Even the Taliban capture of Kunduz (since taken back by Afghan forces with Nato’s air and combat support) an Afghanistan province located far away from Pakistan, in the North is being linked to Pakistan. Kunduz attack tells us how powerful the Afghan Taliban are in spite of stories of differences and splits and how indeed vulnerable the Afghan army is.

Rightly did Chaudhry Nisar say, while addressing a press conference, that the attack and capture of Kunduz province is Afghanistan’s internal affair and Pakistan should keep out of it. He added that there was no need to respond to all statements coming from across the western border. The reference obviously is to Ashraf Ghani’s brusque statement that Pakistan is just another country, not a brotherly one overturning earlier expressions of warm brotherly ties.

Why this unwelcome shift? The answer begs a deep and complex analysis. Here in this column the intrinsic nature of the problematic relations stretching back decades need not divert us from the current developments.

The most important factor is generally ignored while finding explanations for various articulations of Pakistan wanting to do everything possible to be friendly with its western neighbors. Statements of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and General Raheel Sharif delivered in the recent past, that Afghanistan’s Government’s enemies are Pakistan’s enemies were not wholly appropriate. Who are Afghan government’s enemies? The Afghan Taliban. Are they our enemies? No.  If this is the case, surly a lot of thinking needs to be done before above mentioned overarching observations are made to create goodwill.

What makes the situation puzzling (if not amusing) is that under pressure from Washington and Kabul we made special efforts to arrange meetings of the Taliban with the Afghan government. Knowing, well what the Taliban leadership really thinks of the vulnerabilities of the present government and how divided its leadership is.

What was the first condition put forward by the Afghan Taliban when they met at Murree for the first time, courtesy Pakistan’s good offices? That all American soldiers and personnel must leave Afghanistan. Can Ashraf Ghani meet this condition, when he has gone out of the way to sign a new agreement with Washington relating to continuing presence of American soldiers and other personnel in Kabul and outside? How has the Afghan army been built up and where do the funds come from to sustain the Kabul government? If this is the reality, is there a possibility of the meeting of the minds of Taliban and Afghan government?

Another cogent point is that the earlier “legitimate” Afghan Taliban Government was sought to be destroyed by US/NATO forces. For 12 years the mightiest war machine in the world did its devilish best to wipe out the Taliban but not failed. It not only failed but with tongue-in-cheek admitting a humiliating defeat. When NATO failed, could the poorly trained, internally weak Afghan army do a better job? Kabul knows the answer and so the Afghan Taliban. This partly explains the strategic significance of the capture and current fight in Kunduz.

We can now see why Chaudhry Nisar’s statement is so important. What is urgently needed is a thorough review of our present policy towards Afghanistan. After a tough examination of various dimensions of a possible new relationship, a policy statement should be hammered out and later debated in the Parliament. India of late has stolen our attention to the eastern border. Nawaz Sharif certainly made a good and realistic speech at the General Assembly. He should now concentrate on future Afghan relations with Pakistan taking a cue from Nisar’s advice.

While undertaking his task, the foreign office should realistically identify what India is doing presently and how it has been operating in Afghanistan.

Now a word about India’s role in Afghanistan. It has invested more than 2 billion dollars in that country. It patronizes a number of top leaders of Northern Areas including Dr Abdullah Abdullah and Dostum and has made big strides in cementing relations between the two countries. As for back as 2011 we witnessed Mr. Karzai entering into a strategic partnership agreement with India which included training of senior military Afghan officers in India. India is also deeply involved in exploiting Pakistan’s problems in various parts of the country. For evidence please read the following excerpts from speeches by what ex-US Defence Secretary Chuck Hegel and General Stanley McChrystal had said in their talks on Afghanistan: that India had been using Afghanistan as a second front against Pakistan and over the years financed problems for Pakistan. General Stanley McChrystal, former Commander of ISAF, had said, “Increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures. The recent worsening of relations between India and Pakistan is bound to encourage New Delhi to step up its unwholesome anti Pakistan activities. How weighty is the Pakistan evidence about details of India’s subversive activities in Balochistan and FATA, is yet to be known.

It is most unfortunate that Pakistan’s relations with India and Afghanistan, at this point of time have taken a turn for the worse. It is time the Prime Minister appoints a whole time foreign minister to cope with the escalating pressures coming from all sides. Of course in China we have an all weather friend and we China Pakistan Corridor Project is bound to graduate into a game changer. Do we have the capacity to deal with formidable situations on so many fronts? Again, it is unfortunate that the USA is not only no longer a dependable friend, in fact it has entered into its strategic partnership with India. One may add that many other erstwhile relationships have suffered erosion.

One can only wish Nawaz Sharif and his dynamic Chief of the Army Staff to avoid the pitfalls and seek to overcome the country’s vulnerabilities.