Pakistan’s refusal to receive Marc Grossman, United States Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, is a pointed snub to Washington. The US tried to force the pace of the peace talks with the Taliban at Qatar but Pakistan wouldn’t be hurried unless and until the ABC of its relationship with the US is reset to its satisfaction.
Obviously, the US has the option to go ahead with the talks with the Taliban without consulting Pakistan, but that is a road to nowhere. The catch is, there is no knowing the timeframe in which the US-Pakistan relationship will be finally reset. Matters are also caught up in the fluid political situation in Pakistan.
The ‘reset’ can’t be hurried, either. There is bound to be a great deal of ‘toing’ and ‘froing’. Significantly, Pakistan has begun clinically segregating its dealings with Afghanistan so that they aren’t held hostage to the easing of tensions in the US-Pakistan relationship. The decision to resume supply of jet fuel as well as the release of the stranded containers for Afghanistan while continuing to hold up the NATO’s convoys need to be seen in this light.
So is the holding of the Pak-Afghan joint commission meeting in Islamabad. In happier times, US would have been hovering above the joint commission session as its patron and guardian angel but it is nowhere to be seen. Most important, Islamabad is reviving the work of the joint commission with Kabul regarding the reconciliation of the Taliban.
With some difficulty, US has brought around the non-Pashtun groups belonging to the erstwhile Northern Alliance [NA] to accept the idea of talks with Taliban. But these groups are unlikely to give up their insistence on direct participation in the talks. Which now involves some delicate redefinition of what actually constitutes “Afghan-led” peace talks.
The NA groups will need a steady flow of ‘tough love’ from Washington to get them to accept Hamid Karzai’s leadership. They are bound to cause embarrassment to Karzai at every step, because they have old score to settle with him — having been deprived of the loaves of office by Karzai all this while. Above all, of course, Taliban would have own views about these self-styled NA groups and Karzai.
All we know is that Taliban are apparently eager like hell to talk with the US. So, Washington can’t complain that Pakistan is torpedoing the prospects of talks at Qatar, can they? Even the sight of American soldiers urinating on Afghan corpses does not discourage the Taliban from sitting down with US diplomats.
But Sayed Mohammad Akbar Agha has now publicly inserted a ‘precondition’ that there should be a ceasefire for the talks to proceed. Obviously, Grossman still has a lot of homework to do before he knocks on the door at Rawalpindi. “The woods are lovely, dark and deep / But I’ve promises to keep….”
Posted in Politics.
– January 18, 2012