COAS, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISAF Commander, General Joseph Dunford discussed several issues of mutual concern when the latter visited Islamabad on Saturday. The two exchanged views on the question of border coordination that is directly connected with terrorist activity from either side of the border; the transfer of the complete charge of security of Afghanistan from the Nato/Isaf forces to the Afghan National Forces due to take place soon; matters relating to the withdrawal of foreign troops that is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014; and, most important of all, the need for reconciliation among the different Afghan ethnic groups for a smooth governance of the country after the foreign troops have left. Apparently, it was agreed that ISAF and Pakistan would continue to cooperate with each other in these matters.

It is also understood that while discussing border coordination, they would have taken note of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s recent statement in which he has vainly tried to revive the settled issue of the Durand Line. Mr Karzai's behaviour has been a cause for concern for all governments involved with him. His unpredictability, his aggressive and at times illogical statements, his mercurial changes in temperament, all have worked to his detriment in ensuring the security and safety of Afghanistan and its future. The Afghan President may, even now, further vitiate the climate of bilateral relations, already strained because of his Pakistan bashing and overtures towards India. Strangely, he keeps shifting his position, at times underlining Pakistan’s role in restoring peace in Afghanistan, and at others asserting that the Indians would be playing a key part in the post-withdrawal maintenance of peace and security.

Pakistan’s unique position vis-á-vis Afghans hardly needs arguing. The 2,600km long contiguous border; the ethnic mix of population of the two countries; their family ties; the centuries’ old tradition of pawindas freely moving into Pakistan to escape the harsh winters of Afghanistan that is reflected in the millions of Afghan refugees who crossed over to Pakistan when the situation in their country became volatile and threat to their lives – and a host of other commonalities prove the point. Islamabad’s role in bringing about reconciliation between the various communities in Afghanistan and maintaining that understanding when the occupation forces have left cannot be minimised and Kabul must acknowledge it in its own interest.