In the backdrop of the Badaber attack, which according to Pakistan intelligence sources was planned, executed and supervised from the Afghan soil, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani reportedly called Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to condemn the attack and assure him that Afghan soil would not be allowed to be used for attacks against Pakistan. The call came after the Presidential spokesman in Kabul and the Afghan foreign ministry had repudiated claims of the attack having been planned and executed from Afghanistan. However at a high level meeting held in the wake of the attack and the evidence gathered by the intelligence agencies in regards to the use of Afghanistan territory, it was decided to present the facts to the Afghan government and send a high level delegation to Afghanistan for the purpose; a step which is utmost necessary to put at rest the claims and the counter claims on the issue and to do something concrete to tackle terrorism as was done in the wake of the APS attack when the Prime Minister and the COAS visited Kabul with the evidence of the attack having been planned and directed from Afghanistan.

That interaction helped in promoting bonhomie and cooperation between the two countries to fight the common enemy and we did see some concrete actions against TTP operative based in Afghanistan besides an agreement between the intelligence outfits of the two countries to share intelligence and work together to thwart the designs of the enemy. Both countries vowed not to allow their territories to be used for attacks against each other. Pakistan also played a significant role in the first ever face-off between the Taliban and the Afghan government to nudge the process of Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation in the war-ravaged country.

But regrettably that amity proved short-lived. The two countries relapsed into the blame-game mode due to a number of developments that overshadowed the reconciliation efforts including: rampant attacks in Kabul by Taliban in August for which Ashraf Ghani openly blamed Pakistan, revelation about demise of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, the ensuing leadership battle within the ranks of the Taliban movement, pressure built by the proponents of the war economy and the war lords, unprecedented institutional corruption, burgeoning crimes, geo-political realities nurtured by Indo-Pak animosity, strong anti-Pakistan lobby within Afghanistan and the shrinking writ of the Afghan government.

In my view the biggest role has been played by the Indian RAW in destroying the new-found cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and RAW has proven links with the Afghan intelligence outfit (NDS). Both have been using TTP for a proxy war against Pakistan and sponsoring terrorist attacks against it from the Afghan territory. This was corroborated by none other than the second in command of TTP Lateefullah Mehsus who was captured by the NATO-ISAF forces in Afghanistan in October 2013 when he was returning after his meeting with key figures in Kabul and the Chief of NDS. He confessed during the interrogation that Kabul-Delhi nexus was harbouring ‘safe heavens’ across the Durand line and using them for subversive and terrorist activities within Pakistan. He is further reported to have told his interrogators that the attack on Major General Sanaullah Khan and others in Dir, suicide attack on a church in Peshawar, bomb blast in Qissa Khawani bazaar and assault on the provincial secretariat were masterminded by the same nexus and executed through local militants. RAW must have used its influence within NDS to orchestrate reports regarding Pakistani involvement in Kabul attacks during August that were presented to the Afghan government which consequently triggered the Afghan backlash.

After the launch of Zarb-e-Azb operation some of the TTP operators and commanders did manage to relocate themselves in Afghanistan to swell the ranks of the TTP leadership already based in Afghanistan and have been instrumental to the execution of the Badaber attack. The Pakistani perception about Afghan soil being used for attacks against Pakistan has a solid basis. It is also a painful reality that most of the Afghans also have a similar perception about Pakistan and feel that it was responsible for whatever was happening in Afghanistan.

In the prevailing circumstances there is a need for re-establishing contacts between the two countries at the highest level with a view to clearing the haze about mutually expressed apprehensions and perceptions and finding a way forward in re-building cooperative relations between the two countries, forming a joint front against terrorism and promoting process of reconciliation instead of resorting to brinkmanship. The threads can be picked up from Ashraf Ghani’s assurance not to allow Afghan soil to be used against Pakistan and recalling similar commitments made by the two countries during Prime Minister’s visit to Kabul in May.

Both sides need to work together with sincerity of purpose showing sensitivity to the mutual concerns and making a new beginning. Before it is too late, an immediate re-evaluation of the current relationship is essential in order to move forward. It must be understood that as the US troops gear up to withdraw, Afghanistan needs Pakistan more than ever. Ghani is struggling to maintain his unity government intact and the withdrawal of US troops by the end of 2016 may precipitate his woes, as the Afghan Army is still not in a position to maintain security. In view of the presence of IS in the shape of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the rise in militant attacks by Taliban (both factions) in the country, there is a strong likelihood of Afghanistan drifting towards an unending conflict and struggle for ascendency among different players after the departure of foreign troops. To prevent this horrible scenario from re-emerging, Ghani’s government has no alternative but to join hands with Pakistan in forestalling the impending disaster. Similarly Pakistan also is in desperate need of Afghan cooperation in taking the war on terror to its logical conclusion, implementing its economic initiatives including CPEC and recalibrated foreign policy objectives in the region.

Pakistan and Afghanistan cannot change the geographical and historical realities. Their destinies are inextricably linked with each other. The challenges that they are faced with will keep haunting them indefinitely if they do not overcome the mutual distrust and the under-currents that are undermining the chances of the two countries to form a common front against them. It is an inevitable choice. That would surely need neutralising the machinations of RAW through their mutual cooperation, which Pakistan can orchestrate by presenting credible evidence regarding the involvement of Indian intelligence agency in sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan, from Afghan territory.

n The writer is a freelance columnist.