ISLAMABAD - A senior Pakistani intelligence official said yesterday that Taliban are expected to resume talks with the Afghan government next month. The expected timeframe was offered separately, though, coinciding with the quadrilateral meeting yesterday in Islamabad when diplomats from four countries met to draw a roadmap for Afghanistan peace talks .

Taliban were not part of the quadrilateral meeting, which was held at Pakistani ministry of foreign affairs. After a day-long deliberation by representatives of the four nations, it was decided that that next round of quadrilateral talks will be held on Jan 18 in Kabul, the Afghan capital. The peace talks were derailed last year after the sudden revelation that Mullah Omar, the reclusive leader of the Afghan Taliban had died two years ago.

Pakistan is expected to play a decisive role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table but Pakistani officials say that, contrary to popular perceptions, it has little control over the different Taliban factions. Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s faction and the Haqqani network are considered to be more amenable to the pressure by Pakistan to come on the negotiating table.

“At best, we can convince three to four Taliban groups but it is yet to be decided which group will act as the head during the talks and whether it can influence all of the warring Taliban,” the security official said.

These differences are not irreconcilable, the senior official added, saying that during the winter season, it also suited the Taliban to enter into talks.

The window of opportunity for the peace talks is only within the next two months, the official said. “Fighting season commences after April and prior to it, the Taliban might see some use in agreeing to revive peace talks ,” he said.

The Pakistani official, however, expressed a grim view of the peace talks , predicting that they are not expected to yield any result.

“There are too many stakeholders involved,” the senior intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. “And, what can Kabul really offer to the Taliban?”

Furthermore, Pakistan continues to be wary of the Indian influence in Afghanistan and alleges that it wields a strong influence over the current government in Kabul. “We want less and less influence of India in Afghanistan,” the official said. “As long as Kabul and India try to undermine Pakistan, the talks will not succeed.”

Earlier, during the opening remarks at the meeting between delegates of United States, Afghanistan, China and Pakistan, Sartaj Aziz, a senior aide to Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif, said that Pakistan is committed to facilitating the Afghan reconciliation process. Mr Aziz said that any pre-conditions to start the talks between Taliban and Afghan government would be counterproductive.

“The threat of use of military action against irreconcilables cannot precede the offer of talks to all the groups,” Aziz said. Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Karzai, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry, Richard Olson, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and General Anthony Rock, the top US defence representative in Pakistan, are part of the Monday talks. China’s special envoy on Afghanistan affairs, Deng Xijun, is also in participation.

A joint statement, issued after the meeting Monday evening, read: “the discussion focused on undertaking a clear and realistic assessment of the opportunities for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan anticipated obstacles and measures that would help create conducive environment for peace talks with the shared goal of reducing violence and establishing lasting peace in Afghanistan.”

Adviser Sartaj Aziz, in his key-note address, said that Pakistan, Afghanistan and China have common interests and stakes in promoting peace and development in the region. He said enduring peace and stability in Afghanistan can enable the three countries to reap economic benefits accruing from this natural strategic advantage. He said respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries remains the cardinal elements of Pakistan’s approach.

He said any peace has to be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned as an externally imposed settlement will not be sustainable. Sartaj Aziz said Pakistan is undertaking a number of bilateral projects in Afghanistan in health, education and infrastructure development. He said Pakistan is looking forward to mega China-Pakistan-Economic Corridor to become the catalyst for trans-regional commerce, trade, industry and investment flows.

Similarly, projects like TAPI and CASA-1000 will help fulfil energy needs besides building a stronger regional infra-structural base.

Deputy Leader of the National Islamic Front of Afghanistan, Sayed Hamed Gailani said, “Pakistan and Afghanistan have no choice but to work together by shunning misunderstanding and trust deficit.”

The Afghan leader invited all neighbouring states to support Pakistan and Afghanistan in their counter-terrorism efforts. The US Special Representative, Ambassador Richard Olson also participated in the meeting later shortly after his arrival. Earlier in the day, Mr Olson also met Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif.