ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday pledged his government’s support to the Afghan president in his attempt to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table, a sign of warming ties between the two neighbours.
Terming the interests of both countries intertwined, Pakistan and Afghanistan renewed the resolve to strengthen the multifaceted ties and to give boost to trade, energy and economic linkages for a prosperous future of their peoples.
Prime Minister Sharif and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani made the statement at a joint press conference after holding extensive round of “in-depth consultations” at the PM House.
President Ghani said the partnership with Pakistan is an important pillar of Afghanistan’s foreign policy, adding this was a historical occasion to mend ties.
He said adoption of practical steps would improve the bilateral relations of the two countries, adding the Central Asia-South Asia Regional Energy and Trade (CASA) and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) projects would help link the two countries with Central Asia.
Ghani said both countries were on the same page for abolition of poverty and underdevelopment, adding people of both countries desired peace, stability and security.
The areas identified for cooperation included border security, defence, Afghanistan’s reconstruction, capacity building, parliamentary exchanges, and cultural, educational and sports links.
Prime Minister Sharif said, “We reaffirmed our resolve to forge a robust economic partnership – by expanding trade, promoting investment, improving infrastructure, building road and rail links and enhancing energy collaboration.”
He mentioned the earlier signing of the “Agreed Minutes of the Meeting” held between the two finance ministers that advances the realisation of this vital goal.
“We also agreed that connectivity and regional economic cooperation are the indispensable elements of our engagement. We envision trade, energy and communications corridors through trans-regional initiatives like CASA 1000 and TAPI Gas Pipeline,” Sharif said.
President Ghani said the “enormous steps” taken in the last three days had overcome the obstacles in ties between the two countries of the past 13 years.
Terming it an “enormous achievement”, Ghani said both Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed on a shared vision that could lead to the fulfillment of the dream of Asia’s integration. It would help connect South Asia with Central Asia and vice versa, he added.
“What we have agreed on is a shared vision where Pakistan and Afghanistan will serve as the heart of Asia to ensure that economic integration in Asia becomes a reality and does not remain a dream. And today we have taken fundamental steps to ensure that South Asia connects with Central Asia and Central Asia to South Asia.”
He also mentioned the benefit the two countries could reap through enhanced connectivity through energy, gas and oil pipelines.
“We must also overcome the past … and not allow the past to destroy the future,” Ghani said.
“We have begun a comprehensive dialogue on security so that all dimensions of our mutual security can be discussed, can be delineated, benchmarked processes can be arrived to build confidence.
He said the most fundamental part was that the governments and peoples of Afghanistan and Pakistan were going to shape the narrative- the narrative that is going to define the future.
“In this narrative, our people particularly the poorest of our people, the most neglected of our people are going to become stakeholders in a prosperous economy and in stable and peaceful countries.”
Ghani said “Our faiths are linked because terror knows no boundaries. Any instability in Pakistan affects us and any instability in Afghanistan affects you, and that’s where I think our common understanding of new threats will enable us to delineate pathways where actions will be concrete and speak louder than words and it is this focus.”
He said this renewed attention on ensuring that whatever is agreed upon was implemented and implemented consistently.
He invited Prime Minister Sharif to visit Kabul. “We look up on your next visit to prepare, to take even more gigantic steps. Steady, systematically and with a clear sense of direction and vision, we will move forward in the region and the world. We will be much richer as a result of our common endeavours and understanding,” Ghani said.
Ghani pointed out that democracy was being consolidated in the Muslim world. “The all parties consensus regarding the consolidation of democratic process in Pakistan and our successful election in Afghanistan and formation of government of national unity are signs that the rest of the world needs to understand that the Islamic world is on the move to resist IS [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] and other trends.”
He said the focus of policies of the Afghan unity government were on having good ties with the neighbours, regional countries, Asian region and the world at large.
“Pakistan will continue to remain our partner,” he said and acknowledged the fact that strong bonds between both the countries were vital for the region.
Sharif said he had been consistently emphasising Pakistan’s foremost priority of building a “peaceful neighbourhood”.
As its fundamental element, he said, he had vision of a strong, comprehensive and enduring partnership between Pakistan and Afghanistan – contributing to the security and prosperity of the two nations, and reinforcing efforts for peace and development in the region. He appreciated the fact that President Ghani had also a similar vision.
Sharif said both sides had recognised the historic opportunity to work together and build a stronger relationship – based on mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and marked by mutual trust, understanding and close cooperation.
Sharif said opportunities were immense and the two countries had yet to fully realise the vast potential of their peoples, and of their bilateral cooperation.
Sharif said he and President Ghani held in-depth consultations on all the issues and reaffirmed that a peaceful, stable, united and prosperous Afghanistan was in Pakistan’s vital national interest.
“I also reaffirmed Pakistan’s support for the intra-Afghan reconciliation process that the new government is initiating. This process, we agreed, must be fully Afghan-led and Afghan-owned,” Sharif said.
He said Afghanistan was about to commence the “transformation decade”.
“At this pivotal moment, I assure the brotherly people of Afghanistan that Pakistan will stand by them and support their endeavours for peace and progress.”
President Ghani welcomed assurance of Prime Minister Sharif and said a peaceful and stable Afghanistan was pivotal to enabling Asia to realise its historic opportunity of forming a continental economy.
Sharif welcomed the Afghan president and his delegation to Pakistan describing it as latter’s second home.
He felicitated President Ghani and Afghan people on peaceful transfer of power and the formation of the national unity government.
“This outcome owes much to the statesmanship of the new Afghan leadership and would further strengthen Afghanistan’s stability and national unity,” Sharif said.
Sharif and President Ghani earlier witnessed the signing of “Agreed Minutes of the Meeting” held between the two finance ministers – Hazrat Omar Zakhiwal of Afghanistan and Ishaq Dar of Pakistan – on Nov 13 in Islamabad.
The aides of President Ghani at the delegation level talks included Ahmad Zia Masoud, Special Envoy to the President, Muhammad Khan, First Deputy Chief Executive, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, National Security Advisor, Zarar Ahmad Osmani, Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, National Economic Advisor and Acting Minister for Finance, Shakir Kargar, Acting Minister of Commerce and Industries, and Janan Mosazai, Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan.
The Pakistan side led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif included Minister for Commerce Eng Khurram Dastagir Khan, Minister for Finance Muhammad Ishaq Dar, Minister for Interior Ch Nisar Ali Khan, Minister for Planning & Development Ahsan Iqbal, Adviser to PM on National Security & Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Special Assiatant to PM of Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Kabul Syed Ibrar Hussain and Special Assiatant to PM Fawad Hasan Fawad.
Earlier, Prime Minister also held one-on-one meeting with the Afghan President.