Islamabad, Kabul to work on energy projects
Advisor to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz told a seminar on ‘Afghanistan Reconnected: Linking Energy Supplier to Consumers in Asia’ in Islamabad on Wednesday.
“As a neighbouring and brotherly country, Afghanistan is close to us. Strong bonds of a common history, religion and culture reinforce our relations,” he said, adding discussions were in progress on extending the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) to Tajikistan.
He promised Pakistan, which has been hosting one of the largest refugee populations over three decades despite falling international support, would continue to support efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
“About three million Afghan refugees still live in Pakistan, out of which about 1.6 million are registered. Just last month, we signed the Tripartite Agreement with Afghanistan and UNHCR extending the stay of refugees till December 2015.
Preparations would be made for the return of the refugees to their homeland, he hoped, believing their early, and voluntary return, as well as sustainable reintegration, was possible if conducive conditions were created in Afghanistan.
Last week’s visit to Pakistan by President Karzai was helpful in building trust, enhancing mutual understanding, reaffirming the commitment to working together to promote peace and determining ways to strengthen bilateral relations, he said.
Finance ministers from the two countries agreed to work together on a number of energy and connectivity projects, reaffirming their commitment to further strengthening trade ties under APTTA.
“Our region is blessed with immense potentials in terms of natural resources which, if tapped efficiently, can yield benefits to the entire region. Afghanistan occupies an important position in the region, straddling Central, West and South Asia,” he remarked.
Notwithstanding its limited resources, Pakistan has been extending support for Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development through contributions to education, health and infrastructure projects worth $ 330 million.
Aziz said Afghanistan was ideally located to connect energy suppliers and users in its neighbourhood and beyond. For instance, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India gas pipeline (TAPI) and Central Asia South Asia (CASA-1000) are two such examples of projects which make Afghanistan a ‘connector’.
Next year’s political transition, through successful conclusion of presidential and provincial council elections, would be an important factor in stabilising Afghanistan, which would require financial support, including investment in its infrastructure and institutional development, he remarked.
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