Pakistan on Saturday reiterated its resolve to support efforts to bring peace in war-torn Afghanistan and clarified that the country was not looking for "strategic depth" in the neighbouring country. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi made the comments during the inaugural session of a conference- Lahore Process- on Afghan peace held at Murree near Islamabad.
Let this be absolutely clear. No one in Pakistan subscribes to any notion of so-called ‘strategic depth' in Afghanistan. We must not let anyone resurrect this dead horse to advance their propagandistic aims or seek to sow the seeds of misunderstanding between us and our Afghan brethren, he said.
The idea of strategic depth was mooted by some experts that influence over Kabul will give Islamabad an edge in case of a war with India. The US has in the past indicated that it plans to give a role to India in Afghanistan, whereas Pakistan's stance over the years was quite clear that India had no role to play in Afghanistan.
Qureshi accepted that there was mistrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan but blamed it on ‘enemies’ of the two countries. The vicious circle of mistrust, often fed into by our common enemies, has affected our relationship. The blame-game has not helped either of us. It is indispensable to move away from this negative paradigm, he said.
The conference assumes significance as it is being held just before the visit of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to Pakistan on June 27. Fifty-seven delegates from Afghanistan, including politician Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, senators and members of Afghan parliament are taking part in the event that aims to discuss different aspects of the Afghan peace process.
Qureshi said that Pakistan's security is affected by the unrest in the neighbouring country and advancing the Afghan peace process is in its own national interest. Pakistan's perspective on Afghanistan is clear, we support an Afghanistan that is at peace with itself and at peace with its neighbours, Qureshi said.
The minister said that Pakistan was affected by the conflict in Afghanistan and its peace was linked to peace in the neighbourhood. Pakistan's security continues to be deeply influenced by the security situation in Afghanistan. Advancing the cause of peace and stability in Afghanistan is, therefore, in Pakistan's own national interest, he said.
The foreign minister said that Pakistan was always in support of a politically-motivated solution of Afghanistan problem rather than addressing it through military means. Vowing support for the Afghan peace efforts, he said such support was crucial to break the deadlock.
Pakistan has whole-heartedly facilitated the Afghan peace process in good faith and as a shared responsibility and will continue playing its due role. Our support has been crucial in overcoming the political stalemate that looked impossible to break just a year ago, he said.
Earlier this month, US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad held discussions with the Pakistani leadership, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, on the Afghan peace process and the positive steps that Pakistan can take to advance it.