Pakistan and Afghanistan – brothers in arms and in ink

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  • Sharif, Ghani agree to jointly fight terrorism, build economic cooperation, support regional connectivity through different projects
  • Two sides agree to hold next meeting of Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority (APTTCA) by December 2014, set target of bilateral trade at $5b by the end of 2017, agree to initiate negotiations on PTA

 

Pakistan and Afghanistan reaffirmed their resolve at the highest level to transform bilateral ties, build a relationship marked by close cooperation on political and security planes and a strong economic foundation as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani met in the federal capital Saturday.

The prime minister received the visiting dignitary on his arrival. On the occasion, the national anthems of both the countries were played. A smartly turned out contingent of armed forces presented guard of honour to the foreign dignitary.

Following the official welcoming ceremony at the Prime Minister’s House, the two leaders first had a one-on-one meeting and later led their respective sides at the delegation-level talks. The wide-ranging consultations between the two leaders covered all aspects of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations, situation in the region, and regional economic cooperation.

PM Sharif extended a warm welcome to President Ghani and conveyed cordial greetings of the people of Pakistan. He congratulated the Afghan president on successful democratic transition in Afghanistan and his assumption of office. He appreciated Ghani’s bold vision and strong leadership and wished him well in the realisation of his domestic reform agenda.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Sharif reaffirmed that a peaceful, stable, united and prosperous Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s vital interest. He outlined his vision of a strong, comprehensive and enduring partnership between the two countries and underscored the importance of multi-tiered bilateral engagement at political, security, economic, leadership and people-to-people levels.

A PEACEFUL AND PROSPEROUS REGION:

Reaffirming Pakistan’s resolve to fight terrorism and extremism, the prime minister highlighted the positive results of Operation Zarb-e-Azb. He underscored the importance of both sides working together to address common security challenges through common endeavours. He also reaffirmed Pakistan’s support for Afghan efforts for peace and reconciliation.

In the regional context, the prime minister highlighted his vision of a peaceful neighbourhood and Pakistan’s endeavours to build cooperative ties with all neighbours, including India. In this regard, he noted Pakistan’s commitment to purposeful dialogue and peaceful resolution of outstanding issues.

The prime minister also underscored the importance of regional economic cooperation, laying a strong emphasis on road and rail links and key energy projects including CASA-1000 and TAPI gas pipeline.

Sharif underlined Pakistan’s commitment to comprehensively upgrade cooperation in all fields – including border security and defence, Afghanistan’s reconstruction and rehabilitation, capacity building, parliamentary exchanges, and cultural, educational and sports links.

A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP:

President Ghani expressed his gratitude for Sharif’s invitation and conveyed greetings on behalf of the leadership of the National Unity Government and the people of Afghanistan. He appreciated the Pakistani PM’s vision for peace and democracy and the commitment to build a stronger partnership between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In his remarks, Ghani said partnership with Pakistan is important pillar of Afghan’s foreign policy. He said both the countries have taken fundamental steps to ensure regional connectivity through various projects, including gas and power.

Ghani affirmed the importance Afghanistan attached to forging a “special relationship” with Pakistan. In this context, he emphasized the importance of mutual trust and understanding, close political and security engagement, a comprehensive economic strategy, and increased regional economic cooperation.

Terming it an “enormous achievement”, Ghani said both Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed on a shared vision that could lead to the fulfilment of the dream of Asia’s integration. It would help connect South Asia with Central Asia and vice versa, he added.

Ghani said we have taken enormous steps in the last three days to achieve progress on the economy and we have overcome obstacles of thirteen years in three days.

Ghani also extended an invitation to the Pakistani prime minister to pay a visit to Afghanistan.

ON KEEPING A RECORD:

In the presence of the two leaders, the two finance ministers signed Agreed Minutes on matters relating to enhancing bilateral trade, promoting investment and joint production in designated free economic zones in Afghanistan, streamlining transit trade matters, provision of technical assistance, strengthening road and rail links, expeditiously completing as well as expanding reconstruction and capacity-building projects with Pakistan’s bilateral assistance, enhancing energy collaboration including joint ventures in petroleum sector, and facilitating Pakistan’s access to Central Asian markets.

Among other things, the two sides agreed to hold the next meeting of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority (APTTCA) by December 2014. It was also decided to provide an institutional platform for enhanced business and investment collaboration by forming a Joint Business Council.

The two sides also set the target of bilateral trade at $5 billion by the end of 2017. It was also agreed to initiate negotiations on a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA).

MEET THE PRESS, SHARE A SPORT:

After the signing ceremony, Sharif and Ghani had a joint press stake-out. The prime minister then hosted a luncheon in honour of the Afghanistan president and his entourage.

Later, the two leaders watched a friendly cricket match between the national “A” teams of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Ghani’s other engagements during the second day of his two-day visit to Pakistan included the planting of a sapling at Shakarparian and meetings with members of Pakistan-Afghanistan Parliamentary Friendship Group.

Moreover, the Punjab chief minister called on President Ghani. The ministers of commerce and textile industry also made a joint call on the president.