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Pak-Afghan strategic accord likely next year

October 23, 2012

President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement, being midwifed by the West, is expected to be signed next year despite the lingering mistrust between the two countries.

Talking to Dawn on Tuesday, British High Commissioner Adam Thomson said the United Kingdom was happy to see Pakistan and Afghanistan moving towards a strategic partnership agreement (SPA) before the end of next year.

“We see it as a positive step forward,” the high commissioner said.

He did not share the reason for his optimism despite the apparent downturn in Islamabad-Kabul relationship.

The Pakistan-Afghan strategic accord was proposed by President Hamid Karzai at a trilateral summit, also attended by the US, in New York last month.

But shortly afterwards the Afghan president started setting conditions for letting the agreement take shape, making it clear that he had not made the offer of his free will.

“If these conditions are met — terrorism is stopped, extremism is dismantled, anti-Afghan activities are stopped, destruction of Afghanistan is stopped, friendship starts between the two countries which hasn’t happened so far — then a strategic pact would be signed between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Mr Karzai had said soon after returning to Kabul from New York.

Mr Thomson clearly hinted the UK was nudging both countries to agree to the SPA and said “we may contribute” through diplomacy.

A Pakistani official confirmed that some countries were helping.

“The bilateral efforts in this regard are being reinforced by others … they are helping to build confidence. Other actors do have a role,” the official said.

Increased political contacts between the two countries, described by Mr Karzai on more than one occasions as conjoined twins, had led everyone into believing that they had turned page in their relations after years of acrimony. But some of the incidents over the past 12 months reversed the progress and reignited the blame game.

High-profile terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, cross-border raids into Pakistan by militants having sanctuaries in eastern Afghanistan and unfulfilled Afghan expectations about Pakistan’s help in bringing Taliban to the negotiating table are some of the factors adding to the distrust.

Commenting on the state of relationship, an analyst keenly following the Pakistan-Afghan ties, said: “They are at nadir and Kabul and Islamabad both are responsible.”

Mr Thomson said the SPA would provide the framework for enhanced military-to-military and intelligence-to-intelligence interaction, besides allowing space for political and military initiatives to resolve the contentious issues between Islamabad and Kabul.