ISLAMABAD  - Pakistan’s top defence functionary has regretted over what he believes is the Afghan factor instrumental in adversely shaping the relationship between Pakistan and the Western military alliance. 

“Unfortunately, over the last decade or so, the relationship between Pakistan and NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) has been defined through the Afghan prism,” Federal Minister for Defence Khawaja Asif said Tuesday while speaking at a conference themed Pakistan-NATO relations: Post 2014.

“It is even more unfortunate to note that not only the Pak-NATO relationship has been seen through Afghan prism but the Afghan factor has adversely influenced the ties between the two sides,” he said.

“It is high time to redraw the Pakistan-NATO relations on new parameters- which would determine the future-as the NATO forces withdraw from Afghanistan and Pakistan resurfaces as a major stabiliser for the Afghan peace prospects and as a reassured state against the challenge of transactional terrorism to define new parameters of Pakistan NATO relations beyond Afghanistan,” he added.

Asif did not mince words to state that Pakistan was bearing the brunt of Afghan instability and unrest. “Today, Pakistan is facing serious challenges as a result of the security situation in Afghanistan and due to its direct and indirect impact on Pakistan’s security matrix. This is our firm belief that regional security problems require a local and regional approach they cannot be imposed on the region. Our state policy demonstrated our sincere commitment to peace and stability in Afghanistan. We are facilitating an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process of reconciliation as the date for the withdrawal of NATO forces approaches.”

The minister said Pak -NATO relations were of “key importance as they represent the bedrock of stability and security for not only regional security but also provide the necessary detail to the Afghan security imbroglio.”

He claimed that Pakistan was also supporting various reconstruction and development projects in Afghanistan, and “improving its bilateral relations in the political, economic and commercial domains.

He said the draw-down of allied forces from Afghanistan would create new challenges and new opportunities for cooperation. “In pursuing the goal of a ‘responsible end’ to the long war in Afghanistan, we have to ensure that Afghanistan successfully transitions into a period of stability and that past mistakes are not repeated,” he added.

Supporting an “Afghan-led and Afghan owned” peace process, the government functionary voiced apparent opposition to the United States-led drone strikes in Pakistan’s north-western tribal belt. “The expansion of the war or violence from Afghanistan to Pakistan is counterproductive for peace and stability; therefore it is important that the drone strikes must not take place in Pakistan, which are the result of Pakistan sharing a larger border with Afghanistan and being exposed to the violence,” he added.

Secretary Defence Lieutenant General (r) Asif Yasin Malik believed the allied forces had achieved what he described as “only a marginal success” in Afghanistan. “After more than a decade of this long and hard war in Afghanistan, the successes of the Western military alliance are only marginal which cannot be termed as a victory,” he added. The security challenges in Afghanistan were gigantic and the militants were controlling a significant part of Afghanistan, he said. “It seems that post-9/11 period has not contributed anything significant to bring peace in the region, especially in Afghanistan,” Malik said. 

Senior NATO official and former Hungarian chief of general staff General Laszlo Tombol, said the draw-down of NATO forces will be completed by the end of the ongoing 2014. “Our role is simple but significant. We don’t have any ambitious designs. We will be training, advising and assisting Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) in combating the terrorism in post-2014 period,” he added.

Chairman United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Committee on Disarmament Istvan Gyarmati said Pakistan and NATO can work together in various fields and there is a need to come up with a concrete memorandum of understanding (MoU) on this count.