ISLAMABAD: At a time when Pakistan's relations with both the United States and Afghanistan are tense, Islamabad has offered an olive branch to Washington and Kabul, seeking a ‘collaborative and persistent approach’ to deal with regional security challenges.
The offer was made by the army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa who travelled to Kabul for a daylong trip on Tuesday and attended a crucial security meeting, the Chiefs of Defence Conference.
The moot, attended by the commander US Centcom, Commander Resolute Support Mission and army chiefs of Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, concluded with a resolve to continue cooperation for peace and stability in the region.
The visit is seen as significant as it came amid Pakistan's ongoing strains in its ties with the US and Afghanistan. According to a senior Pakistani official, the fact that the army chief traveled to Kabul, despite diatribe from Afghanistan against Pakistan, shows that all sides know the importance of engagement and of keeping the channels of communications open,
In his address, Gen Qamar reiterated that the path to regional peace and stability passes through Afghanistan. “Regions develop as a whole, not individual countries,” Gen Qamar said in what appears to be a statement linked to the US new strategy that sought greater role for India in the region.
Responding to the oft repeated US and Afghan allegations of providing terrorist save havens, the army chief insisted that Pakistan had eliminated all terrorist sanctuaries from its soil.
“However, residual signatures of terrorists who take advantage of the presence of 2.7 million Afghan refugees and absence of effective border security coordination, are also being traced and targeted through ongoing operation Radd-ul-Fasaad,” he added.
He also assured that Pakistani territory was not allowed to be used against any other country, adding that Pakistan expected the same in reciprocity. He said collaborative approach and persistence is the answer to all challenges, for which Pakistan is ready to play its part.
This was the army chief’s second visit to Kabul in four months. He last visited the war-torn country in October last year and held wide-ranging talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and other leadership.
War on terror: If we fail, region fails: Gen Bajwa
The October visit was termed as positive by Afghan leadership as the two sides had agreed to a series of proposals to address the mistrust and security challenges.
But the recent string of attacks in Kabul has once again put things back to the square one. Afghanistan claimed that terrorist attacks were planned on the Pakistani soil by the Haqqani network.
The Afghan spy chief, who visited just days after the Kabul attack, insisted that Pakistan was handed ‘undeniable evidence’ in this regard. Pakistan said it would look into the information shared by Kabul.
Last week, the Afghan deputy foreign minister led a delegation of senior civilian and military officials to Islamabad for crucial talks on enhancing cooperation between the two countries. The two-day talks, however, ended without any breakthrough and the two sides did not issue a customary joint statement.
The parleys apparently could not make any head way because of Afghanistan’s instance on immediate action against those who were behind the recent terrorist attacks in Kabul. There was no word either when the next round of talks would take place.
But the visit of the army chief suggests that the two sides are not giving up and still looking to find a way out of the current impasse. Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have remained tense for many months now as the two sides accuse the other for turning a blind eye towards certain militant groups.