On Kabul, take a wider view

It is in India's interests to encourage dialogue between Karzai and Sharif

Today, Hamid Karzai will call on Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad. Since 2002, Karzai has made 19 trips to Pakistan, but this is the first time he will meet Sharif since the latter's election as the new prime minister of the country.

There are many bones of contention. Afghanistan continues to accuse its neighbour of harbouring the Taliban leadership in Quetta and nurturing terrorist outfits — including the Haqqani network — which have been attacking not only Nato forces and Afghan National Army (ANA) personnel, but also the Indian embassy and consulates. Kabul is particularly resentful of Pakistan's alleged sabotaging of the reconciliation process. The first chief of the High Peace Council, Burhanuddin Rabbani, was killed in 2011 by the Taliban. The assassin, according to Kabul, came from Pakistan. Moreover, moderate Taliban voices open to holding independent dialogue with the Karzai government are allegedly being systematically eliminated.

In 2010, Abdul Ghani Baradar, Mullah Omar's key operational aide, who was covertly in touch with officials from Kabul, was arrested. Meanwhile, Mullah Omar is allegedly being held in a safe-house in Pakistan. The struggle, apparently, is over the ownership of the peace process. Karzai wants moderate Taliban voices to be free of Pakistani influence so as to have a truly Afghan-led peace process. Pakistan wants to retain its strategic significance in the Afghan political landscape by controlling the peace process.

Islamabad, for its part, accuses Afghanistan of offering a safe haven to Islamist groups targeting the Pakistani state, including Maulana Fazlullah, a leader of the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law) and Mangal Bagh Afridi of the Lashkar-e-Islam. The TNSM, now allied with the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), had come to the rescue of the Afghan Taliban in 2001 and may well attack Pakistan from that side of the border now that the withdrawal of Nato forces is giving militants room for manoeuvre. Lashkar-e-Islam, a smaller militant outfit, continues operating in the Khyber Tribal Agency, while its leadership frequently travels to the Nangarhar province in Afghanistan.

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