While few in India would take seriously the good neighbourly talk between Karzai and Zardari in London, Delhi might want to pay closer attention to the recent visit to Pakistan by General Bismillah Khan Ahmadi, the Afghan defence minister.
Ahmadi's consultations with the Pakistan army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, lends some credence to the London joint statement underlining the commitment of Karzai and Zardari to start negotiating a strategic partnership agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
An official statement issued in Rawalpindi after Kayani's talks with Ahmadi said the two leaders focused on "enhancing mutual defence cooperation and measures that the Afghan National Army and Pakistan Army intend to initiate for an enduring training relationship".
Rawalpindi has long been pressing Kabul to send its forces for training in Pakistan and has deeply resented the military relationship between India and Afghanistan. Pakistani officials also pointed out that Ahmadi is a non-Pashtun and a Tajik by origin.
The engagement with Ahmadi, the officials said, underlines the Pakistan army's determined effort to reach out to the non-Pashtun minorities that have long viewed Rawalpindi's support to the Taliban with great hostility. The message, credible or not, from Rawalpindi is that Pakistan is no longer taking sides in the Afghan conflict that it wants "peaceful, stable, united Afghanistan".
As Pakistan consolidates its primacy in the Afghan conflict resolution, it is also exploring a peace deal with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that has emerged as the biggest security threat to the nation.
Last week, the TTP has laid down its terms for the talks. Among them are the release of some its top leaders held by Pakistan's security forces and the naming of three opposition leaders — former PM Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and Munawar Hasan of the Jamaat-e-Islami — as guarantors for the talks.
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