ISLAMABAD: Intelligence agencies of Pakistan and Afghanistan will hold rare talks aimed at bridging their trust chasm on Feb 4, a senior official disclosed on Saturday.

The chief of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS), Masoud Andarabi, will come to Islamabad for a meeting with the Director General of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar. The visit takes place as the two countries resume their cooperation for getting the Afghan reconciliation process back on track after a suspension of several months.

The bilateral intelligence dialogue is being facilitated by the United States, while China will attend as an observer. Intelligence officials from the US and China will be visiting Islamabad for the meeting.

The four countries are also part of a Quadrilateral Framework on the Afghan reconciliation, but this initiative is separate from that endeavour. The intelligence dialogue, the official emphasised, was not linked to the reconciliation effort but could contribute to improving the prospects of that initiative.

The Coordination Group of the Quadrilateral Framework is separately meeting in Islamabad on Feb 6 where the four sides are expected to agree on a roadmap for the Afghan peace talks.

The agreement on holding a meeting of the two intelligence agencies, the official said, was scheduled earlier this week.

The ISI and NDS had in May last year, following a visit by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Gen Raheel Sharif to Kabul, signed a cooperation accord on Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s initiative, but it could not take off due to strong political opposition to the arrangement in Kabul. Under that agreement the two agencies were to cooperate against terrorism and appoint a liaison officer in each other’s country.

The then NDS chief Rehmatullah Nabil had refused to sign the agreement and it had to be inked at a lower level.

Mr Nabil resigned last December over ‘policy differences’ with President Ghani after the latter agreed during a visit to Islamabad, on the occasion of Heart of Asia ministerial conference, to resume the reconciliation process.

“Nabil was blocking things,” the official said about the former NDS chief who was averse to working with Pakistan.

Mr Nabil’s departure paved the way for a fresh attempt at exploring the possibility of cooperative intelligence ties.

“The US had been encouraging both sides to start cooperation at the intelligence level, but deep mistrust between them was preventing forward movement,” the official noted.

Pakistan and Afghanistan frequently accuse each other of lacking sincerity in fighting terrorism and harbouring militant groups, but seldom cooperate to address those concerns.

Recently Pakistan alleged that the Jan 20 attack on Bacha Khan University in Charsadda was planned and directed by a terrorist group based in Afghanistan. The allegation has been denied by the Afghan authorities.

Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif, during his visit to Kabul on Dec 27, had agreed with his Afghan interlocutors to improve bilateral military relations following which the two militaries established a ‘hotline’ (direct telephonic contact) between their military operations chiefs and started exchanges of military delegations.