ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - After years of antagonism and accusations, spy agencies in Pakistan and Afghanistan will now share information, the Pakistani military said, in another sign frosty relations between the neighbours may be gradually thawing.
Improved ties are key to tackling stubborn Taliban insurgencies on both sides of the border but there is a long legacy of suspicion to overcome.
The announcement that a memorandum of understanding between the two intelligence agencies had been signed was made late on Monday by Major General Asim Bajwa, the Pakistan military spokesman, on Twitter.
“MOU signed by ISI & NDS,” the tweet read, referring to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security.
“Includes int sharing, complimentary and coordinated int ops on respective sides,” it said, referring to intelligence and operations.
The announcement followed a visit by the Pakistan intelligence chief, chief of army staff and prime minister to the Afghan capital of Kabul last week.
After Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was elected last year, relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan began slowly improving following years of acrimony.
They nosedived after a U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban from power in Afghanistan in 2001. Pakistan long feared its arch rival India would seek to use Afghanistan against it, and felt the U.S. invasion gave India an opening.
As violence in Afghanistan increased, Kabul and its NATO allies accused Pakistan of backing Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan in a bid to maintain influence. Pakistani denied the accusations but made little move against Taliban safe havens in northwest Pakistan.
In recent years, Pakistan began accusing Afghanistan of doing the same thing in revenge.
Two distinct but allied Taliban insurgencies developed, one in Pakistan and one in Afghanistan. Each is dedicated to overthrowing the government in its own country and establishing strict Islamic law. Each has bases across the border.
But since Ghani took office, he has made a concerted push to reassure Pakistan and minimise Indian influence. A plea for Indian arms was quietly put on hold. Six Afghan cadets were sent to train in Pakistan and the Afghan army chief addressed a Pakistani class of military graduates.
There have been no large joint operations between the two militaries and deep suspicions remain.
But U.S. drone strikes against Pakistani militants in Afghanistan have increased, and Pakistani forces have intensified an anti-Taliban offensive in their northwest.
Reporting by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Nick Macfie