ISLAMABAD: Despite strained ties, Pakistan and Afghanistan are working on a proposal to seek greater coordination between their militaries and intelligence agencies in a move designed to reduce the trust-deficit between the estranged neighbours.
The idea was first floated by Pakistan at a meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai in September at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session, a senior foreign ministry official told a select group of journalists here on Monday.
The official, requesting anonymity, said an institutionalised mechanism will be evolved for regular interaction between Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS).
“This will certainly help not only reduce trust-deficit but also have stabilising effect in Afghanistan,” the official maintained.
He said the step was an added bonus to already increased cooperation between the militaries of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The director general of military operations (DGMO) from both countries have started meeting regularly to ensure better communication and coordination, he added.
The new proposal appears to be aimed at reaching out to elements within Afghanistan’s security establishment who are critical to Islamabad’s role in the war-ravaged country.
Speaking about a widely held perception in Afghanistan that Pakistan still holds sway over the Taliban and is largely responsible for the unrest in the country, the official said Pakistan had conveyed to Afghanistan that it will do ‘whatever it could’ to bring about peace and stability in the war-torn country.
“We were able to considerably remove this misperception,” the foreign ministry official said. However, he added that Afghanistan would have to come up with a clear list of demands about their expectations from Pakistan, referring to Islamabad’s role in the Afghan reconciliation process.
“Pakistan cannot act on its own ... Afghans themselves will have to take the initiative for an inclusive political process,” said the official, adding that previous efforts to reach out to the Taliban did not achieve the desired results because “relevant segments” of the reconciliation process were left out of the course of action.
“Those who wield guns are relevant to the Afghan solution,” the official pointed out, alluding to the exclusion of certain Taliban groups, including the Haqqani network, from the peace process.
The foreign ministry official even cited the example of a decades-long conflict between Britain and the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
“For over three decades, Britain considered IRA as a terrorist outfit, but eventually it had to strike a deal with them,” the official said, arguing that such a model could be used to resolve the Afghan imbroglio.
The official added that Pakistan and Afghanistan would soon begin talks for a strategic pact between the two countries, but cautioned that the blame game must come to an end between the two countries, referring to an earlier statement by Karzai in which he set preconditions for a strategic agreement with Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2012.