Afghan Defence Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi arrived in Islamabad on Sunday, commencing a five-day official trip.
Leading a six-member delegation, Mohammadi will begin talks with Pakistan’s civil and military authorities on Monday, including Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, officials told The Express Tribune. The Afghan minister will discuss a range of issues, including security and defence cooperation between the two neighbours.
“The two sides will talk about the roadmap Afghanistan has given Pakistan about the post-Nato set-up in Afghanistan,” an Afghan official told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity.
“Matters relating to the proposed Strategic Partnership Agreement between the two countries could also come under discussion,” he said. Cross-border attacks will also be one of the topics on the agenda as they have worsened tensions over the past few months and Kabul raised the matter in the UN Security Council in September.
Pakistan has already handed over a draft of the Strategic Partnership Agreement to the Afghan government and the Karzai administration is in the process of coming up with a response, the Afghan official said.
According to a Pakistan military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, Islamabad will also renew its offer to train the Afghan National Army (ANA) after US-led foreign forces pull out from the war-weary country by the end of 2014. Pakistan has made such offers several times in the past but Afghan authorities have shown no interest due to a trust deficit.
The reluctance of the Karzai administration also stems from Pakistan’s historic ties with the Taliban. It has been often said that Pakistan wants a government of its own choice in Afghanistan to pursue ‘strategic interests’ in the region.
However, Pakistan has always rejected the impression, insisting that it has no favorites in Afghanistan.
The official pointed out that the ANA will face massive problems once funding dries up after the Nato forces leave. Although the US and its allies have committed to fund the Afghan economy and security forces for a few years after 2014, a military presence hinges on a bilateral security agreement that includes the contentious issue of immunity for American troops from Afghan law.
On a recent visit to Washington, the Afghan defence minister said he hoped that the US would not repeat the mistake it made when Soviet forces pulled out from the country in 1989. “In view of the post-2014 scenario, they [Afghanistan] will have to develop military ties with Pakistan,” the military official emphasised.
Islamabad is keen on pursuing close military and defense ties with Kabul given Afghanistan’s long-term strategic pact with India.
Afghan defence analysts described Mohammadi’s visit as important as it will “provide an opportunity to both sides to discuss their problems and find solutions”.
“There are problems in both countries and there are border problems. Both are required to work to strengthen border coordination and also jointly work for the peace,” former Afghan defence minister Shahnawaz Tanai told The Express Tribune. He underlined the need for both sides to remove the mistrust and address each other’s genuine concerns.
The former minister also advised defence officials of both the countries to win the backing of the tribesmen along the border, which he said was key to peace and stability. (WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM TAHIR KHAN)
Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2013.
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