ISLAMABAD: Amid speculation over the trajectory of the reconciliation process in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has underlined his support for “a meaningful process, wherein both the Afghan Government and the Taliban can move forward, in a spirit of accommodation and reconciliation.”
“I would like to reiterate Pakistan’s commitment and desire to facilitate the resumption of the stalled reconciliation process. In this regard, Pakistan is ready to extend support to a meaningful process, wherein both the Afghan Government and the Taliban can move forward, in a spirit of accommodation and reconciliation,” Mr Sharif said at the Heart of Asia conference in Islamabad on December 9.
In remarks that will be carefully scanned in India, the Pakistan leader singled out the US and China for their role in moving the reconciliation process forward. “We deeply appreciate the support of our friends for the Afghan reconciliation process. We believe that the association of China and the US in the reconciliation process has been instrumental in moving the process forward. Pakistan looks forward to continued engagement in achieving positive results in the reconciliation process,” he added.
Regional counter-terror cooperation
Stressing on the need for a collective approach to combat terrorism, Mr Sharif said terrorism was the common enemy of Pakistan and Afghanistan. He spoke about the need to move forward and insisted on the finalisation of border management SOPs at an early date, which will be helpful in containing movement of terrorists across the border. “It is my conviction that without peace and security, countries of our region cannot achieve the desired socio-economic development. The scourge of terrorism that has been plaguing our region for many years requires a firm and coordinated response on the part of all of us,” Mr Sharif said.
“Afghanistan is the heart of Asia and if there is trouble in the heart, the entire region will be turbulent,” Mr Sharif said.
Addressing the issue of the threat of new terror groups like Daesh (Islamic State), Mr Sharif asked the countries in the region to strengthen their resolve against terrorism. “We should envisage collective and coordinated measures on the regional security front, to ensure that the gains in the struggle against terrorism are durable and irreversible,” Mr Sharif said.
The Pakistani leader also underlined his country’s commitment to “strengthening its relations with all its neighbours and regional countries, as well as promoting regional cooperation and connectivity.”
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is representing India at the Heart of Asia conference. In her speech, the minister had sought cooperation from Pakistan in stabilizing Afghanistan, but there was no mention of India in Mr Sharif’s speech. India has conveyed concerns about the course of the Taliban reconciliation process and reiterated that the red lines – the Taliban must accept Constitution, the Taliban must abjure violence and cut off links with al-Qaeda – must be respected by the international community.
Pakistan has been involved actively in the reconciliation process between the Afghanistan government and Taliban. The reconciliation process has been stalled after an increase in terror attacks by Taliban in Afghanistan.
During his address, Mr Sharif also alluded to plans to boost connectivity and infrastructure in the region. “Processes like RECCA, based on the concept of building east-west and north-south linkages add to the dimensions of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process. Regional projects like CASA-1000, TAPI, Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor are a few other mega projects with a promise of changing the economic landscape of the region,” Mr Sharif said.
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