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Balancing Act Between India and Pakistan: Tough Ask for Afghanistan

Vinayak Barot

NEW DELHI, Oct 17: It will be a tough task for Afghanistan to play the balancing act between India and Pakistan, maintaining warm relations with the two sworn enemies simultaneously, the international experts feel.

After Taliban was overthrown in 2001, India has enjoyed warm relations with Kabul and since then Afghanistan’s relations with Pakistan has turned sour.

It will be imperative for Kabul to maintain good relations with both if its peace process with Taliban, currently going on in Doha, Qatar, has to make any headway. Afghanistan not only shared the longest border with Pakistan, but also has deep-rooted cultural, historic and trade ties with its eastern neighbour. Simultaneously, it can ill-afford to spoil relations with its all-weather friend India which stood by it at all difficult times for the last two decades.

Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah flew to India and Pakistan recently and met leaders of nations to seek support for the peace talks with the Taliban.

Abdullah came to India for four days and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister Subramanian Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

At India’s Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses and the government-owned think-tank, his response to a question on the role of Pakistan, was, “Afghanistan needs support from all and this means there is no self-interest, it is the bottom-line that is what we expect from our neighbours.”

In Pakistan, Abdullah said, “We cannot afford to pursue business as usual. We need fresh approaches and our people demand it from us. It is more urgent than ever to look to our region as one region”

While both the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan have assured support of their respective countries in any peace arrangements reached with Taliban, the international experts are skeptical about such fragile peace.

The international experts said, “Abdullah Abdullah’s interactions in Delhi and Islamabad were closely monitored by analysts.” Local media of Kabul believe that the relation of Afghanistan with India and Pakistan at the same time – will not be an easy task for Afghanistan.

The Afghan government has long been complaining against the way the US – Taliban deal was inked bypassing Kabul and the US unilaterally announcing total withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by December which was encouraging the Taliban rebels to re-launch a civil war in parts of Afghanistan.

Pakistan on the other hand has started initiating steps to improve its relations with Kabul and its softening of stand on visa regime for the Afghan nationals, including visa on arrival for patients seeking treatment in Pakistan hospitals, is being viewed by the international experts as part of its efforts to mend the dented ties.