When he first came in to power, the Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, had to deal with serious issues inherited from the Karazi administration. Yet for the most part his vision and narrative on the solutions has been quite clear; oversee a gradual United States’ forces withdrawal, restructure the security force, negotiate with the Taliban and start an economic rejuvenation of the country. Perhaps the only field where his stance was not clearly articulated pre-election was dealing with how to negotiate the muddied waters of Pakistan-India relations and whom to foster as a stronger power.  Mr Ghani played a delicate balancing act; where the previous government had soured the bilateral relationship with Pakistan in favor of India – ultimately damaging cooperation and allowing terrorism to spread – he initiated a rapprochement which was well received in Islamabad, to the extent that he was criticized at home for being unnecessarily “pro-Pakistan”. His recent trip to New Delhi is an important indicator of how he plans to address that.

The President’s trip is meant to reassure that bilateral ties with India remain strong despite close ties with Pakistan and that their investments in Afghanistan are secure. Despite attempting to walk the tightrope at one point he had to deal head on with the schism between the two – and he has done that bluntly; asking Pakistan to open a land route to India, or risk losing the land route through Afghanistan to Central Asia. His demand is drawn from the Afghani economic perspective but it will not be viewed as such in Islamabad – which will look at the geo-strategic elements first. With several high-profile issues, such as Kashmir, unresolved between the two south Asian neighbors, it is unlikely that Pakistan will agree to the demand lightly. Crucially the move brings Afghanistan’s Pakistan-India policy back into flux – which had been settled to a certain extent in the months before the visit. How does Mr Ghani, and Pakistan for that matter, responds to this remains to be seen.