Islamabad - Rubbishing the idea that it was desiring "strategic depth" in neighbouring Afghanistan, Pakistan has sought a trust-based relationship with Kabul that sets aside the past associated with support for the Taliban.
"If we are looking for any strategic depth it cannot be achieved militarily or come through a proxy war. The only way to do is through building trust with the Afghan state," Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said.
She called for a relationship with Afghanistan based on trust and for leaving behind the past associated with interference in Kabul's affairs and support for the Taliban.
"Recognise what we are doing now without overshadowing it with whatever has been Pakistan's historical baggage. We are moving out of that hangover," Khar said at a meeting with a group of Pakistani journalists yesterday.
Her remarks came a week after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani appealed to all Afghan militant groups, including the Taliban and Hizb-e-Islami, to join the process for peace and reconciliation. Khar said Afghans should decide for themselves at the level of the 'Loya Jirga' or grand assembly about the broader framework for peace talks. "First they should have an intra-Afghan process to see on what conditions they want to run the peace and reconciliation, who do they want to run the process (for), what is the timeframe they want this to be done," she said.
At the same time, Khar said all countries that helped create the Frankenstein's monster in Afghanistan a reference to support for the 'mujahideen' during the days of the Soviet occupation should share the blame.
Pakistan has long been accused by Afghan and Western officials of providing sanctuaries to militant groups, including the top leadership of the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network as part of efforts to retain influence in Afghanistan and to counter what Islamabad perceives as India's growing role in the neighbouring country.
After his visit to Islamabad last month for a trilateral summit of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, President Hamid Karzai had said Pakistan's support was crucial but regretted that there were impediments to peace.
His comments were taken as a reference to the absence of the support he expected from Islamabad for furthering reconciliation in Afghanistan, the Dawn reported.
The shift in Pakistan's policy on Afghanistan has been coming for some time and became pronounced after Prime Minister Gilani's visit to Kabul in December 2010 and a subsequent trip to the Afghan capital accompanied by army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani and ISI head Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the daily quoted its sources as saying.
The shift, however, was not openly enunciated so far. During her interaction with the journalists, Khar said the policy change might not have been noticed but the "trend was very clear."
She added, "We have actually walked the talk." A stable and friendly relationship with Afghanistan was what suited Pakistan's future, she said.
She noted that President Karzai had himself said during recent bilateral talks that Pakistan should have a "proactive supportive role and not a proactive leading role" in the peace process.
Khar did not see the moves being encouraged by Pakistan as competing with the US-backed initiative to engage the Afghan Taliban in Qatar.
"The two can be subsumed and may complement each other," she said.
Pakistan's security establishment has, for decades, backed the policy of "strategic depth", which perceives Afghanistan as being part of Islamabad's strategic backyard that can be used in the event of any possible hostilities with India.