After back-to-back visits to Afghanistan by Speaker of the National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq with a parliamentary delegation in tow, and Director General of the ISI, Lieutenant General Naveed Mukhtar, one would have expected the rapidly deteriorating relationship with the neighbouring country to improve. However, this is not the case, and President Ashraf Ghani’s decision to not visit Pakistan after being invited by the government speaks volumes.
His words were ones we have heard very often, but normally come from the east and not the west. He said, “I will not visit Pakistan until the perpetrators behind the attacks on Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif, and American University in Kabul are handed over to Afghanistan, and action is taken against Afghan Taliban in Pakistan.”
With this statement, the Afghan government has not only completely internalised India’s stance concerning Pakistan, but it has also perfectly replicated the language and tone we are so accustomed to hearing from the eastern neighbour. The stance of “no talks before an end to terror” is seen as the biggest impediment to talks with India, and now Afghanistan will be just as tough a nut to crack. With this, India’s designs of estranging the Pakistan and Afghanistan governments have been fulfilled.
The blame for this however, lies entirely on the Afghan government. Their myopic understanding of the relationship between the two countries has led to an acrimony never witnessed before. Choosing between India and Pakistan was never a compulsion, many countries including the US have been able to maintain a relationship with both simultaneously. However, President Ashraf Ghani has taken Afghanistan on a path that puts it at odds with Pakistan. On the flip side, Pakistan has made more than a few overtures recently, and if Afghanistan wants to set precondition to talks, it should remember to not make demands from a neighbour that is stronger and more secure. Allegations of Pakistan hosting and supporting members of the Afghan Taliban go hand in hand with Afghanistan doing the same for enemies of Pakistan. If it starts implementing its own recommendations, maybe Pakistan would be even more supportive. Until then, Afghanistan has made its bed, now it must lie in it.