Border fire tests Afghanistan-Pakistan ties

Kabul cancels joint military training after claiming cross-border fire, while Islamabad calls the move "over reaction".

    Pakistan has described as "over reaction" Afghanistan's decision to cancel a visit by its military team for joint training over what Kabul claims was cross-border fire.

    Afghanistan said on Wednesday that it would not send an 11-member team of army officers to take part in military drills because of "unacceptable Pakistani artillery shelling" at the eastern province of Kunar earlier this week.

    Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said on Thursday: "We think it is an over reaction to cancel participation by the delegation in that training course.

    "We think such courses, activities are meant to build trust, confidence (and) to promote relations between the countries and should be continued."

    Chaudhry rejected the Afghan allegation of artillery fire, saying Pakistani troops reacted to stop "intrusions" from the Afghan side.

    "There was no artillery shelling from Pakistan side, even in our response we were very modest, because it was an intrusion from their side," he said.

    Pakistani fighters expelled in a major offensive in 2009 in Swat in the north-west are allegedly hiding in Kunar and Nuristan provinces, using the territory to launch cross-border attacks on Pakistani forces.

    The latest tensions come as efforts for Afghan reconciliation with the Taliban are intensifying ahead of a US troop drawdown by the end of 2014.

    Pakistan has considerable influence over the fighters and a row with Kabul may lower the chances of a peace deal after more than a decade of war.

    Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari had reiterated Islamabad's support to the peace efforts in Afghanistan, when he met his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai during talks hosted by Britain in February.

    Karzai had hoped for "very close, brotherly and good neighbourly" ties with Pakistan, which traditionally faced suspicions over its role inside Afghanistan.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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