Bilateral Impasse

The second round of Pakistan-Afghanistan reached an impasse fuelling bilateral tensions. The two sides could not only agree on a joint statement to sum up the two-day proceedings, but gave divergent accounts about the outcome.

While the Pakistani version still roots for bridging differences through APAPPS, the Afghan version denies any progress at all. Where APAPPS is primarily a Pakistani initiative for providing a framework for bilateral dialogue that encompasses critical issues like collaboration on counterterrorism, reduction of violence, peace and reconciliation, refugees’ repatriation and joint economic development, Afghanistan continues to spurn any attempts at dialogue.

For the most part Afghanistan’s allegations and stoicism gloms onto the current US vitriol against Pakistan. Where the US is using the trope of Pakistan’s terrorist havens as a bid to pander to conservative elements at home, Afghanistan is using the same trope to paint Pakistan as the source of instability across the border.

While Pakistan denies any links to the spate of attacks in the Afghan capital it has also offered to conduct joint investigations into the recent violence. Islamabad also counters that militants conducting terrorist attacks in Pakistan use sanctuaries on Afghan soil for plotting the violence while the prolonged presence of the refugee community coupled with insufficient border security on the Afghan side hamper Islamabad’s counterterrorism efforts. The Afghan side also want more progress on Pakistan pushing the Afghan Taliban to come to the negotiating table. Islamabad has said several times that they can request but not force the Afghan Taliban towards talks.

While Pakistan can stand to be more forthcoming to Afghan priorities, any further initiative in bilateral engagement needs to be clearly cognizant of what both sides expect and what is achievable in this turbulent relationship. Pakistan’s counterterrorism efforts have been voracious and it has suffered equal casualties on this side of the border. While Afghanistan can keep painting Pakistan as the enemy that wont come to heel, and laying blame at on its doorstep, it has to meet Pakistan halfway because ultimately both of us are fighting the same war.

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