ISLAMABAD: In an apparent attempt to dispel Pakistan’s concerns a day after Kabul signed its first-ever strategic pact with New Delhi, the Afghan ambassador to Islamabad held meetings on Wednesday with Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir.
In separate meetings with General Kayani and Bashir, Afghan envoy Omar Khan Daudzai justified his country’s latest push to enhance security and economic cooperation with India but insisted the move “was not aimed at isolating Pakistan”, diplomatic sources said.
Both Afghan and Pakistani officials confirmed the meetings took place but shared little details.
“The discussions were obviously focused on developments that took place recently,” an Afghan diplomat said, requesting anonymity.
A Pakistani military official said the Afghan ambassador met General Kayani in an effort to dismiss the impression that the strategic partnership between Kabul and New Delhi was meant to undermine Islamabad’s role in Afghanistan.
However, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani tried to downplay the development.
“Both are sovereign countries, they have the right to do whatever they want to,” Gilani told reporters in Islamabad.
But despite Gilani’s somewhat neutral reaction, the country’s security establishment fears that India’s enhanced role in Afghanistan will have serious implications for Pakistan.
The strategic pact between Afghanistan and India was sealed amidst Pakistan’s strained ties with both Kabul and Washington over the Haqqani network.
Analysts say the latest US and Afghan allegations against Pakistan, coupled with Kabul’s accord with New Delhi, appears to indicate coordinated attempt to exert pressure on Islamabad.
A source familiar with the ongoing developments said General Kayani and Bashir both voiced serious concerns over the Afghan accusations holding Pakistan responsible for the mess in Afghanistan.
“The blame game must come to an end,” the source quoted Bashir as telling the Afghan envoy.
It was believed that the Afghan envoy also raised the issue of investigations into the killing of former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani. Afghan officials claimed the suicide bomber, who had killed Rabbani, was a Pakistani national and was linked with the Quetta Shura.
Karzai tries to reassure ‘twin brother’
Sensing the likely implications of the strategic pact with India, Afghan President Hamid Karzai reached out to Pakistan to reassure the South Asian nation that the accord would not harm ties.
“Pakistan is our twin brother, India is a great friend. The agreement we signed with our friend will not affect our brother,” he told a gathering in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Karzai’s two-day visit to India comes during rising Afghan anger with Pakistan and Afghan accusations of Pakistan’s involvement in militant attacks.
The Afghan president reiterated that Afghanistan should be negotiating peace with Pakistan, not the Taliban.
“We have decided not to talk to the Taliban because we do not know their address … therefore we have decided to talk to our brothers in Pakistan,” he said. “The peace process will now be focused more on relations between countries … than on individuals we cannot find.”
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM REUTERS)
Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2011.