British leader David Cameron and Afghan President Hamid Karzai met Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf for the first time, as British and Nato combat troops prepare to leave Afghanistan in 18 months’ time.
At a joint news conference with Karzai earlier, Cameron warned the Taliban that the international community would continue to support the Afghan government after Nato troops pull out in 2014.
In further reiteration, Cameron signed a deal to build an officers’ training academy modelled on Britain’s Sandhurst as Afghan forces take increasing responsibility for the fight against Taliban insurgents.
Other issues were brought to the fore during the meeting. Raja Prevaiz Ashraf mentioned that Pakistan was hosting more than three million Afghan refugees and called for including the factor of their return in any future arrangements. He also pointed to illicit drug production and drug trafficking as major challenges and stressed for a comprehensive strategy for their control.
On the side, in-depth bilateral discussions were held between Ashraf and Karzai which were reported in Pakistan’s The Nation as focusing on:
…renewed commitment by the two countries to work together towards an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process involving the Taliban, Hezb-e-Islami and other armed opposition groups. The Pakistani side reaffirmed its support for the peace process and underlined its determination to redouble efforts in facilitating direct intra-Afghan contacts and negotiations.
The two leaders also recognised the importance of pursuing multiple channels of communication and contact with the Afghan Taliban and other armed opposition groups. In this context, they emphasised international support for the Afghan peace process and, in particular, welcomed the efforts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Turkey and other countries.
[In addition], the two sides highlighted the role of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council and looked forward to a successful visit to Islamabad by the chairman of the council. Both sides also agreed to resume regular meetings of the two-tier Afghanistan-Pakistan Peace Commission.
…The two leaders looked forward to the upcoming meeting of the Afghanistan-Pakistan-Russia-Tajikistan Quadrilateral Summit in Islamabad later this year.
On the economic front:
Highlighting the many complementary aspects of the two countries in promoting economic development and integration, the two sides reaffirmed full implementation of all bilateral agreements, such as the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) and the creation of Special Economic and Industrial Zones. The two sides agreed to extend APTTA as a first step to Tajikistan as part of the overall effort to promote regional economic cooperation. Both sides also emphasized the importance of early completion of work on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, the speedy implementation of the CASA-1000 power transmission line, and enhancing connectivity and upgrading rail and road infrastructure between the two countries.
On Pakistan’s Relationship with intra-Afghan groups:
Talking to the leaders of leading opposition coalition of Afghanistan National Front (ANF) at the Pakistan embassy in Kabul, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz said Pakistan has friendly ties with the ANF leadership. He said long term peace in Afghanistan was only possible through an intra-Afghan political settlement that includes all Afghan stakeholders.
Raja said Pakistan attaches great importance to its friendly relations with all Afghan ethnic groups and leaders. He said Pakistan would like these strong bonds to further strengthen. “We want to work closely with Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek leaders to strengthen our relations with these communities for stability in Afghanistan,” Prime Minister Ashraf said.
The prime minister acknowledged the role of ANF in Afghanistan and its efforts for long term stability and progress of their country. He said it was imperative to strive together for peace and stability in the region and political parties of all shades can play an important role in this regard.
The ANF leader Zia Masood urged Pakistan to play a role in the peace process in Pakistan. He categorically dispelled the impression that the Northern Alliance was not friendly towards Pakistan. He was also appreciative of the invitation extended by Prime Minister Raja Ashraf to their alliance to visit Pakistan and meet leaders of different political parties. He said his group has no issue of sovereignty or territorial integrity with Pakistan and said it was high time that both the countries put all their misunderstandings on the table and hold an honest discussion, for the best interest of their countries.