Peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban are likely to resume as early as next week in what is thought to be an internationally guaranteed and monitored peace process.

The development stemmed from a string of bilateral, trilateral and quadrilateral meetings in Islamabad involving Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and top American and Chinese officials. However, there is no immediate reaction from the Taliban about their participation in the peace talks. Pakistan at the meetings “laid out both its leverage and limitations” with factions of the Afghan insurgency and assured all participants Islamabad “will do whatever it can to bring at least those to the [negotiating] table who are under its influence.” We also described the agreement to resume Afghan peace as a major step and expected a lot of work and consultations before the peace negotiations would actually take place.

This should mean that Afghanistan has agreed to bury its differences with Pakistan, given the long history of mistrust and suspicions between them. They accuse each other of supporting insurgencies across their border, which both deny. However, Pakistani analysts and experts are welcoming the renewed initiative by Afghanistan to reach out to the Taliban. “Pakistan will have to use its influence over Taliban in bringing them to the negotiating table”, said General (r) Talat Masood. If new talks failed, Pakistan will be forced to act strongly against Taliban. “The era of non-state actors is over; Pakistan acknowledges that it has to have friendly relations with the Afghan government”.

With a new sense of urgency amid growing concerns with the rise of Daesh in Afghanistan, the window for peace has narrowed. One is bound to wonder what Afghanistan and other countries will get out of these peace talks when a trust deficit exists between the states themselves.

Pakistan provides a strategic gateway for both China’s Road and Belt Initiatives and the United States’ New Silk Road strategy. Pakistan’s cooperation becomes vital for the long-term western military presence in Afghanistan; while China’s longstanding relations with Pakistan (which were historically ‘India-centric’) have assumed a global character. At the same time, Pakistan’s SCO membership impacts the regional strategies of the US, Russia and China alike. The interplay of these multiple factors explains the heightened interest of regional and western countries in the Islamabad conference.

The competing big powers also acknowledge the crucial need of Pakistan’s cooperation in the fight against terrorism and extremist groups. China and the US are on the same page in promoting the Afghan peace talks and encouraging Kabul and Islamabad in this regard.

The Taliban will also have to come forward. These talks, rather the emergence of strategic relationships can only take place if practical steps are taken. It also depends on the Afghan government not indulging in any kind of blame game against Pakistan.