Civil Society efforts aiding in diffusion of Af-Pak tensions

 

A few days after members of the civil society from both Afghanistan and Pakistan met various officials in Islamabad to discuss border tensions, international mediation efforts have also taken off to diffuse tensions between the neighbors.

The United Kingdom employed its old-fashioned classic diplomacy when it invited high-level officials from Pakistan and Afghanistan in a dialogue this week in an attempt to break the ice between the two neighbors whose relations had become strained especially following the abrupt closure of Pak-Afghan border by the former on February 17, 2017.

The National Security Advisor of UK, Sir Mark Lyall Grant, hosted the one to one meeting between representatives of Kabul and Islamabad in London. The Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, from Pakistani side met with Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser, Hanif Atmar, on Wednesday and Thursday.

The British Foreign office refused to comment on the meeting, but it is believed that the two sides listened to each other’s grievances sensibly. Officials from both sides agreed to engage in a healthy dialogue to resolve their bilateral issues. The UK is since optimistic to defuse tensions concerning the two nations.

These mediation efforts come on the back of numerous initiatives taken by civil society organizations both in Kabul and Islamabad. A delegation of traders from both Afghanistan and Pakistan met, on 14th March, in Islamabad to discuss issues of mutual interest and on-going tensions between both the countries.

The delegations not only discussed the negative impact of Pakistan’s Torkham border closure, but also called upon the Pakistani government to reopen the border crossing with immediate effect. The same delegation also called upon Pakistan’s national security advisor later in the day.

A six-member delegation of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, or ACCI, visiting Islamabad, met with Pakistani counterparts on Monday to discuss problems and damages the border closure has caused. The delegations met as part of Beyond Boundaries- a CRSS led, and WPSO supported, project focusing on Afghanistan Pakistan Tack 1.5/2 diplomacy – to discuss difficulties arising out of the abrupt closure of Af-Pak border on February 17, 2017.

The meeting took note with grave concern that the border has been closed for 5 times during the short span of approximately 8 months since June 2016. The latest closure comes at a time of high diplomatic tensions between both the countries.

Members of the civil society from both countries hope that the recent efforts both on local, national and international level, would help diffuse the border tensions. There are also indications coming from Islamabad that the border crossings with Afghanistan might soon be reopened.

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