Pakistan, China upbeat over Afghan peace prospects

Sartaj Aziz meets Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing

Kamran Yousaf April 30, 2016


Pakistan and China will continue to work closely with Afghanistan’s government to bring about peace and stability in the war-torn country, despite President Ashraf Ghani’s recent statement that Kabul will no longer seek Islamabad’s help in the reconciliation process.

The announcement came after a meeting between China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz in Beijing on Friday.

Will no longer seek Pakistan’s help in peace talks: Afghan president

Aziz is in China to attend the 5th foreign ministers’ meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA). He met the Chinese minister on the fringes of the summit.

The two top diplomats reviewed bilateral ties and exchanged views on regional and international developments, including the current situation in Afghanistan, a statement issued by Pakistan’s Foreign Office said. It added that there was “complete convergence of views between the two sides on regional and international developments.”

“It was agreed that Pakistan and China will continue to work closely with the Afghan government in its efforts to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan,” said the FO statement. “In this context, the two sides recognised the importance of promoting the Quadrilateral Consultative Group (QCG) in facilitating an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process.”

The statement came at a time when relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have once again deteriorated after the recent attack in Kabul which killed at least 64 people. In the aftermath of latest terrorist attack, Afghanistan’s President Ghani came down hard on Pakistan and said his country will no longer seek its help to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.  Instead, Ghani asked Pakistan to honour its commitment by taking a military action against the Afghan Taliban.

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Pakistan officially has so far not reacted to Ghani’s latest outburst. Officials in Islamabad said Pakistan will not indulge in any war of words with the Afghan government as such a situation would only strengthen hands of those who do not want improved ties between the two neighbours.

While recent developments including Kabul attack are seen as a major setback to the Afghan peace process, Pakistan and China have not given up yet bringing the insurgents to the negotiating table.

This week, the Afghan Taliban confirmed that its three-member delegation is currently visiting Pakistan to discuss Afghan refugees and other issues of mutual interest. Although, the Taliban statement did not say if the delegation would discuss peace efforts, sources said the primary objective of the visit was to explore the possibility of reviving the process.

While the Afghan president reminded Pakistan to honour its commitment in fighting the terror, the Chinese foreign minister was full praise of Islamabad’s action against terrorist groups. The FO said he conveyed appreciation for sacrifices of Pakistan in countering terrorism and for its strong resolve in eliminating this menace.

On bilateral relations, both Wang Yi and Aziz expressed satisfaction at the pace of progress on implementation of agreed projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).  “They agreed that CPEC is an economic game changer for the region and would contribute to the objective of evolving a community of shared destiny by bringing benefits to not only Pakistan and China but to the entire region,” the statement said.

They also agreed that on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations, the two countries shall enhance their partnership in all spheres with particular focus on people-to-people contacts and exchanges between the parliaments, think- tanks, academia, media and students.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2016.