The third round of talks between Pakistan, China and Russia on bringing peace in Afghanistan has taken place in an amicable atmosphere, with the commitment of greater cooperation moving forward. Held in Moscow on December 27, focusing on the growing ISIS threat in the region – as discussed at this meeting – is the right priority to set for the peace process in the country, especially considering that the Afghan government has previously expressed an interest in negotiating with the Afghan Taliban, which is engaged in fighting the ISIS over territory. There was also agreement over including Afghanistan into the process, which is obviously important for this group to have any lasting effect on the peace process in the war-torn country.

There is the obvious takeaway from this; the ever-deepening ties between Pakistan, Russia and China. In this tripartite, there are no unfounded accusations being levelled against Pakistan and no unclear demands of ‘doing more’, as is the case when the US is involved. Pakistan is being treated as an equal and an important stakeholder and that makes all the difference in terms of diplomacy.

The inclusion of Afghanistan however, would imply that the western narrative of pointing fingers in Pakistan’s direction is likely to be repeated, with Ashraf Ghani’s aggressive stance and closeness with India the major reasons. ISIS in this region takes the backseat with the US, and often by extension Afghanistan, with the former’s focus on the Haqqani group, while the latter has always blamed Pakistan for its closeness to the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan’s own attitude has also been less-than-ideal for fighting the ever-growing ISIS network in the area. Perhaps this meeting, and Afghanistan’s inclusion into it might lead to a new range of security priorities for the four countries.

Of course, security in the region can only be accomplished if all terrorist groups are shunned and rejected. Pakistan has often stated that it now has ‘zero-tolerance’ for all terrorists, which means that complying with Afghanistan’s demand to tackle other groups should also be no issue. There is room for dialogue and negotiation, but only if militants choose to lay down their arms, as was the hope with the Afghan Taliban. With yet another blast in Kabul on Wednesday, that injured 3 including an Afghan member of parliament, security in Afghanistan needs to be improved if there is to be any hope for peace in the near future. As always, the countries involved in the peace process are running against the clock until next spring, when the Afghan Taliban will launch yet another offensive in the country. It would be best if the countries use this time to prepare accordingly.