In the blur of Afghanistan, 2014 is not the only horizon that is visible. Another timeline — 2015 — has cropped up, and it is being looked at with as much expectation as 2014. The later date figures prominently in Afghanistan’s latest “peace process roadmap”. It is the time by which President Hamid Karzai hopes to reach an arrangement with the Taliban by accommodating them in non-elected positions of power. It is unlikely that Pakistan will have discouraged its neighbour’s enthusiasm, given its radical change of mood. In 2010, Pakistan had stalled Afghanistan’s peace talks with the Taliban with its arrest of Abdul Ghani Baradar. Yet, since November 2012, it has released several Taliban prisoners, encouraged Mr Karzai’s efforts to get Pakistan’s Islamic scholars to debunk suicide-bombing and even cheered Afghan officials’ recent meeting with the Taliban in France. On its part, Afghanistan has decided to look past Pakistan’s peccadilloes, even its suspected hand in the recent assassination attempt on its intelligence chief, and focus ahead. So what is the reason behind this sudden bonhomie between the sparring neighbours? It could be 2014 and the West’s increased desperation to pull out its troops. But that alone would not have sufficed as reason enough had both the countries not been forced to live through the incessant violence that may become a permanent reality post-2014. Pakistan is having a terrible time controlling its home-grown Taliban, having ruled out military intervention against them. Afghanistan, too, has realized the impossibility of leaving out Pakistan in its reconciliation drive with the Taliban. But the more recent catalyst to change appears to be the new thought emanating from Pakistan’s military headquarters. Had it not been so, Pakistan would not have found the courage to reach out to the Northern Alliance factions that it is believed to be attempting in order to have a more durable arrangement in Afghanistan.
Undoubtedly the change in Pakistan-Afghanistan ties is yet to crystallize. It is also possible that the Taliban might prove to be more difficult as allies than as enemies, and defeat the best of plans. Yet, it is undeniable that in their cooperation, the neighbours have started an experiment that can tremendously boost the peace prospects for the region. Whatever its misgivings, India can neither ignore nor discourage the development.