Kabul’s double bind: The relations with Islamabad

Sunday, 06 May 2018 02:55 Written by  Read 86 times

The relations with Pakistan have always been a foreign policy double bind for Afghan governments. The retention and severance of ties with Pakistan present virtually the same threat for Afghanistan. Even though the total freeze of relations can eliminate even the limited chances of peaceful settlement of Afghan conflict in addition to having other fallouts, it is also not easy to find justification to preserve the status quo, especially as Pakistan continues to harbor and support militant groups. When a neighboring country very openly backs insurgents fighting against you, it is difficult to garner public support for maintaining diplomatic ties with that country. Nonetheless, dialogue remains to be the only option as it carries low level risks compared to other options.
There are renewed efforts to repair the strained Afghan-Pakistan relations. Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s visit to Kabul was part of the new fence-mending mission. There are now reports that President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah will also pay a visit to Islamabad in the near future. During his Kabul visit, Prime Minister Abbasi had invited President Ghani who has also accepted the invitation.
Building trust is a key condition for improving relations between nations. However, the problem here is that trust is built on actions not words, something elusive, as usual, in the renewed efforts to repair Afghan-Pak ties. Islamabad still has not done anything to beget optimism here in Kabul about Pakistani promises.
While talks, beyond a shadow of a doubt, are a good step, the National Unity Government should not repeat the mistake of being fooled again into putting faith in Pakistan’s words without being backed by any concrete actions. By embracing a clear-cut position, Afghan leaders should understand Pakistan that Afghan people buy into Pakistan’s actions only, the sole way that can take talks to success.
Now that Kabul lacks enough bargaining chips at its disposal to use them against Islamabad, an international guarantee is mostly needed in any deal between the two nations, because when the Pakistani side betrays its written commitments, Afghan government alone cannot make Pakistan suffer the consequences. When there is the guarantee of global powers involved in Afghan conflict, they, by utilizing their pressure tools, can press Pakistan to honor its promises.

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