A Step Forward

While Pak-Afghan relations have been like a passive-aggressive roller coaster, Afghanistan extending a hand of friendship to Pakistan on Friday, in the form of government to government talks, is welcoming.

Let us take this news with a pinch of salt. Conditions seemed positive in September as well, when peace talks were to be held but it soured when Kabul postponed trade talks. However, this new cooperative attitude between the two states does put Pakistan in a favourable position in regard to the upcoming Mattis and Dunford visit.

Defence Secretary James Mattis and Joint COS Chairman Gen Joseph Dunford — will visit Pakistan for seeking Islamabad’s cooperation in war against the Taliban and are likely to ask Pakistan to eliminate the Haqqani Network which, they claim, still has hideouts in Fata.

It is hoped that this visit will meet with more meaningful conclusions than the Tillerson visit, which did nothing to cool US insecurities that Pakistan had not done enough for the battle against terrorism, or Pakistan’s lament that it was being dictated to. With the US deploying an additional 3,000 troops to its strength in Afghanistan, it shows that it is also willing to put in the extra effort that Pakistan felt it was being unfairly burdened with.

Cooperation with Afghanistan is needed now more than ever, with the fresh Peshawar attack instigated by TTP militants. The attack will give more ground to Pakistan to reason the importance of Afghan-US cooperation and effort.

With a concrete background of cooperation, the Mattis visit seems an ideal time to make real demands- such as keeping India out of this conflict. The possibility of Pakistan being sandwiched in an India-Afghanistan-US power show was one which put tremendous pressure on Pakistan and placed it in a position to lose autonomy. Better cooperation with Afghanistan gives Pakistan a stronger seat at the table to make real demands, as a nation playing a large role in the peace effort, it has the right to.

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