In a marked departure from its predecessor’s policies, which were often marred by tensions with the west, the new unity government in Afghanistan headed by President Ashraf Ghani has opted to do things differently and made a conscious decision to work closely with the US and its allies to restore peace to Afghanistan and rebuild the country’s economy.

That was the message the Afghan president gave to the international community at the London Conference on Afghanistan, co-hosted by the UK and Afghanistan and attended by 74 international delegations including 59 partner countries, multilateral organisations, NGOs and representatives of Afghan civil society. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was specially invited by the British prime minister to attend the moot.

Addressing the conference, the Afghan president said, “Peace is our top priority. We hope that we will never need direct combat support (again) because the last thing we want is more blood. History will not be repeated. We have overcome the past and Afghanistan will overcome its challenges. Those who had predicted doom for Afghanistan as the international military presence winds down are wrong”. He pledged to fundamental reforms and a fight against corruption.

Whether the optimism exuded by Ashraf Ghani in putting the past behind and surmounting the challenges confronting the country will translate into reality as envisaged by him remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: his endeavours to re-solicit the support of the international community and its continued engagement for the realisation of his vision have been positively responded to. The United States, Britain and other allies promised not to abandon Afghanistan’s new government.

The British prime minister told President Ghani that the UK was “with (you) every step of the way”. US Secretary of State John Kerry promised to ask Congress to approve “extraordinary” but unspecified levels of new aid through 2017 and reiterated: “We are committed to ensuring that Afghanistan can never again be used as a safe haven from which terrorists can threaten the international community. We know that the most effective way to advance this objective is to support Afghanistan's political unity and its security.”

The London conference served as a follow-up to the 2012 meeting in Tokyo, where the allies committed $16 billion for Afghanistan’s rebuilding and to stabilise the Afghan government. Whether all the promises made in this respect have been fulfilled or not is not known but as far as the US is concerned it has provided $8 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since 2012. There is no doubt that Afghanistan does need the continued support of the international community on a long-term basis since at present its economy is not generating the required revenue for defraying expenses on security and development projects that are helping reconstruct the destroyed infrastructure.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was right on the money when he urged the international community to do more to help the Afghans realise their vision during the ‘transformation decade’ and reiterated Pakistan’s support to the Afghan government’s forward-looking vision and reform agenda. The new narrative of the Pakistan government with regard to relations with Afghanistan stems from the changing regional geo-political realities and what the two countries share. It has gone well with the new Afghan government,and the people of Afghanistan, and has also been well received and appreciated by the international community including the US.

The positive outcome of the recent visit of the Afghan president to Pakistan – during which both the countries agreed to work together to fight terrorism, expand military cooperation and recalibrate economic relations to promote regional connectivity for shared economic prosperity – is a testimony to the success of this new approach.

The newfound bonhomie between Pakistan and Afghanistan also confirms the visionary credentials of the leaders of both countries and their unwavering belief in each other’s indispensability to achieve their desired goals. The international community, especially the US, has also come to realise this inevitability and is now ready to support both the countries in their endeavour to redraw the contours of their relationship and help each other in fighting militancy.

As a front-line state in the war on terror, Pakistan has suffered the most in terms of men and material. And for the past three decades Afghanistan has been ravaged by an unending conflict, factional wars and terrorism. Therefore it is in the interest of both the countries to collaborate with each other, backed by other regional countries like China to eliminate terrorism.

Both Afghanistan and Pakistan need peace to achieve their economic visions; this to a great extent depends on reconciliation in Afghanistan. The Afghan president has rightly set peace as his top priority because without achieving peace no economic or social agenda can be pushed further.

Pakistan indeed can play a very crucial role in nudging ahead the process of reconciliation in Afghanistan. At the same time it also needs the help of the Afghan government and the US in fighting the TTP, particularly in quelling the cross-border attacks on Pakistani security posts by its cadres based in Kunar and Nuristan in Afghanistan. This is an issue that Pakistani military and civilian leaders have invariably been raising in their meetings with their US and Afghan counterparts.

It is satisfying to note that the Afghan government and the US have finally realised the necessity of not allowing the TTP to use Afghan territory for attacks against Pakistan, as reflected in the agreement between the two countries to fight terrorism collectively – signed during the Afghan president’s visit to Pakistan and the latest decision by the US to step up air strikes, including drone attacks, on Pakistani militants sheltered across the border in Afghanistan.

These are all very encouraging portents towards conflict resolution in Afghanistan and need to be reinforced and strengthened with full commitment and sincerity of purpose by all stakeholders.