Handle Afghanistan with care

The big brother has to be large-hearted

 

Afghan peace process requires sophisticated handling. In June President Ghani accused Pakistan of waging an undeclared war against Afghanistan. The country’s politicians remain divided on some of the most basic issues, including ties with the US. President Ghani has welcomed Trump’s Afghan policy while former President Karzai who leads a powerful lobby wants the withdrawal of US troops from his country and favours talks with the Taliban. There is a strong anti-Pakistan sentiment in Afghanistan which needs to be changed through friendly actions and souped-up diplomacy.

 

A Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) contact group held a meeting on Afghanistan on Wednesday. Despite Pakistan’s opposition to giving India a role in the resolution of the Afghan issue, Pakistan FO officials attended the moot. Next week Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) comprising Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and US is scheduled to meet in Muscat. Afghan Taliban have refused to attend the moot reiterating their demand for a prior departure of the foreign troops. The Trump administration however is determined to keep troops in Afghanistan till the military stalemate ends and the Taliban are forced to come to the negotiating table.

 

The way to Pak–Afghan reconciliation is tortuous and bumpy. There are stark differences between the ways the two countries look at the situation. Despite the army chief’s visit, described by the ISPR as the “great initiative,” there is no guarantee that the Afghan President will visit Pakistan before verifiable action on some of Kabul’s demands. On Wednesday Afghanistan put off a crucial transit trade meeting with Pakistan demanding that India be included in the Trilateral Transit Trade Agreement between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Pakistan has so far adamantly refused to give India road-cum-rail access to Afghanistan Kabul can in return deny Pakistan access to Central Asia. There is a need to make a realistic cost-benefit analysis of the issue with an open mind. Kabul has also demanded handing over of five militant commanders in Pakistan’s custody to play a role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. Timely goodwill measures taken voluntarily promote friendliness. Delayed concessions seen to have been given under duress do not.



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