Sharif wants Pak-Afghan $5b trade volume target met till 2018
KABUL (Pajhwok): Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Monday his country attached great importance to its brotherly relations with Afghanistan and Islamabad was ready to help Kabul in its quest for peace and development.
In his meeting with Afghan Minister for Finance Eklil Ahmad Hakimi in Islamabad, Nawaz Sharif expressed satisfaction over the positive momentum in the bilateral relations under the leadership of President Ashraf Ghani and stressed that new understanding of brotherly ties between the two countries must be sustained and further strengthened.
Sharif welcomed the Afghan minister and members of Afghan delegation, who are Islamabad for the 10th Session of Pak-Afghanistan Joint Economic Commission.
The Pakistan premier claimed "Pakistan believes that a peaceful, prosperous and progressive Afghanistan is in the best interest of the country and the region".
Nawaz told the Afghan finance minister that there was a great scope for both Afghanistan and Pakistan to boost their bilateral trade and both sides should work strenuously to meet the Trade Volume target of US$ 5 Billion till 2018.
The prime minister also expressed his satisfaction over the resumption of work by Pakistani side on incomplete projects in Afghanistan’s health, education and other sectors and said that "Pakistan would extend all possible support to Afghanistan to accomplish all tasks in infrastructure development and energy sector to consolidate long term bilateral and regional partnership".
The Afghan finance minister thanked Nawaz for taking special interest in peace and development of Afghanistan. He stated that President Ghani shares the Nawaz Sharif's vision of economic development of the region through regional connectivity. Hakimi lauded the prime minister’s efforts to improve regional connectivity through rail and road links.
Referring to CASA-1000 and other connectivity projects, Hakimi stated that early realization of these projects will provide a win-win situation for all the countries of the region.
Federal Minister for Finance Senator Ishaq Dar, Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Secretary to Prime Minister Fawad Hasan and Foreign Affairs Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry were also present during the meeting.
The Afghan delegation comprised Adviser to Afghan President Homayoun Qaumi and Ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan Janan Mosazai.
Earlier addressing the Pak-Afghanistan Joint Economic Commission, Hakimi said Afghanistan attached utmost importance to its relationship with Pakistan.
He said President Ghani had underlined repeatedly and consistently that they considered Pakistan as a vital partner in security, economic development, political cooperation and people-to-people relations.
He said the clear, principled policy from their side was underpinned by the unique and very close ties of common history, faith, culture, traditions, language, geography and more. “As such, the destinies of our two countries are inseparably linked to each another.”
He said whatever happened in one country would have a direct, immediate, lasting impact in the other. “Therefore, as history, especially the past decade, has proven beyond any doubt, any insecurity, instability or violence in one country will have an immediate adverse impact on security, stability and peace in the other. Likewise, security and peace in one country will have a significant salutary effect on the situation in the other.”
He said similarly the two countries were vital to each other’s economic growth and development as well as to the larger goal of win-win regional economic integration centred around Afghanistan and Pakistan.
As President Ghani pointed out during his historic visit to Pakistan exactly a year ago, Hakimi said Afghanistan and Pakistan could easily become the lynchpin of an Asian continental economy, linking Central Asia with South Asia and China with West Asia and beyond, thus realising the noble goal of meaningful, deep economic integration and lifting millions of our citizens out of poverty and underdevelopment.
But he said when it came to practical follow up and implementation, both countries neither matched the shared strategic vision of their leaders nor had they delivered satisfactorily on the scope of the decisions they had made. “In my humble view, the work that we have done in the past one year since the historic visit of President Ghani to Islamabad, we could have actually done in three months.”
He said at the moment, the two countries were performing significantly below the potential that existed between them. “In our view, we are also not utilising the element of time to its maximum potential, either.”
He said they failed to achieve the targets that they had set for themselves last year. “We have not delivered on our agreements and decisions and commitments, including on Afghan transit trade through Pakistan. What we hear from our traders is that the same problems that plagued Afghan transit trade through Karachi last year are the same problems and challenges that they have faced this year.”
The minister said they had not pursued strategic connectivity and energy projects with the vigour and enthusiasm that they could. “And, I believe, still can. If we can make concrete progress on even one or two major road, railway or energy projects that our people can see, we will manage to change perceptions and misapprehensions about the trajectory of this relationship easily and almost immediately.”
“The same goes for investment promotion. We are keen to encourage and support closer linkages between and among Afghan and Pakistani investors to promote investments in both countries, including through joint ventures.”
Hakimi said they must make sure that all relevant state and government institutions acted in unison in the implementation of decisions and agreements.
“We can agree to establish a high-level joint team to meet and speak at least once a week in person or via video conference to follow up on implementation of decisions. We are also very much open to other suggestions and ideas in this regard.”
He said in areas where they could make significant progress in the immediate and medium-term through a concerted, consistent, high-level strategic focus included Afghan transit trade connectivity, especially in the areas of road, railway and energy projects, including the Chaman-Spink Boldak railway, Peshawar-Jalalabad railway and Peshawar-Kabul motorway.
He said they were keen to expand transit trade arrangements in the region with Afghanistan and Pakistan at the centre. “In this connection, we are keen to finalise the Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan trilateral transit trade agreement simultaneous with the inclusion of Wahga-Attari access and facility for Afghanistan.”
Hakimi said in addition to federal government, Afghanistan was keen to work with provincial governments of Pakistan to strengthen and expand bilateral economic ties and take maximum benefit of the truly vast potential that exists.
“In this connection, I would like to reiterate our desire for the establishment of a Consulate General in Lahore, which we have requested already. As you’re aware, we have already held constructive and useful discussions with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, and we look forward to working more closely with the other three provinces.”
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