ISLAMABAD: In apparent signs of thaw in Pakistan-Afghan relations marred by a serious trust-deficit, the new Afghan president has accepted an invitation from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to visit Pakistan to ‘share his vision’ for ties between the two neighbours, officials said on Sunday.
The invitation was delivered to President Ashraf Ghani, who took over from Hamid Karzai earlier this month, by PM’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz during a daylong trip to Kabul on Sunday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement. President Ghani accepted the invitation and would visit Islamabad in the ‘very near future’.
President Ghani told Aziz that there was a historic opportunity to transform Pak-Afghan relations into a ‘warm and mutually beneficial’ relationship and expressed his keenness to share his vision for Pak-Afghan ties over the next five years with Prime Minister Nawaz.
“A new chapter has been opened in relations between the two countries today and I’m confident this will pave the way for close cooperation,” President Ghani was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the Afghan presidential palace. He underscored the need for better trade relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and called for more bilateral exchanges and talks to enhance cooperation in economic and security areas.
At the same time, the Afghan president called for ending the traditional ‘blame game’ between the two countries. “The time has come for practical steps for the establishment of peace… our countries should no longer depend on only issuing statements about peace,” he added. “We should stop trading accusations and bring about an atmosphere of trust.”
Promoting peace and stability is one of the priorities of Ghani’s government and it will not hesitate to take serious action to achieve this objective, the presidential palace’s statement said. “We will never let Afghanistan turn into a safe haven for terrorists.”
Sartaj Aziz conveyed felicitations on the peaceful transfer of power and formation of the national unity government in Afghanistan. He underscored Prime Minister Nawaz’s desire to build a comprehensive and enduring partnership between Pakistan and Afghanistan, marked by trust, understanding and close cooperation, and the premier’s belief that the two countries had a historic opportunity to move in that direction.
Aziz also underlined the importance of bilateral mechanisms for interaction at different levels in political, security and economic realms. He said Pakistan would fully support and facilitate Afghan efforts for peace and stability. He also emphasised the importance of enhanced trade and economic relations as well as regional connectivity for trade and energy.
Both sides agreed to hold bilateral meetings to enhance cooperation on security and economic issues. They also discussed Pakistan’s role in the peace and stability in Afghanistan and regional issues.
Apart from his meeting with President Ghani, Aziz also called on Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and conveyed Premier Nawaz’s cordial greetings and invitation to visit Pakistan at a mutually convenient date.
Appreciating the invitation, Abdullah said both sides must work closely to realise the opportunities to build a close, cooperative relationship. Matters relating to peace and security, trade and economic cooperation and regional cooperation were also discussed.
Aziz held separate meetings with Afghan Foreign Minister Zarar Ahmad Osmani and National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar. Apart from bilateral and regional matters, the discussions focused on the preparatory work for the President Ghani’s visit to Pakistan.
Relations between Islamabad and Kabul have remained tense over the past few months due to a growing trust-deficit between the two neighbours over the issue of dealing with militancy. Both countries accused each other for supporting proxies to create instability in each other’s country.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2014.