Talk to most any Afghan, and you’ll get an earful about how Pakistan has treated its smaller neighbor: the use of proxies, the tendency to see Afghan Pashtuns as pliant Pakistanis-in-waiting rather than independent political actors, and the persistent fixation on the Indian presence in Afghanistan. These criticisms, while often legitimate, overlook what has been a relatively sophisticated and restrained diplomatic strategy by Pakistan over the last couple of years. As part of what appears to be a coordinated campaign by both diplomats and the military, Pakistan has made efforts to minimize border tensions and go out of its way in public to emphasize its deference to Afghan sovereignty.
Talk, of course, is cheap. Many Afghans simply do not take Pakistan’s pronouncements at face value. Decades of border tensions over the disputed Durand Line, public accusations about each countries’ respective links to Islamist groups, and personality clashes have clearly bred mistrust. Most recently, the Afghan intelligence service directly fingered Pakistan for the deadly attack on the Serena Hotel in Kabul. All the same, Islamabad’s charm offensive has helped to keep Afghanistan-Pakistan relations from deteriorating into overt dysfunctionality — for now.
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Photo Credit: Canada in Afghanistan via flickr