ISLAMABAD -  Only two years ago Pakistan had welcomed Ashraf Ghani as the new Afghan president after maintaining a tumultuous relationship with pro-India Hamid Karzai for about a decade.

Ghani had also promised to improve ties with Pakistan and his subsequent statements, after taking over as the president, also exhibited his pro-Pakistan face.

When he assumed the office, after agreeing to share power with Abdullah Abdullah, the incumbent Chief Executive of the war-torn Afghanistan, Pakistan sent a message that it was looking forward to building a strong bilateral relationship with Afghanistan. His predecessor Karzai was known to be pro-India and lately, Ghani also started to follow in his footsteps.

His last day’s speech at the Heart of Asia Conference in Amritsar seemed to have been written by the Indian External Affairs Ministry. He completely ignored Pakistan’s efforts for peace in Afghanistan and “refused” to accept Pakistan’s $500 million aid for development, instead, calling it to be used against extremists.

Ghani’s defiance that Afghanistan did not need Pakistan’s aid was a blow to Pakistan and its sincere efforts for peace in the war-torn country and its history of helping Afghanistan whenever the need arose.

He said: “We need to identify cross-border terrorism and a fund to combat terrorism. Pakistan has pledged 500 million dollars for Afghanistan’s development, but we don’t need it. Use the amount Mr Sartaj Aziz to contain terrorism in your country”.

Ghani, however, highlighted the projects and agreements signed between Afghanistan, India and Iran. “The project of Chabahar Port between the three countries is very important to us for connectivity,” he said.

Analysts said Ghani was led to believe by India that Pakistan was not sincere in fighting terrorism and was allegedly playing a double game with Kabul.

In Amritsar, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz reacted to Ghani’s pro-India speech and said that instead of levelling allegations concentration should be on positive actions. He said that a peaceful resolution to all the longstanding issues was the only way forward for regional cooperation and connectivity.

He stressed the need for evolving a joint and purposeful strategy for lasting peace in Afghanistan. Despite Ghani’s outburst, Aziz said Pakistan was ready to extend every kind of cooperation for lasting peace in Afghanistan. He reminded the participants that Pakistan had laid down the foundation of Heart of Asia Conference with the collaboration of Turkey six years ago.

Ghani conveniently forgot that Pakistan had sheltered up to 3 million Afghan refugees and still was home to 1.5 million refugees, making it the second largest refugee country in the world.

His new face is in sharp contrast to his friendly attitude towards Pakistan when he took over from Karzai. As he tried to improve ties with Pakistan, Islamabad also offered help to bring the Taliban to the table. The Taliban peace talks, however, failed to take off after Mullah Omer’s death. Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, Omer’s successor, and Taliban chief intensified attacks in Afghanistan to derail the process. The Heart of Asia conference in December 2016, held in Islamabad, was a new ray of hope.

Diplomats at the Foreign Office, linked to the Afghanistan desk, said that there had been contacts with Kabul after the Amritsar conference to defuse the Indian influence in Afghanistan.

“The situation is not favourable but it is still not out of control. Ghani is a sensible man and we can convince him that India is misguiding him,” said a senior diplomat.

He was hopeful that Kabul will shun its apparent pro-India policy keeping in view the historic ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

International affairs expert Dr AZ Hilali said Pakistan’s participation in the Heart of Asia conference proved Islamabad’s sincerity with the Afghanistan peace.

“Peace in Afghanistan is imperative for regional stability. We believe in that but Ashraf Ghani is taking lessons from India,” he maintained.

Hilali said Afghanistan must know how Pakistan has been with them through thick and thin. “Ghani was pro-Pakistan and we need to see how he changed his mind. We should stop him from becoming their (India’s) man,” he said.

Former ambassador Rustam Shah Mohmand said Ghani was being misled by India. “Pakistan went to Amritsar despite India’s hostile attitude but Ghani was still speaking Modi’s language,” he said.

Mohmand said that Pakistan has to deal with Afghanistan diplomatically to convince Ghani, Islamabad was sincere in resolving the Afghanistan issues. “If India can change his (Ghani’s) mind from being pro-Pakistan to pro-India, we should be able to bring him back. We are not playing any double game but a fair game,” he argued.

Defence analyst Air Marshal Shahid Latif said Ghani must not forget the decades of love Pakistan had showered on Afghanistan. “Ashraf Ghani is reading India’s script but he needs to understand he is committing a mistake. Ghani was pro-Pakistan and he should be our man keeping in view our efforts for Afghanistan,” he said.

Latif said Pakistan’s foreign ministry needed to work hard on Afghanistan issue and the US to soften their stance. He said that baseless accusations by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Ashraf Ghani against Pakistan were designed to divert world attention from their sponsored terror activities in Pakistan.

He said that Pakistan was concerned about terrorism in Afghanistan, but Kabul should know stability and peace in Afghanistan was a joint responsibility.