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Re­new­ing Pak-afghan bi­lat­eral ties

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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.

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