KABUL, Dec 4: As Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed on Saturday to work more closely on fighting terrorism and expanding ties, President Hamid Karzai cautioned Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani against the designs of other players in the region.

“Pakistan needs to be smart enough to understand their tricks.… We shouldn't fall for what we are being told by the West,” President Karzai said at a joint media conference with Prime Minister Gilani at the presidential palace following the bilateral talks.

The media conference, which was supposed to be on Pakistan-Afghan relations, was dominated by questions about WikiLeaks ranging from poor control of the Pakistan government over military establishment and the difficulties in relations between the two countries, to corruption allegations against Mr Karzai.

The Afghan president, who appeared more conciliatory towards Pakistan, was clearly annoyed with the Western countries and went to the extent of indirectly blaming the faltering war against Taliban and Al Qaeda on the coalition forces.

When asked by an Afghan journalist about the presence of militant sanctuaries in Pakistan's tribal areas and their role in fomenting unrest in Afghanistan, Mr Karzai candidly said the bleak security situation was because of poor effort by foreign troops, who were also indifferent to local sensibilities.

Mr Karzai said he had learnt a lot during the past eight years and that 'realism and experience' showed there was no option other than strengthening friendship with Pakistan.

Elaborating on his vision of Pakistan-Afghan ties, the president stressed that he wanted Afghanistan to be seen as a brother, a friend and an anchor of stability in Pakistan because his country could not be stable without a cooperative Pakistan. Reciprocally, he added, Afghanistan's stability was vital for Pakistan. “The two nations are like twins and they must live together.”

Prime Minister Gilani reciprocated Karzai's friendly sentiments and called for promoting understanding between the two neighbours. WIKILEAKS:

Both Mr Gilani and Mr Karzai rejected the information being spewed by WikiLeaks as unauthentic and unreliable.

“Don't trust WikiLeaks. These are just some of the views and observations of junior diplomats working in American embassies. They are not authentic and should not be taken seriously,” Mr Gilani warned.

Mr Karzai, who had been described in one of the leaked cables by former Taliban envoy to Pakistan Mullah Zaeef as highly deceptive, accused the West of pursuing 'amazingly double standards'. He said he was in a fix whether or not to believe the leaks. “I would rather go for not believing them.”

In a lighter vein the Afghan president said WikiLeaks helped improve Pak-Afghan relations. BALOCHISTAN:

Pakistan had at the bilateral talks raised the issue of Afghan footprint in Balochistan insurgency and insurgents who were believed to have taken refuge in Afghanistan.

At the media conference, Mr Karzai reiterated the official Afghan position that any subversive activity directed against Pakistan would not be allowed from Afghan soil. “I reassure you that it would not be allowed to take place.”

However, he did completely rule out that Balochistan insurgency was being partly run from his country.

It is a separate issue if something was happening without the knowledge of the Afghan government, he said, adding that once the authorities get to know about it they wouldn't allow it to continue.

The visit took place in the backdrop of a disclosure by WikiLeaks that Afghan authorities had been sheltering Brahamdagh Bugti and other Baloch nationalist leaders wanted by Pakistan.

Diplomatic sources say Bugti had last year left Afghanistan for one of the Gulf countries, but recently returned to Kandahar.

But what went unnoticed in Mr Karzai's statement on Balochistan insurgency, because of a flurry of pronouncements on brotherly and friendly ties between the two, was an implied admission that despite all their public posturing, still had differences on Taliban militants who had taken refuge in Pakistan.

The Afghanistan government wouldn't allow them (Baloch insurgents), but has similar expectations from Pakistan, Mr Karzai underscored.

RECONCILIATION: Although neither of the leaders spoke at the media conference about reconciliation plan and the role envisaged by Afghan government in the talks for Pakistan, an official confirmed that the issue was discussed during the talks.

“Our positions on the issue are very close,” a senior Pakistani diplomat claimed.

There was an indirect reference to Pakistan again demanding of Kabul to share its reconciliation plan with Islamabad. The statement, issued by the Prime Minister's Media Office in Kabul, after Mr Gilani's meeting with Second Afghan Vice President Karim Khalili, said: “Mr Gilani has asked President Karzai to share future plans and strategies to confront the challenges so that peace and stability could be ensured in the region”.

Even the statement on Mr Gilani's meeting with Peace Council chief Burhanuddin Rabbani, who heads the body managing reconciliation, had no mention of Pakistan's expected role in reconciliation. The only substantial thing in the statement was an invitation for Mr Rabbani to visit Pakistan.

Updated Dec 04, 2010 11:54pm

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