ISLAMABAD — The first Afghan-Pakistan defense committee dialogue ended in Kabul on Wednesday with a signing of a memorandum of understanding and a wide-ranging commitment to improve bilateral security and defense cooperation. However, some analysts are skeptical it will lead to anything of particular note.
The two-day dialogue comprised of a meeting between the Senate Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production of Pakistan, and the Defence, Internal Security and Local Administration Committee of the Meshrano Jirga of the Afghan Parliament.
A joint declaration was signed to improve security and the defense cooperation, existing and emerging challenges in bilateral relations, cross-border terrorism, narcotics smuggling, border management, challenges related to the 2014 ISAF/NATO withdrawal and Afghanistan peace process, and to institutionalize the bilateral Defense Parliamentary Dialogue.
This entailed enhancing bilateral defense cooperation and developing bilateral cooperation between the armed forces and security agencies.
It was hoped a joint approach to regional problems would help each state more effectively deal with internal security problems, as well as keeping communication open to isolate and deal with a common threat.
Claude Rakisits, a Pakistan specialist at the strategic studies department at Australia’s Deakin University, says the meeting on its own should be welcomed, but don’t expect something of any note to come from the meeting at present.
“I suppose it is good news that these two committees met and discussed these vital issues,” he said, but noted the Afghan side will have it eyes fixed firmly on the Taliban.
“However, whether something comes out of it really depends on how much political will there is from both countries’ respective executives to move the agreed declaration forward. I fear that the negotiations between the Kabul government and the Taliban will hog all the attention,” Rakisits said. “And depending what does come out of those negotiations (if anything) will have an impact on whether there is any follow-up to the joint declaration. So, all in all, I wouldn't hold my breath, at least in the short-term.”
Brian Cloughley, former Australian defense attaché to Islamabad, was more skeptical, noting the dialogue was made up of lawmakers with little actual power.
“I would really like to think that something concrete would come out of it, but do not see how this can be, simply because none of these people has any executive authority. It is very good indeed that there are meetings like this, and they should be encouraged, of course; but MOUs are not agreements,” he said.
Cloughley believes there is potential for substantive future progress, but said it would not happen soon.
“It is possible that further working-level discussions could come up with detailed plans to cooperate in military training, for example, but these would have to be ratified by [Pakistani] Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and [Afghan] President Karzai themselves,” he said. “This would take a considerable time.”
Cloughley also notedthat there are those in Kabul actively opposed to closer Afghan-Pakistani relations.
“We are looking at an enormous problem, and it's going to take a great deal of work to move things forward,” he said. “Not all politicians and officials in Kabul are in favor of good relations with Pakistan, and there are many opportunities for them to put spokes in the wheels of progress.”