ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan warned Afghanistan to behave responsibly Thursday following Kabul's move to sign a strategic pact with Islamabad's archenemy, India, at a particularly sensitive time in relations between the two countries.
Afghanistan's interior minister recently accused Pakistan's powerful spy agency, the ISI, of being involved in last month's suicide bombing in Kabul that killed former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani — an allegation denied by Pakistan. Rabbani was working as chief envoy in peace talks with the Taliban.
"At this defining stage when challenges have multiplied, as have the opportunities, it is our expectation that everyone, especially those in position of authority in Afghanistan, will demonstrate requisite maturity and responsibility," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tehmina Janjua told reporters.
"This is no time for point-scoring, playing politics or grandstanding," she said in her weekly press briefing.
Her comments seemed more confrontational than Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's statement Wednesday that Afghanistan and India have the right to maintain bilateral relations as sovereign nations. His comments were reported by the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan.
The agreement, which was signed Tuesday, outlined areas of common concern including trade, economic expansion, education, security and politics. It was the first of its kind between Afghanistan and any country.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai tried to assuage concern over the pact Wednesday, saying it was not intended as an aggressive move against Pakistan. He said the agreement simply made official years of close ties between India and Afghanistan's post-Taliban government.
"Pakistan is a twin brother. India is a great friend," said Karzai during a visit to New Delhi, according to the Press Trust of India news agency. "The agreement that we signed yesterday with our friend will not affect our brother."
But Karzai's words likely carried little weight in Pakistan, which is sandwiched between Afghanistan to its west and India to its east. Pakistani officials, especially in the country's powerful army, have long viewed policy in Afghanistan through one lens: countering the perceived danger of Indian influence in the country.
"The agreement will heighten Pakistan's insecurities," said Talat Masood, an analyst and former Pakistani general. "Pakistan has always felt that it is being encircled by India from both the eastern and western borders."
Pakistan and India have fought three major wars and have been at each other's throats since the two were carved out of British India in 1947.
Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have also been rocky, and many Pakistani officials view Karzai as too close to India, where he attended university.
To check India's power in Afghanistan, Pakistan has historically supported Islamist militants like the Taliban who are also opposed to its majority Hindu neighbor. Islamabad has also allegedly backed militants who have carried out attacks in Kashmir, an area claimed by both Pakistan and India.
Pakistan maintains it cut off ties to the Taliban and other militants following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. But Washington and Kabul say otherwise.
The U.S. has accused Pakistan's main spy agency, the ISI, of supporting the Haqqani militant network, which is allied with the Taliban and is suspected of carrying out a recent attack against the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. The group is believed to be based in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area near the Afghan border.
Associated Press writers Sebastian Abbot in Islamabad, Katy Daigle in New Delhi and Deb Riechmann in Kabul, Afghanistan, contributed to this report.