between the militant group and the Kabul government — the clearest sign that it was committed to advancing Afghan reconciliation.
Khar said Islamabad was willing to take further steps but would not say whether that would include releasing senior Afghan Taliban figures, like the former second in command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
“I think it is important that we have intensive engagement on what needs to be done,” she said.
Pakistan would also encourage Afghan insurgents to enter into direct talks with President Hamid Karzai’s government. So far, there have been only contacts.
“For us in Pakistan today, the most important capital in the world is Kabul,” said Khar, because instability there could spill over into Pakistan, and fuel its own Taliban insurgency.
She said the Afghan and Pakistan governments were discussing ways to strengthen military cooperation.
Closer ties with India
In addition to improving ties with Afghanistan, Khar said Pakistan also wanted to pursue closer ties with arch-rival India.
“The Pakistani leadership has shown great willingness to move forward, sometimes at the cost of losing some political capital, because sometimes improving ties with India might not be the most popular thing to do,” said Khar.
“We are clear that we want Pakistani-India relations to move forward swiftly,” she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2012.