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Pakistan to support Afghan-owned peace process: Sartaj

10 February, 2014

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister's Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz has said that Pakistan would continue to support the Afghan-owned reconciliation process for the sake of peace and stability in the region.

He was addressing a day-long international conference here on Pakistan, China and Afghanistan under the auspices of the Regional Peace Institute (RPI) at a local hotel on Sunday.

Sartaj Aziz said that Pakistan has no favourites in Afghanistan. He said that after the withdrawal of Nato forces‚ neighbouring countries would have an important role to play in the development of Afghanistan. He said China also has a significant role to play. Pakistan, he said, has taken several steps for the establishment of peace in Afghanistan in the wake of the request made by President Karzai and the Afghan Peace Council.

To a query Sartaj Aziz who was the chief guest said that the destiny of the region would change with the implementation of Pak-China economic corridor project that has been visualised by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Former foreign minister and RPI chairperson Mian Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri strongly argued for establishing a free trade zone between KPK and Afghanistan and said that it would help in curbing illegal trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan. He said a regional collaboration between Pakistan, China and Afghanistan could help ensure that Afghan territory is not used to destabilise another country. Afghanistan as an energy corridor offers the best space for exploiting the Central Asian resources for meeting the expanding needs of the energy-starved economies of the region, Mian Kasuri said.

"We have to take energy and infrastructure cooperation as top priority and push forward construction of China-Pakistan economic corridor. The bypass project of Attabad Lake of Karakorum Highway, the Gawadar Port East Bay Motorway, the reconstruction project of flood-damaged highway and China-Pakistan cross-border cable project could be the 'Early Harvest Projects'", Khurshid Kasuri added.

He said that Pakistan and China are determined to eliminate terrorism and have a proper mechanism of countering extremism. Both countries are also firm to pursue the goal of peaceful development of the region. Pakistan provides a natural corridor for regional growth by connecting Western China with the broader Asian region. China and Pakistan should re-inaugurate the old Silk Route, which will qualitatively change the regional economy and give it the much-needed boost.

The RPI-arranged conference 'China, Pakistan and Afghanistan: Regional Dynamics, Future Prospects' discussed ways in which Pakistan, China and Afghanistan can work together to improve peace and socio-economic stability in Afghanistan that will eventually ensure peace in the region.

Mian Khurshid Kasuri observed that Afghanistan faces three interrelated challenges: a weak national state, rising extremism, and the zero-sum regional politics that could fuel another civil war in the country. He said that economic cooperation among Pakistan, China and Afghanistan would help develop the region and also bring peace and stability to the region.

Others who attended and spoke at the conference included former ISI chief Lt Gen (r) Asad Durrani, former federal minister Ms. Shehnaz Wazir Ali, former foreign secretary Shamshad Ahmad Khan, Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) secretary general senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, Wang Zuoquan and Zhu Fagen (members of Chinese People's Association on Peace and Disarmament), Dr Azmat Hayat, Lt Gen (r) Talat Masood and Danish Ambassador to Pakistan Jesper Moller Sorensen.

Sartaj Aziz praised Khurshid Kasuri and RPI for taking the initiative to promote regional peace. Senator Mushahid Hussain said that there should be more cooperation among think tanks of China, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. He also said that the continuing presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan would fuel more strife in Afghanistan. He said that the most common element between Afghans and Pakistanis is that they are very resilient and tough nations.

Pakistan's former ambassador/high commissioner to Afghanistan and India Aziz Ahmad Khan said that it is important for the regional countries to have a regional perspective on how to help Afghanistan.

Chinese Ambassadors Sun Weidong, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and Ambassador of Argentine Rodolfo J. Martin Saravia, French envoy Philippe Thiebaud and ambassador of Denmark Jesper Moller Sorensen were also present at the conference along with many other foreign dignitaries from Afghanistan, China and the European Union.

End.

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