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The Financial Daily

Published Date: Sep 5, 2013

Isb says Kabul already on board for regional peace

The
Advisor to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs
Sartaj Aziz Wednesday assured the international community that Pakistan
was committed to work with Afghanistan and regional and international
partners to promote the common goals of peace, stability and prosperity
in the region and beyond.
Addressing a seminar organized by
the East West Institute "Afghanistan Reconnected: Linking energy
suppliers to consumers in Asia" the Advisor said a peaceful, stable and
prosperous Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s vital national interest. "We
remain committed to supporting efforts for peace and reconciliation in
Afghanistan in an inclusive, Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process," he
added.
He said, the two countries had agreed to work together
in a number of energy and connectivity projects besides reaffirming
their commitment to further strengthen trade ties under the
Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA).
He said
Afghanistan has invited Pakistan for a joint investment in the Kunar
Hydro Power project whose design and feasibility have been completed.
He said the project will produce 1500 MW electricity to be shared by the two countries.
Aziz
said Pakistan and Afghanistan would pursue with World Bank the early
finalization of 170 KM Torkham-Jalalabad new rail link connecting
Peshawar with Jalalabad. He said the two countries are also working on
11.5 KM Chaman-Spinbolduk rail link that ultimately connects Chaman with
Kandahar.
"Our region is blessed with immense potentials in
terms of natural resources, which if tapped efficiently can yield
benefits to the entire region and Afghanistan occupies an important
position in the region, straddling Central, West and South Asia," he
added.
The Advisor said Pakistan is keen to continue working
with Afghanistan in pursuit of connectivity and energy projects linking
Pakistan with Central Asia.
In this context, he said
discussions are also continuing on extending APTTA to Tajikistan by
finalizing the Tripartite Agreement under consideration of the three
sides.
He said as a country struggling to emerge out of
decades of instability, Afghanistan is expected to face serious
challenges, which can be overcome through a sustained effort involving
financial and technical support, infrastructure and human resources.
He
said support of the international community for Afghanistan’s
reconstruction and development is crucial for reinforcing the efforts
for peace and reconciliation.
Sartaj Aziz said, "We believe
the Tokyo Conference is a step in the right direction in meeting
Afghanistan’s development needs in the coming years."
He said
Pakistan despite its limited resources, has been extending support to
Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development through contributions
primarily to education, health and infrastructure projects in
Afghanistan, worth US$ 330 million.
He said Afghanistan is
ideally located to connect energy suppliers and users in its
neighbourhood and beyond. He said Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan,
India gas pipeline (TAPI) and Central Asia South Asia (CASA-1000) are
two such examples of projects which make Afghanistan a ‘connector’.
These
projects hold substantial economic advantages for Afghanistan, in
addition to speeding up its own reconstruction and development efforts,
he added.
The Advisor said successful security transition by
the end of December 2014, and assumption of full responsibility for
peace and stability by the Afghan National Security Force and Afghan
National Army would help the country prepare a helpful environment for
the pursuit and development of energy and connectivity projects.
He
said next year’s political transition, through successful conclusion of
the Presidential and Provincial Council Elections, would also be an
important factor. He said Afghanistan would require financial support,
including investment in its infrastructure and institutional
development, including health, education and human resource development.
He
said Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan are reinforced by strong
bonds of a common history, religion and culture. He said that Prime
Minister Nawaz Sharif has clearly underlined the government’s priority
in terms of addressing energy needs in the short and long term.
"We are keen on working with Afghanistan as a conduit for energy supply," he added.
Aziz
said Afghanistan has been facing conflict and instability for more than
three decades. As a neighbouring country, he said, Pakistan has
consistently faced the fall out of this situation.
He said for
over three decades, Pakistan has been host to one of the largest
refugee populations in the world, despite dwindling international
support and in spite of economic difficulties.
Aziz said about
three million Afghan refugees still live in Pakistan, out of which
about 1.6 million are registered. He said just last month, Pakistan has
signed the Tripartite Agreement along with Afghanistan and UNHCR
extending the stay of refugees till December 2015.
 "We hope this time will be used to prepare for the return of the refugees to their homeland," he added.
The
Advisor said, "We continue to believe that their early, honourable and
voluntary return, as well as sustainable reintegration, is possible if
conducive conditions are created inside Afghanistan."
He said
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has presented a vision of a peaceful and
prosperous neighbourhood, with stable and cooperative relations with all
neighbours including Afghanistan.
He said last week’s visit
to Pakistan by President Karzai at the invitation of the Prime Minister
was part of this vision. The visit was helpful in building trust,
enhancing mutual understanding, reaffirming the commitment to work
together to promote peace and reconciliation, and determining ways to
strengthen bilateral relations.
Sartaj Aziz said the Prime
Minister also underscored Pakistan’s desire to comprehensively upgrade
the bilateral relationship with Afghanistan, defined by a ‘strong trade
and economic partnership.’
 "We envisage this partnership to be placing a strong emphasis on energy and connectivity projects," he added.