A day after the proposed foreign secretary meeting between India and Pakistan in Islamabad, the four-nation grouping of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and USA will meet on January 16 to arrive at a roadmap for peace talks with the Taliban.
The two meetings are not quite directly linked to each other. But both India and Pakistan are struggling to find enough convergences over Afghanistan despite the neighbours coming onboard for a pipeline project (TAPI) for getting gas from Turkmenistan.
Indian sources said there would be “broad discussions and conversation on Afghanistan issues” between India and Pakistan but not under any “particular format or structure” when foreign secretary S Jaishankar travels to Islamabad.
Afghanistan holds strategic significance for India in terms of national security implications and connectivity plans for south and central Asia. But the emerging security situation there is working to Pakistan’s advantage.
“Their influence on Taliban and their role in the peace process is the trump card for Pakistan. They are playing it well,” said MK Bhadrakumar, a former career diplomat with experience in dealing with Pakistan and Afghanistan.
PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Pakistan from Afghanistan on Dec 25 in many ways was a message that India doesn’t see the two relations as a zero-sum game. But any effort to address the mutual mistrust will be a long haul. Indian sources said, “We are seeking a transit route through Pakistan to Afghanistan, which will transform the south Asian economic and trade landscape.”
In reality, India getting access from Peshawar to Khyber will be an article of immense faith — something the neighbours seem incapable of now.