The 8th trilateral summit talks between Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan held recently in Ankara have produced some encouraging and positive results, with the three countries agreeing to enhance cooperation for regional security, stability and development. Reportedly Pakistan and Afghanistan broadly agreed to the proposition of managing the border between them to check the activities of the terrorists that were detrimental to regional peace and good neighbourly relations between the two countries.

In the backdrop of the ambience of mutual mistrust that has so far marred relations between the two countries, the development marks a new beginning towards amity between the two neighbours and a big boost to the chances of promoting peace in the region. Karzai has been accusing Pakistan of supporting and abetting attacks within Afghanistan and Pakistan has also persistently complained of Afghan support for terrorist activities within Pakistani territory. The management of the borders between the two countries would check across the border movement of the militants on both sides and scuttle their ability to carry out their nefarious activities.

Another very significant outcome of the parleys was the commitment made by Karzai during a press conference addressed by the three leaders that Afghanistan would oust the TTP leaders and their associates from Afghanistan. The promised withdrawal of support to the TTP by the Afghan government will lend a helping hand to the efforts of the Pakistan government in dealing with the phenomenon of terrorism and conducting talks with TTP from a position of strength. Karzai has also expressed his support for the dialogue process with the TTP initiated by the PML (N) government. The signals emanating from the trilateral summit also fit well into the vision of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for shared regional economic prosperity spurred by resolution of disputes and differences with Pakistan’s neighbours.

These developments surely represent  success of the diplomatic offensive of the PML-N government premised on non-interference in internal affairs of Afghanistan, bidding adieu to the syndrome of strategic depth and lending unqualified support to the Afghan-led and Afghan owned process of reconciliation. The sincerity of purpose with which this new narrative has been pursued, has struck a positive chord with the Afghan government, who for the first time has expressed confidence and trust in the efforts that Pakistan is making in promoting peace. This change of heart by Karzai is a sequel to the persistent efforts of the Nawaz government, ever since its inception, to find an amicable solution to the strife in Afghanistan. Sartaj Aziz’s visit to Afghanistan followed by Karzi’s visit to Pakistan, release of Afghan Taliban leaders including Mullah Bradar and visit of the Afghan High Peace Council to Pakistan, contributed tremendously to establishing Pakistan’s credentials as an honest broker of peace in Afghanistan. The Afghan foreign minister had termed these initiatives, a first serious and sincere move by Pakistan to nudge the peace process in that country.  Another very significant and perhaps game changing development with regards to the narrative on Afghanistan is that the security establishment in Pakistan also supports and subscribes to this new thinking on relations with Afghanistan and re-aligning our strategic interests with emerging geo-political realities. 

Apart from the above developments, there are also reports of talks between Karzai government and Afghan Taliban. As a gesture of goodwill and nudging the process of dialogue, Karzai government has also released a number of Taliban prisoners setting aside protests by US and NATO forces. A meeting of former Taliban leaders and incumbent commanders held in Dubai recently expressed support for intra-Afghan dialogue to promote reconciliation with a view to resolve the Afghan conundrum, though they remain skeptical about the acceptance of results of the ensuing elections. Reconciliation between all the stakeholders is absolutely essential to restore peace in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, despite the difference of opinion on whether the reconciliation in Afghanistan should precede the withdrawal of US-NATO forces or take place after their withdrawal, there is an unmistakable desire for burying the hatchet and arriving at an Afghan-led and Afghan owned settlement of the conflict. Pakistan can surely help in bringing about a consensus position on this issue as reconciliation in Afghanistan is absolutely essential for peace. 

Peace in Afghanistan is critical for extricating Pakistan from the clutches of terrorism and religious extremism, which is related to the conflict in that country.  Pakistan must double its efforts to facilitate the US pull out from Afghanistan and play a role in having the differences among Afghan stakeholders resolved through peaceful means if possible without appearing to be taking sides. The failure of the reconciliation initiative might reignite old enmities and plunge the country into turmoil once more.  

The writer is a freelance columnist.

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