Af-Pak relations

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Prime Minister Gilanis Kabul visit takes place at a time highly crucial for Afghanistan. Two weeks back, NATO countries set forth a plan in Lisbon to gradually start handing over the lead role in the war to Afghan forces with the aim of ending the ISAF combat mission by 2014. Later this month, President Obama is scheduled to review the Afghan policy worked out last year with a surge and a counter-insurgency strategy as main features. Unless conditions are created to ensure that the government in Kabul is capable of administering the country when the allies leave, the departure of the US-led troops could lead to chaos in Afghanistan. This would in turn have a destabilising impact on the region. There is a need, as never before, on the part of Pakistan and Afghanistan to work out a joint strategy for the days ahead.

The divisive issues that stand in the way of the neigbouring countries have to be resolved: the hosting by the Afghan government of Baloch insurgents who plan, finance and direct acts of terrorism in Balochistan being one of them. Again, the two sides have to reconcile their views about the elements among Taliban who they want to win over and make a part of the process of reconciliation in the war torn country. Hopefully the DCC worked out a guideline in this respect during its Friday meeting. Prime Minister Gilani needs to spell out clearly what out of the box solution he envisages for the Afghan situation. He will have two days to discuss the issues with Afghan leadership that he is scheduled to meet.

There is a need to energise the Afghan reconciliation process. For this there has to be close coordination between Islamabad and Kabul. What has to be ensured is that Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups with global ambitions or reach are isolated and neutralised. Elements invited to become a part of the setup in Afghanistan in days to come must agree not to turn Afghanistan once again into a springboard for militants. To be sustainable, relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have to be on an equal footing and grounded in heightened economic cooperation.