NIGHTWATCH on Afghanistan, Pakistan, & India

03 India, 08 Wild Cards

Pakistan-Afghan: Expressing dissatisfaction about the deteriorating Afghan situation, Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi said that talks are the only solution to the Afghan problem and no military means can bring peace. Qureshi spoke in a joint press conference with his Afghan counterpart Dr. Zalmai Rasoul.

Qureshi said they discussed the security situation, especially the efforts of the Afghan government to ensure stability through reconciliation. The countries agreed to enhance bilateral relations in politics, trade and economic among other fields.

The foreign minister said peace and security in Afghanistan is important for Pakistan therefore, Pakistan has sincerely offered assistance, cooperation and training facilities to Afghanistan in all the fields, including training Afghan military so that a well trained Afghan Army can take over the responsibility of the security in their country.

NIGHTWATCH Comment: The meeting is significant as a sign of shifting relationships. An Afghan official tilt towards Pakistan is being reciprocated by Pakistani moves towards Afghanistan, as described in the New York Times. Since last year's presidential elections, President Karzai's relations with the US have become strained. The emergence of strain in the US relationship appears to be the precursor to a warming trend with Pakistan.

The shifting ties have mixed implications. Pakistan invested heavily in the Taliban regime in Kabul before 2001, as part of a strategy to provide depth against India. The Pashtuns were the primary beneficiaries of Pakistani support against the northerners who eventually sided with the US in overthrowing the Taliban.

Nevertheless, Pakistani behavior and continuing reports indicate the national security leaders in Islamabad have not, probably cannot, abandon that strategy. They only can de-emphasize it temporarily as a matter of expediency. The Times article and Qureshi's remarks both point in the direction of power sharing, starting with the ex-royalists, the Haqqanis.

Pakistan also is in a position to do much more, provided it has a key role in arranging the power sharing. Pakistan's tactics are more nuanced, but the policy of using Afghanistan to gain strategic depth against India appears to be still in place. Afghanistan's handling of Indian relations, aid and infrastructure construction companies will be a good indirect measure of rising Pakistani influence in Kabul. If Indian Border Roads Organization units are invited to leave Afghanistan, for example, the tilt to Pakistan


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