Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs on Monday declared that “enemies of Afghanistan are enemies of Pakistan” and the two neighbours have resolved to root out the menace of terrorism through co-ordinate efforts. Inaugurating the first senior officials’ meeting of the Heart of Asia- Istanbul Process here, the Adviser said that peace and prosperity in the region – an essential element for socio-economic development – can only be achieved in an environment of trust and mutual confidence.
He said that Pakistan was firmly committed to ensure that the transformation phase on which Afghanistan has embarked upon becomes harbinger of regional growth and prosperity. He said that Afghanistan holds immense significance for Pakistan, not only because we share a common border or ethnic affinity, but also because together we can usher in a new era of regional connectivity and regional co-operation in line with the vision of transformation decade enunciated by President Ashraf Ghani.
Referring to the bilateral relations with Afghanistan, he said that the positive trajectory of our bilateral relations with Afghanistan, particularly since last year, has lent vigour to the initiatives taken at collective fora. He pointed out that the Prime Minister’s visit to Afghanistan in 2013 and visit of President Ashraf Ghani to Pakistan in 2014, proved to be milestones in strengthening our deep-rooted friendship with Afghanistan.
“The recent visit of Prime Minister to Kabul has added a new dimension to our mutual commitment for creating a peaceful and prosperous neighbourhood in the region,” he said, adding that we see our collective efforts for peace and reconciliation as the ultimate culmination to bring about a lasting settlement of the conflicts that has been raging, in one form or the other, for the last three decades. The Adviser said that the two countries have also resolved to eliminate terrorism through co-ordinated efforts. “We have agreed that the enemies of Afghanistan are enemies of Pakistan. We are confident to effectively face the challenges that face us today by mutual co-operation for moving forward on the path to peace, progress and prosperity,” he added.
Aziz further said that inspired by a famous poem of Allama Iqbal the term “Heart of Asia” (Qalb-e-Asya) refers to Afghanistan’s location at the intersection of Asia’s three regions viz. South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East. While terming it Heart of Asia, he said that Iqbal rightly identified that Afghanistan will be the determining factor in the peace and stability of the region in times to come and that problems in this country, if not addressed effectively, would spread to the whole region. “It is heartening to note that today this initiative is thriving at a rapid pace and has gained unprecedented momentum within just four years of its inception,” he said. He said that the co-chairs of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process share a vision to build a comprehensive and enduring relationship, based on trust and deeper co-operation in security and counter-terrorism, trade and economic co-operation, energy and connectivity, support for reconciliation and regional co-operation.
“We hope to add to the dynamism and depth of the process by taking some tangible decisions that could help pace up the process of regional growth and prosperity,” he said. Aziz further said that the willingness of participating countries in consolidating their efforts for implementation of projects envisaged for enhancement of economic connectivity would give a boost to regional prosperity.
A joint initiative of Afghanistan and Turkey, the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was established in November 2011 to provide a platform to discuss regional issues, particularly encouraging security, political, and economic co-operation among Afghanistan, its neighbours and regional partners in facing common threats, including counterterrorism, counternarcotics, poverty, and extremism, inter alia, through a set of six Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). Fourteen participating countries, 16 supporting countries and 12 regional and international organisations are associated with the process.
Pakistan is the co-chair of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process for 2015 along with Afghanistan, which is the permanent co-chair. As the co-chair, Pakistan will host later this year a Ministerial Conference that will adopt Islamabad Declaration on the theme “Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process: Enhanced Co-operation for Countering Security Threats and Promoting Economic Connectivity”. This Conference will be preceded by three Senior Officials meetings to contribute to thought process for formulation of Islamabad Declaration.
According to a Foreign Office statement, the meeting was co-chaired by Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry and Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Hekmat Khalil Karzai, It stated that in-depth discussions were held on assessment of security situation in Afghanistan and the Heart of Asia region; regional co-operation to address security challenges in the Heart of Asia Region; Afghanistan’s peace and reconciliation process and role of the region in this process as well as regional priorities for economic connectivity, including regional projects like CASA-1000, TAPI gas pipeline and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.