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Stable Afghanistan key to peace in region

10 February, 2014

ISLAMABAD: A day-long conference in Islamabad on Sunday stressed the need for regional countries to walk hand-in-hand to ensure peace and improve socio-economic conditions in Afghanistan that will eventually bring stability to the whole region.

"Cooperation between Pakistan, China and Afghanistan will help ensure that Afghan territory is not used to destabilise another country," said former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri at the conference, titled 'China, Pakistan and Afghanistan: Regional Dynamics, Future Prospects', organised by the Regional Peace Institute (RPI). Kasuri, who is also chairman of the RPI, said that economic cooperation among Pakistan, China and Afghanistan will trigger development in the region and also help bring peace and stability.

The former minister said Afghanistan faces three interrelated challenges in the wake of planned US withdrawal from Afghanistan. "A weak national state, rising extremism and the zero-sum regional politics could fuel another civil war in the country," Kasuri said, and suggested that 'Reintegration and Reconciliation Strategy' will be the best approach if post-US pullout uncertainties are to be avoided. "For Afghan reconciliation and rehabilitation process, a three-pronged strategy is need: 1) at international level, 2) at regional level, 3) national level," he said.

Kasuri said Afghanistan as an energy corridor offers best space for exploiting the Central Asian resources for meeting growing needs of the energy-starved economies of the region. Establishing a free trade zone between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Afghanistan will help curb illegal trade between the two countries, he said. Kasuri said all regional countries need to cooperate in order to turn the challenges into opportunities and to tackle the Afghan crisis peacefully.

He said prospects of Pakistan-China collaboration in Afghanistan are very bright. "Islamabad and Beijing have convergent interests in seeking an outcome that ensures that Afghan territory is not used to destabilise another country. Both agree that sustained international support for Afghanistan is necessary to build peace and promote regional stability." Kasuri said the construction of proposed railways projects will connect Pakistan to the Xinjiang province in China and will enhance the capacity of transportation between the two countries. "In this context, we should also think along the similar lines and forge a partnership encompassing Afghanistan, Pakistan and China to boost regional peace and economy," he said.

The former minister said two countries need to take energy and infrastructure cooperation as top priority and push forward for construction of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. "The bypass project of Attabad Lake on Karakorum Highway, the Gwadar Port East Bay Motorway, the Reconstruction Project of Flood-Damaged Highway and China-Pakistan Cross-Border Cable Project could be the early harvest projects," he said.

Kasuri said Pakistan and China have commonality of views on issues of regional and global significance and both are important strategic partners. The two countries are determined to eliminate terrorism and want to pursue goal of peaceful coexistence and development in the region. "Pakistan provides a natural corridor for regional development by connecting Western China with the Asian region. China and Pakistan should restore the old Silk Route which will qualitatively change the regional economy and give it the much-needed boost," he said.

Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security and chief guest of the ceremony Sartaj Aziz said relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan had improved significantly in the recent past. He said both countries have realised that mutual cooperation and mutual trust was key to bringing peace in the region. "People in Kabul and people in Islamabad have recognised that only the policy of 'no favourites and no intervention' can restore peace in both countries and the whole region as well."

Aziz Ahmad Khan said it was important for the regional countries to develop a regional perspective on how to help Afghanistan. Mushahid Hussain said continued presence of troops in Afghanistan will fuel strife in Afghanistan. He said peace talks with Pakistani Taliban was a positive move. "It seems that Taliban groups are willing to keep peaceful ties with all neighbours," the senator said. He said think tanks of China, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan should work more closely.

Madam Chen Huaifan, who is leading a delegation of the Chinese People's Association for Peace and Disarmament (CPAPD), Shamshad Ahmad Khan, Lt Gen (r) Talat Masood and Lt Gen (r) Asad Durrani also spoke. Ambassadors of Argentina, China, France and Denmark also attended.

End.

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