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The Nation

Published Date: Sep 4, 2013

Islamabad, Kabul to work on energy projects: Aziz

Adviser to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs,
Sartaj Aziz, has said that Islamabad is committed to continue working
with Kabul in pursuit of connectivity and energy projects linking
Pakistan with Central Asia.
This was stated by the adviser while
addressing a seminar on ‘Afghanistan Reconnected: Linking Energy
Supplier to Consumers in Asia’ organised by East West Institute here on
“As a neighbouring and brotherly country, Afghanistan is
close to us. Strong bonds of a common history, religion and culture
reinforce our relations,” he added. Aziz said discussions are also
continuing on extending Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement
(APTTA) to Tajikistan by finalising the Tripartite Agreement under
consideration of the three sides.
“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has
clearly underlined the government’s priority in terms of addressing our
energy needs in the short and long-term. We are keen on working with
Afghanistan as a conduit for energy supply,” he said. Afghanistan has
been facing conflict and instability for more than three decades. As a
neighbouring country, Pakistan has consistently faced the fallout of
this situation, he added.
It goes without saying that 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.”
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 Pakistan’s own economic
“About three million Afghan refugees still live in
Pakistan, out of which about 1.6 million are registered. Just last
month, we 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. 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,” Aziz said.
As a
nation, there are not many choices in terms of neighbours. However, one
can choose to have good-neighbourly relations to harness the synergies
for mutual benefit. It is in this context, that Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif has presented a vision of a peaceful and prosperous
neighbourhood, with stable and cooperative relations with all our
neighbours including Afghanistan.
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
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
At the meeting of the finance ministers on the occasion of
President Karzai’s visit to Pakistan, the two countries 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).
Afghanistan has
invited Pakistan for a joint investment in the Kunar Hydro Power
project whose design and feasibility have been completed. The project
will produce 1500MW electricity to be shared by the two countries.
and Afghanistan would pursue with World Bank the early finalisation of
170 KM Torkham-Jalalabad new rail link connecting Peshawar with
The two countries are also working on 11.5-km Chaman-Spinbolduk rail link that ultimately connects Chaman with Kandahar.
region is blessed with immense potentials in terms of natural
resources, which if tapped efficiently can yield benefits to the entire
region. Afghanistan occupies an important position in the region,
straddling Central, West and South Asia,” he said.
Pakistan is keen
to continue working with Afghanistan in pursuit of connectivity and
energy projects linking Pakistan with Central Asia. In this context,
discussions are also continuing on extending APTTA to Tajikistan by
finalising the Tripartite Agreement under consideration of the three
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.
Support of the
international community for Afghanistan’s reconstruction and
development is, therefore, crucial for reinforcing the efforts for peace
and reconciliation. Such support is required over the long term.
believe the Tokyo Conference is a step in the right direction in
meeting Afghanistan’s development needs in the coming years. Afghanistan
would also benefit from assistance in meeting its mutually agreed
targets under the Tokyo Framework,” he said.
Pakistan, for its part,
notwithstanding 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.
There can be no two opinions
about the critical role energy and connectivity have acquired for
economic development and reconstruction as well as economic activities.
is ideally located to connect energy suppliers and users in its
neighbourhood and beyond. For instance, 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. The downstream impact of such connectivity and
energy linkages would also support many other service and auxiliary
industries in Afghanistan and other countries involved in these
“We also believe that increased intra-regional connectivity
can unleash limitless opportunities for intra-regional trade and
commercial activities, with dividends to all the countries involved,” he
In order for Afghanistan to play the envisaged role, it would
require continued support, within and without. Internally, sustainable
peace and stability would be critical for the energy and connectivity
projects to take off.
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.
Next year’s
political transition, through successful conclusion of the Presidential
and Provincial Council elections, would also be an important factor.
would require financial support, including investment in its
infrastructure and institutional development, including health,
education and human resource development.
Afghanistan would also
benefit from technical support in terms of conceptualising, initiating,
operationalising, and sustaining the different energy and connectivity
projects. The involvement of external donors including the World Bank is
welcome, he said.
“I would like to underline that sustainability of
peace in the region can be ensured through economic development —
involving continued international engagement. Peace and stability in
Afghanistan are not only in Pakistan’s interest, these are also
essential for the success of the reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
For its part, Pakistan will 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,” he concluded.