Renewing Pak-afghan bilateral ties
As both the foreign ministers of Pakistan and Afghanistan have been promoting bilateral cooperation in diverse fields, there is renewal of a strong, robust and independent relationship that would greatly contribute to peace and stability in the region. In accordance with the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence, mutual respect and the UN Charter, the two sides held in-depth consultations to steer bilateral relations.
But these bilateral talks may become futile without assurances of a peace process. To achieve this, the Government of Afghanistan has requested for facilitation in specific areas. In this regard, it is believed that an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process is vital to achieve long-term peace, stability and progress in Afghanistan. This has been affirmed by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. “We want to see an independent, prosperous and stable Afghanistan. My government will support any solution which will not destabilize Pakistan as was the case last time when this country had to host three million Afghan refugees,” he said.
This progressive standpoint and increasing economic and commercial interaction between the two countries has created a sense of satisfaction Significantly, documented annual bilateral trade between the two countries has reached touched $2.5 billion and there is an agreement for further enhancement to achieve the target of $5 billion annual trade by 2015. As a major step, the two countries have also agreed to finalize an MOU on priority basis for abolition of visa for diplomats.
Also, in order to address the needs of various sectors, there is emphasis on working out a plan for promoting infrastructure and energy sector connectivity. The Peshawar-jalalabad and Quetta-kandahar railway links for the movement of goods and people between the two countries are also a subject of focus. To stimulate economic growth and trade, Pakistan and Afghanistan are jointly prioritizing the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-pakistan-india (TAPI) gas pipeline and CASA-1000 projects. This will greatly open avenues for joint trade and transit agreements with the Central Asian States.
According to Hafeez Shaikh, Pakistan’s Advisor on Finance minister, “We are working towards laying the foundation for a new growth model driven by domestic demand with a flexible exchange rate that moves in response to market forces with a more open, market-based economy and a more developed and diversified financial system.”
To achieve this multiple set of goals, the biggest challenges for Pakistan are to rebalance the economy for high economic growth, employment and reasonable price stability in an uncertain international economic and financial environment.
Pakistan is increasingly willing to further the cause of friendly relations with its neighbours and finds the shift in foreign policy with Afghanistan as critical to further promoting links between both countries and build intraregional trade, a prelude to social development of the people.