Pakistan and Afghanistan share many of the same problems. They both battle militancy, facing the threat of a Taliban insurgency. Governments in both nations are desperate to ward of this threat. With inter-connections between the militants in both nations well established, it seems obvious they must work together if they are to overcome the problems. The reluctance to do this over the years has handicapped us in the battle against terror, with the games of directing blame to the other side holding up the effort against terror.
In this context, the altered foreign policy on Afghanistan, presented by the prime minister’s adviser on national security and foreign affairs, Mr Sartaj Aziz, is extremely welcome. Aziz told the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that while Pakistan intended to continue its policy of constructive engagement and non-interference with Afghanistan, it also wished to work more closely with the new government in that country on tackling common problems including terrorism. If such a relationship of trust can actually be built, this would suit the interests of both nations. From what we have seen over the years since the early 2000, it is quite apparent terrorism cannot be tackled alone by either of these countries.
The key challenge then is developing a better understanding of each other’s concerns and with this a willingness to work together against militancy. The task is especially significant with US-led forces scheduled to pull out of Afghanistan by the end of the year. Kabul and Islamabad must then develop their own mechanisms to deal with the problems that will be left behind after this period of occupation. They can achieve this only by entering into detailed talks on what needs to be done and accepting that terrorists in either country assist each other and this requires a common approach to dealing with them so that the entire region can acquire the stability it has lacked for far too long.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2014.
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