The decision by Pakistan and Afghanistan to set up a hotline between their respective military commanders is the latest in a series of significant confidence building measures that will go a long way in easing tensions between the two South Asian neighbours and improve regional security.
The military commanders of the two countries used the hotline to make first contact on Wednesday, December 30, the Pakistani military said.
As is the norm these days, the Pakistan army spokesman Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa took to the Twitter to make the announcement. “Hotline established between DGMOs (Director Generals of military operations) of both countries. First contact/call just made,” Bajwa tweeted on December 30.
He also disclosed that the direct line between the military commanders of the two countries was agreed when Pakistan’s army chief General Raheel Sharif visited Afghanistan on December 27.
Another significant announcement made after General Sharif met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was the decision to hold a meeting in Kabul involving officials from Pakistan, the United States and China on January 11 to prepare the way for possible peace talks with the Taliban.
Afghanistan, the United States and China, which is planning to invest billions in Pakistan, see Pakistan’s support as vital to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.
Afghan President Ghani has recently pushed to strengthen ties with Pakistan in a desperate bid to restart the talks with Taliban as the insurgency shows no sign of abating.
Ghani travelled to Pakistan in December to open the Heart of Asia conference in Islamabad that shored up international support for Taliban talks. At the Islamabad conference, Ghani and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed commitment to the peace process.
General Sharif’s December 27 visit to Kabul reflects this commitment by the leaders of the two countries.
Interestingly, the meeting between General Sharif and Afghan President Ghani took place two days after a “surprise” visit to Lahore by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who stopped by in the Pakistani city at the invitation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, on his way back from Afghanistan where he opened a new Indian-financed parliament building and delivered three Russian-made military helicopters.
Earlier, on December 13, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Ghani joined Indian Vice-President Mohamed Hamid Ansari and President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov of Turkmenistan in the Karakum desert outside the southeastern Turkmen city of Mary, in a ceremony marking the beginning of work on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) link.
The $10bn gas pipeline expected to help ease energy deficits in South Asia and stem tensions in the region.
Afghanistan, India and Pakistan have all repeatedly stated their commitment to the natural gas project despite the bilateral tensions. Attending the ceremony, the leaders praised the pipeline as a political project that will help bring about better relations. Energy experts say the project does indeed have potential to ease relationships in the region.
The region, usually riven by distrust, has seen a flurry of diplomatic encounters between officials and politicians from Pakistan, Afghanistan and India over recent months. These are welcome, although cautious, moves towards easing longstanding regional tensions, and the setting up of the hotline between the military commanders of Pakistan and Afghanistan is an important step in that direction.
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