The first ever trilateral dialogue between think tanks of China, Afghanistan and Pakistan was held in Beijing under the joint auspices of China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) and Pakistan-China Institute.
This track II dialogue was attended by diplomats, strategist and researchers from China, Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the ambassadors of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The three neighbours sat together on one platform to jointly discuss the prospects of peace, security and stability in the region, in the context of the upcoming withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.
In his opening remarks, Pakistan-China Institute Chairman Mushahid Hussain Sayed, who initiated the Trilateral Conference of think tanks, said time had come for Asian hands to shape Asia’s destiny in the 21st Century, adding the decisions regarding the future of the region would no longer be crafted in Washington, London and Brussels but in the region itself.
In any case, the balance of economic and political power was shifting from the west to the east, with the evident loss of clout of the west. He referred to the New Regionalism that was emerging and introduced the concept of a ‘Greater South Asia’ emerging beyond the sub-continent as an economic entity that now includes countries in the vicinity such as China, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Iran, whose cooperation is woven together through energy, economy, pipelines, road and rail links.
Elaborating the socio-cultural aspects of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan he added that all three neighbors have stakes in peace and apart from geography, there is a history of shared heritage that brings them together.
Senator Hussain welcomed the proactive role of China on Afghanistan and said all neighbours of Afghanistan were committed to protecting the independence, unity and territorial integrity of Afghanistan.
The leader of Afghanistan delegation, Sayed Hamed Gilani, appreciated the historic role of Pakistan during the 1980s of welcoming five million Afghan refugees on the soil of Pakistan.
And he said that these bonds of brotherhood between Pakistan and Afghanistan had become permanent since the two neighbours were determined to forge a future together.
He stressed that people of Afghanistan could never forget the open hearted help during the hour of need during Soviet-Afghan war.
Former Ambassador of China to Pakistan, Zhou Gang, who was also member of the Policy Advisory Group, categorically stated that the US “should not maintain in Afghanistan its military presence and military bases in the future”.
The veteran Chinese diplomat also expressed his concern regarding the future of Afghanistan and said “activities of terrorism, extremism and separatism were being spread abroad to threaten the security and stability of Pakistan, Central Asian countries and the Xinjiang, Autonomous Region of China”.
The head of Afghan Institute of Strategic Studies, Dr Davood Muradian, announced that the signing of Bilateral Strategic Agreement between the US and Afghanistan was almost complete, and this would provide a legal framework for continued deployment of 20,000 American troops in Afghanistan, adding that similar agreements were in the offing with the UK, Germany, Norway and other NATO countries.
Ali Sarwar Naqvi, a former ambassador, said Pakistan and Afghanistan had shared culture, dreams of development and prosperity which could be achieved by developing mutual understanding and trust and working together in new era.
Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, president PILDAT, said the people of Pakistan viewed China as the most trustworthy friend, while US had damaged its credibility after Abbotabad incident.
Dong Manyuan, vice president of China Institute of International Studies, said China would enhance bilateral multidimensional cooperation with Afghanistan as neighbours and a good friend.
Regarding Pakistan, he said the international community must acknowledge the sacrifices rendered by the Pakistani people, adding China supported the strategy of Pakistan to combat terrorism.
During the various sessions, issues of influence of India in Afghanistan, reconstruction work in Afghanistan, regional cooperation and investment opportunities in Afghanistan, China Pakistan Economic Corridor, withdrawal of NATO forces in 2014 and its impact on China, Pakistan and Afghanistan, capacity of Afghan Army, role of Taliban in Afghan peace process, also came under discussion.
The closing session ended with positive remarks and tremendous appreciation for the intellectually stimulating input by the participating scholars, diplomats, researchers on various aspects of trilateral cooperation between Afghanistan, China and Pakistan.