"Diplomacy is to do and say the nastiest thing in the nicest way." Isaac Goldberg The governments in Islamabad and Kabul have finally agreed to give peace a chance. This will definitely benefit the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Washington and New Delhi will certainly not want peace to prevail between the two states, and even if normalcy returns, especially in Afghanistan, it should be on their terms and conditions. After painstaking work spread over several months, the authorities in Pakistan and Afghanistan have decided to establish a joint reconciliation commission that will not only help to bring back peace in the war-torn country, but also help to bolster its economy. As far as Pakistan is concerned, the commission is expected to ensure that terrorism, which has nearly crippled our economy, will be reduced, if not entirely eliminated. Leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan have, correctly, realised that it is for them to decide the kind of relationship that should exist between the two countries, and that they must ensure that there is minimum outside interference in their national affairs. But for the reconciliation commission to succeed, it will be absolutely essential for it to negotiate with the main stakeholders in Afghanistan and bring them round to a legally binding agreement to make for peace to return and terrorism to end in the region. Side by side, during the recent visit of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence Chiefs visit to America, the Obama administration has refused to halt its operations, including drone attacks, in Pakistan making it clear that it will pursue a policy that is in its strategic interest. Also, the Americans have been planning to pull out of the war-torn country, in case they are able to reach a mutual agreement with the three major forces that are relevant in today's Afghanistan. To achieve this objective, they have opened 'secret negotiations not only with the representatives of Mullah Omer, but also with Gulbadin Hiqmatyar, head and founder of Hezb-i-Islami, and Sirajuddin Haqqani, a senior Taliban commander and leader of the Haqqani network. More so, the US has asked the Turkish government to host the Taliban representatives from Afghanistan in Ankara so that formal negotiations can be held at a neutral venue. Anyway, the decision by Islamabad and Kabul to move forward with the peace process has been termed as a defining moment in the relations of the two countries. According to some analysts, these negotiations, at the end of the day, may help to provide a face-saving exit for the US and NATO forces, who are now occupying a major portion of the Afghan territory. But surely this does not mean that America will leave Afghanistan for good. Because of its interest in the oil producing Central Asian Republics, the US will try to establish a Washington-friendly regime in Kabul. Another point that needs to be considered by the Pakistan and Afghan administrations is that USA will not allow China to influence the region to an extent where it is reduced to an insignificant position in the long run. In this context, Pakistani Prime Ministers recent visit to Afghanistan should be seen positively, since the Pak-Afghan relations have always remained murky. Undoubtedly, there are several reasons for the abnormal relationship. For example, when the Russians occupied Afghanistan, Pakistan was forced to accept more than four million refugees out of which quite a sizeable number is still present in the country creating both economic and security problems for us. Likewise, New Delhi is expected to make every effort to sabotage the establishment of the peace and reconciliation commission agreed on by President Hamid Karzai and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. It will, therefore, be entirely appropriate if the Afghan government plays a constructive role and ensures that Indias influence will not stand in the way to achieve the peace objectives. Indeed, USA and India will become irrelevant in Afghanistan as soon as peace returns to the region. More so, Pakistans contention that drone attacks have not helped in the ongoing war against terrorism would be established, as peace in Afghanistan will mean peace in FATA and other insurgency-affected areas on the Pak-Afghan border. Perhaps, the Americans will also understand that talking with the true representatives of the Afghan people without preconditions will be in their interest. That it will significantly reduce terrorism, which has increased rather than shrinking due to the present US policies. It seems that the desire for peace in Kabul and Islamabad is so strong that for the first time the Government of Pakistan did not take Washington into confidence, and has decided to settle the crisis and pursue peace in the region on its own. On the other hand, President Karzai is reported to have informed President Barack Obama about the peace initiative taken by the two neighbours. Therefore, a good beginning seems to have been made at a time when the American and Indian influence is on the decline in Afghanistan. In the coming days and weeks, diplomats in Washington will understand the implication of this initiative and probably will grasp the importance of talking with the Taliban. It would be counterproductive, however, if they try to negotiate with those factions in Afghanistan, who have no popular support. At the same time, our leadership must assure India and the US that peace between Pakistan and Afghanistan does not mean increased hostility against the Indian administration. In fact, this peace initiative must guide New Delhi to resolve the Kashmir dispute so that real progress can be made between India and Pakistan as well. While peace between India and Pakistan may not be appreciated by certain quarters, but conventional wisdom demands that India too realises that the way of peace is far better than confrontation. n The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: zarnatta@hotmail.com