Pakistan on Friday rejected Afghanistan’s contention that Islamabad had asked Kabul to sever all ties with New Delhi. On Thursday, an AFP report from Kabul quoted Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman Aimal Faizi as saying that Pakistan “demanded we cut all ties to India, send army officers to Pakistan for training, and sign a strategic partnership”.

According to Mr. Faizi, Pakistan had abandoned the peace process and was imposing “impossible” pre-conditions on any further discussions that would encourage the Taliban to lay down weapons. “Things were going well up to the trilateral [summit] in Britain, so we were hopeful, but soon it became clear that Pakistan had changed its position and the peace process was no longer its priority.”

Responding to these remarks, Pakistan Foreign Office maintained that Islamabad had not laid down any pre-conditions for the peace process. “Pakistan is whole-heartedly supporting and facilitating the peace process without any conditions or preference for any particular group or party.”

Further, Pakistan pointed out that it was Mr. Karzai who had proposed the bilateral Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA). Elaborating on the allegation of wanting India out of the Afghan equation, the Foreign Office spokesman said: “Pakistan did not demand that Afghanistan should ‘cut all ties to India’. Pakistan has no objection or issue with Afghanistan developing relations with any country. We have only stressed that those external forces which are using the soil of Afghanistan to destabilise Pakistan should be discouraged.”

Mr. Faizi had also said the Afghan public would “stone us” to death if “we signed the SPA with Pakistan” as they know the suicide bombers that kill civilians and armed forces in Afghanistan come from Pakistan. Further, he claimed that there is more instability on the “Pakistani side of the Durand Line [the Pakistan-Afghanistan border] than on the Afghan side”.

On Pakistan insisting that Afghan army officers be sent here for training, the Foreign Office spokesperson said the offer had been made as a goodwill gesture to contribute to the training needs of the Afghan security forces. “This was not a pre-condition. Pakistan remains fully committed to facilitating peace, reconciliation and stability in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s offers of goodwill should not be construed as pre-conditions.”

After a brief interlude when Islamabad and Kabul appeared on the same page following the release of 26 Afghan Taliban detainees by Pakistan, bilateral relations have again soured with several critical statements coming out of Afghanistan in recent weeks. Earlier this week, Afghanistan cancelled a military exercise with Pakistan in Quetta in protest against shelling across the border in Kunar province.

Pakistan maintained that the Afghan decision to cancel the exercise was an “over-reaction” as Pakistani troops had responded to intrusion from inside Afghanistan without using artillery shelling.