At the invitation of President Hamid Karzai, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif visited Afghanistan today. The Prime Minister was accompanied by a high-level delegation comprising Advisor on National Security and Foreign Policy Mr. Sartaj Aziz, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Mr. Tariq Fatemi, Mr . Mahmood Khan Achakzai, Foreign Secretary, Secretary Planning and Development and other high ranking officials.
During the visit, the Prime Minister and the President of Afghanistan had a one-on-one meeting, followed by delegation-level talks. The two leaders later addressed a Joint Press Stakeout. President Karzai hosted a lunch in honour of the Prime Minister, which was attended by the Afghan Cabinet Ministers, notables from cross-section of Afghan society, and members of the diplomatic corps in Kabul.
The meetings were held in a warm and cordial atmosphere. The two leaders had extensive and in-depth consultations on bilateral relations, Afghan peace and reconciliation process, and situation in the region with particular reference to NATO/ISAF troop drawdown in 2014.
The Prime Minister reiterated his conviction that peace and stability in Afghanistan are in Pakistan’s vital interest. He reaffirmed Pakistan’s strong support and facilitation for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process. The Prime Minister emphasized that an inclusive political settlement remained central to ensuring sustainable peace in Afghanistan.
The Prime Minister underlined Pakistan’s commitment to fight extremism and terrorism, which remained a formidable challenge faced by both countries and the region. He assured President Karzai that Pakistan would also help reinforce regional efforts in support of Afghanistan. The Prime Minister further stressed that the international community should stay engaged for the reconstruction and economic development of Afghanistan.
President Karzai underlined the importance Afghanistan attached to its relations with Pakistan, continued cooperation to address common challenges including extremism and terrorism, and efforts to strengthen bilateral cooperation in diverse fields. The President of Afghanistan further underlined the importance of Pakistan’s endeavors to support the Afghan peace and reconciliation process and deeply appreciated Pakistan’s efforts for the promotion of this objective.
As a gesture of solidarity with the brotherly Afghan people, the Prime Minister announced to enhance Pakistan’s commitment of assistance for reconstruction and socio-economic development in Afghanistan from US $ 385 million to US $ 500 million.
It was also agreed to enhance connectivity between Pakistan and Afghanistan, including through a motorway between Peshawarand Kabul and rail links between Peshawar and Jalalabad and Chaman and Spinbolduk. Both sides committed to accelerate the realization of trans-regional projects including CASA-1000 and TAPI gas pipeline.
The Prime Minister expressed his resolve to further deepen and broaden the Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relationship in all spheres. He stressed that bilateral relations must be underpinned by a strong trade and economic partnership. The Afghan side reciprocated the desire to deepen the bilateral relationship, with a particular focus on expanded trade, economic cooperation, and trans-regional projects for connectivity. Both leaders pledged efforts to enhance bilateral trade to US $ 5 billion by 2015.
Mr. Salahuddin Rabbani, Chairman of the High Peace Council (HPC), alongwith a delegation, also called on the Prime Minister. The delegation was assured that Pakistan would continue to extend all possible support to facilitate peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. The HPC thanked the Prime Minister for extending wholehearted support to the peace process in Afghanistan.
The Prime Minister’s visit to Afghanistan was part of the efforts to build cooperative ties with all of Pakistan’s neighbors that would contribute to the realization of his vision of a peaceful and prosperous neighborhood.
Earlier, at the invitation of the Prime Minister, President Hamid Karzai had visited Pakistan on 26-27 August 2013.
The Prime Minister’s visit has carried forward the positive momentum in bilateral relations. The two sides are committed to work together to promote the shared objectives of peace, stability and economic development in the region.