ISLAMABAD/Lahore - Pakistan yesterday asked Afghanistan to realise its own responsibility towards peace and take “simultaneous efforts” for restoring effective control on its territory.

The call was made in a civilian and military leadership meeting convened yesterday in Islamabad, apparently to readjust country’s security and strategic policy following some key developments that have taken place on the regional scene recently.

An official statement issued after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on National Security reiterated Islamabad’s stated policy towards the region, especially Afghanistan. It also reemphasised that overall peace in the region is intrinsically linked to Kashmir.

The huddle, chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and attended by top cabinet members and heads of all the armed forces, came days after a US senatorial delegation visited Islamabad with Afghanistan on top of its agenda and its head issued a grim warning regarding alleged Pakistani support to Haqqani network.

The coming of India and US ever closer as demonstrated by recent Trump-Modi embrace, China’s vague appearance on Afghanistan chessboard and Nawaz Sharif’s meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Dushanbe on Thursday are a few more important happenings that have come of late.

Some analysts believe that Islamabad could be seriously reviewing its policy options and pondering to readjust its engagement rules viz-a-viz Afghanistan to not only help defuse the mounting US pressure but also gain a newer space on the regional theatre to assert New Delhi’s growing dominance.

The Friday’s meeting of the cabinet’s national security committee “discussed overall security situation in the country and Pakistan’s relations with the neighbouring countries, with specific reference to Afghanistan,” a statement issued by the ministry of information read.

It said the country’s leadership reiterated commitment to Afghanistan peace, but urged the neighbour for making “simultaneous efforts” for bringing effective control on its territory.

“The prime minister expressed his government’s resolve to have good relations with all its neighbours as it would be in the interest of all.”

The participants hailed country’s role and sacrifices in the global fight against terrorism, but “reiterated that regional peace and progress was directly linked to resolution of all outstanding issues, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir”.

US Senator John McCain, who is usually considered a pro-Islamabad figure, warned this week that the United States could change its ‘behaviour’ towards the Pakistani nation, if Islamabad did not stop supporting the Haqqani network – the most deadly group fighting against Kabul government.

McCain, who is also chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, led a five-member delegation of senators – including both Republicans and Democrats – to Islamabad last Thursday and held meetings with civilian and military leaders of the country before leaving for Kabul after two days.

“We have made it very clear that we expect they [Pakistan] will cooperate with us, particularly against the Haqqani network and against terrorist organisations,” he said at a news briefing on Tuesday in Kabul.

“If they don’t change their behaviour, maybe we should change our behaviour towards Pakistan as a nation,” the senator said, in a statement considered by analysts an indication that the US was in no way convinced of the Pakistani position that it has nothing to do with the unrelenting attacks at Kabul by the Taliban and their allied groups.

The curt statement came even though during a briefing by top Pakistani military officials McCain and his fellows were repeatedly told that Pakistan had completely severed its links with the Haqqani network. According to local sources, the US team was also assured that if any militants were found in Pakistan, there would be no leniency towards them and they would be arrested and prosecuted.

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a recent statement also issued a stern warning. “It is absolutely unacceptable that a country provides sanctuary to terrorist groups which are responsible for terrorist attacks inside another country.”

A recent Pentagon report described Pakistan as “the most influential external actor” in Afghanistan. The pressure on Pakistan to “do more” stems from a realisation that peace and stability in Afghanistan can’t be achieved unless Islamabad supports the efforts towards that goal.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Ashraf Ghani who was in Dushanbe for a regional cooperation moot, held a meeting wherein the two leaders focused on peace in Afghanistan and war against terrorism. It was reported that the two countries also had exchanged lists of terrorists in that meeting on the sidelines.

Both Islamabad and Kabul accuse each other of harbouring and assisting different terrorists groups, using them as proxies against the other. And officially, both of them deny other’s allegations in that regard.

The US wants India to play a bigger role in Afghanistan on the on hand, and putting pressure on Pakistan for ‘reigning in’ militants groups who allegedly recruit and train in Pakistan and wage attacks on India and Indian Occupied Kashmir.

And in recent months, the multi-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor – a part of Beijing-led One Belt One Road initiate, has come as the latest cause of friction between Pakistan and India. The US also sees this project as a means to erode its influence in the region.

China meanwhile has shown a renewed interest in the resolution of conflict in Afghanistan, as peace in this area is vital for the success of its regional and global trade policies.

In the PM-chaired meeting in Islamabad on Friday was attended by ministers Khawaja Asif, Ishaq Dar, and Chaudhry Nisar; Advisers Sartaj Aziz and Nasser Khan Janjua; Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Zubair Mahmood Hayat; Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa; Naval Chief Muhammad Zakaullah; Air Chief Sohail Aman; ISI DG Lt-Gen Naveed Mukhtar and other senior officials.

The meeting reiterated Pakistan’s commitment and support to the home-grown peace process in Afghanistan with the help and support of regional and global partners.

It noted that peace and stability in Afghanistan would be vital for the regional peace and stability and added that Islamabad would continue to extend all sort of help to Kabul in achieving the objective of bringing effective control on its territory.

“Pakistan continues to work for peace and progress in Afghanistan through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process with the help of both regional and global partners, and will continue to strive for return of normalcy in the war-hit at the earliest,” the official press release said the PM as saying.

“This however, requires simultaneous efforts by the Afghan government for restoring effective control on its territory,” he added.

The meeting was also briefed on the border security with Afghanistan and the measures taken in this connection.

On home front, the meeting was also briefed on the operation Raddul Fasaad and the achievements made by the security and law enforcement agencies in quelling militants who were at the run.

It was reiterated that Pakistan has acted as a frontline state in global counterterrorism efforts with unparalleled sacrifices and successes. No other country in the world has done as much for global safety and security as Pakistan at a huge cost of both men and material.

The sacrifices of security forces, law enforcement agencies and the national resolve in fighting the scourge of terrorism was acknowledged and appreciated during the meeting, the press release said.