General Joseph Dunford, Commander of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) met on Saturday with General Ashfaq Kayani, Chief of Pakistan’s Army.
The Chief of Army Staff assured the ISAF Commander that Pakistan would continue to make all efforts to bring about peace in Afghanistan.
During the meeting the two sides discussed bilateral relations and security issues along the Pak-Afghan border. They also discussed the strategy over the proposed withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan in 2014. General Dunford stated that Pakistan’s role in the Afghan reconciliation process was imperative.
In another development Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai while on a visit to India has provided his country’s wish list of military needs. Afghanistan has already agreed and signed a strategic pact with India and based on that agreement, India assists Afghanistan on several grounds, including the military sector.
In 2011 New Delhi signed a strategic partnership agreement with Kabul, allowing the two sides to expand training as Afghan forces prepare to takeover security from foreign troops at the end of 2014.
An Indian foreign ministry spokesman said New Delhi’s cooperation with Afghanistan was focused on development projects but security was also an important aspect given the challenges it faced. India has been training a limited number of Afghan military officers for years at its military institutions, but provided little weapons assistance except for some vehicles.
After holding talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi, Karzai said international companies should seize the chance to invest in his country ten years after the fall of the Taliban regime.
He stated that investment opportunities in Afghanistan today are better in a country that is more confident in its future and is willing to receive investment from its friends, particularly India. He added that his visit this time to India was focused particularly in talking to and requesting Indian businesses to come to Afghanistan.
Pakistan, which shares a long border with Afghanistan and a common history, religion and culture, particularly of the ethnic tribes who are spread on both sides, views the India-Afghanistan nexus with a different perspective. Pakistan had offered to assist Afghanistan in training its security forces at the inception of the war against terrorism in 2001. It has contributed in rebuilding of Afghanistan by participating in several projects including establishment of university level academic institutions and providing liberal scholarships to its students. When the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistan was the only country, which welcomed and provided food and shelter to 4.5 million Afghan refugees for more than a decade.
Afghanistan on the contrary has indulged in rhetoric, which has caused more damage to its relations with Pakistan. It seems to have ignored Pakistan’s hand of friendship and instead extended its own to India. While it is Afghanistan’s right as a sovereign nation to develop bilateral relations with any country it wishes, the delicate balance of power in South Asia should be maintained at all costs. Afghanistan’s dependence on Pakistan will grow as soon as the withdrawal of American and NATO forces commences in 2014. Both countries being immediate neighbors will have to support each other, in order to preserve peace, security and democratic freedom.
When General Joseph Dunford received assurances of support from Pakistan, he was in fact endorsing long-term cooperation in the region.
1. BBC News May 25, 2013
2. The Economist May 23, 2013
3. Dawn News May 25, 2013