Civil-military huddle decides to reach out to New Delhi, Kabul

Published: January 4, 2017
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Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with his Indian counterpart Narendar Modi. PHOTO: AFP

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with his Indian counterpart Narendar Modi. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will make fresh peace overtures to its estranged neighbours — Afghanistan and India — in a new initiative by the government to mend ties with the two countries, officials said on Tuesday.

The decision to reach out to both Kabul and New Delhi with fresh proposals for resolving differences through dialogue was taken at a high-level civil-military huddle.

Indian army won’t shy away from flexing muscles on border: chief

The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was attended by army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar, Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and National Security Adviser Lt Gen (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua. This was the first security meeting since the change of command in the army as well as the country’s top spy agency.

The move to make a pitch for talks with Afghanistan and India came at a time when Pakistan’s relationships with its eastern and western neighbours have been strained because of a trust deficit and longstanding disputes.

The process of rapprochement with Afghanistan already began when the army chief telephoned the top political and military leadership of Afghanistan during the weekend, pledging to work for the peace in the region.

Sources familiar with the high-level huddle at the prime minister’s office told The Express Tribune that Gen Qamar briefed the meeting about his telephone conversation with Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah as well as chief of the neighbouring country’s army.

Gen Qamar, who was invited by President Ghani to visit Kabul, will soon travel to the Afghan capital in a bid to convince the administration there to take a fresh start for the moribund Afghan peace process. His predecessor Gen Raheel Sharif also made a promising start when he took over as the army chief as the Afghan government threw its weight behind Pakistan’s efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

Gen Raheel’s efforts eventually resulted in the first-ever direct talks between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives in Murree in 2015. The process, however, could not move forward after Afghan intelligence deliberately leaked news of the death of Mullah Omar. The move was a serious blow to the fragile peace process with Pakistan questioning its sincerity.

Can’t rule out more ‘surgical strikes’ against Pakistan: Indian Army chief

Despite the trust deficit, Pakistan and Afghanistan also joined by China and the US agreed to revive the peace process in December 2015. But as another round of talks was being planned, US killed Mullah Omar’s successor Mullah Mansoor in a drone strike in Balochistan, shattering any hopes for furthering peace talks.

Afghanistan has since been accusing Pakistan of harbouring the Taliban and demanding use of force against the insurgents since they refused to enter into the negotiations. Pakistan, however, strongly denies the allegations and has emphasised the need for finding a political solution to the long running conflict.

Pakistan’s stance was vindicated last month when China and Russia also threw their weight behind Pakistan’s push for Afghan peace deal. This apparently put pressure on the Ghani administration, which is now willing to talk to the new Pakistani army chief to find a way out of the current impasse.

Tuesday’s meeting also deliberated the current stalemate with India. Relations between the two countries have been on a downward spiral especially after attack on the Indian military headquarters in Indian Occupied Kashmir in September. The troops from the two sides have since been regularly exchanging fire along the Line of Control and working boundary leaving scores dead on both sides of the border.

However, since the new army chief took charge in Pakistan, there is dramatic reduction in the violence along the LoC.

A senior military official dismissed the perception that the de-escalation was due to the change of command. “It is merely a coincidence,” the official insisted.

Independent observers, however, are of the view that India may be assessing the situation in view of the appointment of new army chief.

Sources said the government decided to reach out to India with a renewed offer of dialogue. It is not clear whether India will be approached through diplomatic channels or conveyed the message using the mechanism of national security advisers, who interact with each other away from the media glare.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2017.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • PrasadDeccani
    Jan 4, 2017 - 9:47AM

    Guys, leave us alone. When we are not keen to talk to you, why do you insist on talks?Recommend

  • Greg
    Jan 4, 2017 - 10:35AM

    There’s a better and easy way to reach out; Bring the perpetrators of Mumbai, Pathankot, and Uri to justice. Theatrics can only go so far.Recommend

  • Feroz
    Jan 4, 2017 - 10:39AM

    It is not talks that can bring peace but a change in behavior. Do not need to be a diplomat or rocket scientist to understand such basics.Recommend

  • Abdul Jabbar
    Jan 4, 2017 - 11:34AM

    India should set precondition for talk as LOC is recognized as international border between India and Pakistan.Recommend

  • Chacha Jee
    Jan 4, 2017 - 11:41AM

    Now Pakistan Government or may establishment has decided to adopt and pursue Shahyar Khan style diplomacy with India. The problem for both cricket and Government is public opinion and Modi’s re-election is due in 2 years. Good Luck.Recommend

  • Hamad
    Jan 4, 2017 - 12:27PM

    So let me get this straight, on one side Pakistan is talking about Peace the whole time and on other hand India is talking about Isolation do we get the picture clear who wants what? I mean India is always talking about this non sense at every forum and getting slapped by other Countries for playing the ignorant part. India is responsible for the collapse of Saarc, all those ministers in-charge that were responsible for India’s pull out should be fired from their jobs, you made it easy for China to influence the market. Only if you have some proper analysts you would make careful decisions.

    Pakistan has to step up trade definitely if India declines then let the world know that it wasn’t us who “rejected” their proposal.Recommend

  • PrakashG
    Jan 4, 2017 - 12:44PM

    If the civilian government needs military’s permission to hold dialogue with India, you can be sure the talks are doomed from the very start.Recommend

  • Ahmad
    Jan 4, 2017 - 1:55PM

    @PrasadDeccani:
    LOL No We will not leave you alone :p Haha Recommend

  • Maqsood
    Jan 4, 2017 - 5:51PM

    Foreign-policy making is process and involves several key players, institutions, and mobilization of resources to achieve a targeted goal. Just a superfluous meeting of top civil-military leadership cannot remove the hurdles. The right approach, though not sufficient by itself, should be to handle the foreign policy matters to professionals of foreign service. Recommend

  • Ajay Mittal
    Jan 4, 2017 - 6:18PM

    @Greg:
    I think the deal is to release all arrested Indians in lieu of Uri and Pathankot as restitution. This includes Kulbhushan.Recommend

  • hnr
    Jan 4, 2017 - 9:51PM

    This can happen only when Kashmir is put on the back burner and till then it will be a festering sore in the relationship.Having said that on the practical side there is so much to be gained if only both counties can get to talk and to trust.Such wasteful expenditure on armaments and suspicion can be diverted to make lives of both better than what it is today.But who will bell the cat?Recommend

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