At a watershed

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This could change a lot

That President Ashraf Ghani preferred to hold talks on crucial issues with the COAS prior to meeting with Nawaz Sharif indicates a realisation that mutual mistrust that has characterised relations between the two countries could only be removed by directly approaching the army which still calls the shots. It was understood that talks at the GHQ would at least help the Afghans gauge the army’s thinking on matters that concern them most. At the joint press briefing the next day after delegation level talks, Ghani and Sharif avoided mentioning issues that have caused controversies. Obviously many more meetings and much more sense of urgency are needed to make any headway in tackling longstanding disputes.

A day earlier Ghani had praised Pakistan Army’s sacrifices in the war on terror, assuring Afghan cooperation in jointly curbing terrorism, and expressing interest in bolstering security and defence ties with Pakistan. He knew that these matters are close to the leadership of the Pakistan Army. At the joint press conference he also described Pakistan as ‘important pillar’ of Afghanistan’s foreign policy. He expects Sharif whom he has invited to Kabul to bring suggestions from his side for moving ahead.

By working together for peace and stability the two countries can not only improve the lot of their own people but also help bring prosperity to the entire region. However wishes alone are not enough. What is required is to make serious efforts to resolve disputes that continue to create misunderstanding. It remains to be seen if the leaderships on both sides, civilian as well as military, have the comprehension of the dangers posed by the lingering mutual suspicions. Will Pakistan help Ghani in reaching a reconciliation with the Afghan Taliban? Will Kabul act against Mullah Fazlullh and other Pakistani militants operating from its soil? It remains to be seen if the two sides are able to overcome the past bitterness for a secure future.