ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan and Pakistan are vital to each other and it is important to advance the goal of mutual cooperation at the state level through dialogue, said speakers from the two countries at a discussion held here on Monday.
The Pakistan-Afghanistan Track 1.5/II initiative called “Beyond Boundaries”, is a joint initiative of the Islamabad-based Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), and Duran Research and Analysis (DRA), Afghanistan, an effort to improve relations between the two countries.
The CRSS Executive-Director, Imtiaz Gul, said that there was a need for lessening the tensions between the two countries.
“It is an extremely important process to create a buy-in from all the stakeholders on both sides. We have to understand each others’ perspectives and recognise the ground realities governing the bilateral relations,” he said.
He also stressed the need for detoxification of long-held narratives.
Aarya Nijat, policy analyst at Duran, seconding the host’s view termed the event a perfect forum and initiative for building trust and bridges, underscoring the need for more Afghanistan-Pakistan track-II initiatives.
Afghan Ambassador Janan Musazai said that his government fully supported bilateral cooperation. “Both countries are vital to each other. There are many commonalities that exist between both the countries, and we need to build on them,” he said.
The envoy said that at the state level it was critically important to further cooperation. He highlighted that the dialogue and talks were the way to finding solutions and effective strategies.
Musazai expressed his delight that after a very long time any civil society group working in Afghanistan had come to Pakistan for talks.
“Enhancing people-to-people relations are not a side priority of the Afghan government but a core priority,” he stated.
The ambassador said that the civil society in Afghanistan could become an important stakeholder in improving relations between the two countries.
British High Commissioner Philip Barton while underpinning the need for better relations between the two neighbours, said that his government was very happy to support the initiative.
“Dialogue is very important and this is the best time to hold dialogue since the security forces at both sides are working hard, and have taken a major offensive against extremism to ensure security,” he added.
Barton, while citing the example of the resolution of the conflict in Northern Ireland, said dialogue held the key to peace in this part of the world too.
Commerce minister Khurram Dastagir said that Pakistani government also fully supported dialogue between the two countries. “We have to reckon with the fact that there exists mistrust and hostility between the two countries…. Despite thousands of people-to-people interactions,” he remarked.
Dastagir seconded the Afghan ambassador that both countries were equally vital for each other.
He said that it was Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s strong desire to end years of hostility between the two countries.
M. Ziauddin, senior journalist said that Pakistan had a lot to learn from Afghanistan since it was a much older nation.
He said that it was important to discuss the role of media in peace making. He regretted that it was not easy for the Pakistani media to play the role of a peacemaker, and claimed that a lot of hostility existed in the attitude of people across the border.
He further said that Pakistan and Afghan media needed to put an effort to find the truth as to why citizens of the two countries were treating each other the way they were treating. The media in the two countries needs to find common ground and emphasis commonalities, Ziauddin said.
Documentary filmmaker, Samar Minallah said that the importance of exchange of art and culture should not be ignored.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 10th, 2015.
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