It is a real pleasure to visit Kabul again. I am grateful to my dear brother, President Hamid Karzai, for his gracious invitation. We deeply appreciate his warm and generous hospitality, that is so characteristic of Afghan traditions.
I bring with me the most cordial greetings of the people of Pakistan for their Afghan brothers and sisters. As we know, geography alone does not bind us.
Our fraternal ties spring from common bonds of faith, kinship, culture and history. These commonalties are reinforced by our joint resolve to build a better and a more hopeful future for our two countries and the region.
I wish to make it absolutely clear: Pakistan desires a friendly and good-neighborly relationship with Afghanistan -- based on the principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. A peaceful, stable and united Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s vital interest.
It is in this perspective that I have placed the highest priority on constructive engagement with Afghanistan from the outset. Our vision of a peaceful and prosperous neighborhood can only be realized by having peace and stability in Afghanistan and by forging cooperative ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
It is gratifying that we are making consistent progress on these counts. President Karzai’s visit to Pakistan last August made a significant contribution to this process. I am confident that my present visit to Afghanistan would help carry forward the positive momentum.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
We stand at the threshold of a consequential year in Afghanistan’s history. In 2014, the Afghan people would take major steps towards becoming the masters of their own destiny. We welcome this milestone and wish our Afghan brothers well.
Everyone recognizes that the opportunities presented by 2014 would be accompanied by formidable challenges as well. It is, therefore, in everyone’s interest to ensure that the security and political transitions in Afghanistan are completed as peacefully as possible.
In our view, the key to sustainable peace in Afghanistan, 2014 and beyond, is an inclusive political settlement. That is why Pakistan has steadfastly supported an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process.
I take this opportunity to, once again, urge all the stakeholders to seize this moment and join hands to support the peace efforts. It is imperative to reverse the destructive cycle of conflict. This is the time to take decisive steps for moving forward the dialogue process and bringing it to a successful conclusion.
I have assured President Karzai that Pakistan would continue to extend all possible facilitation for the Afghan peace process. We hope that others in the region would also work to reinforce efforts for the stabilization of Afghanistan. The international community must also stay engaged to help Afghanistan’s reconstruction and economic development.
Bilaterally, I have always placed a central emphasis on building a strong trade and economic partnership. Today, we reviewed the progress being made in advancing that goal and in developing a comprehensive, multi-dimensional relationship that serves the long-term interests of our two peoples.
I am pleased that our Parliamentary dialogue is deepening and people-to-people exchanges are expanding. This year, another batch of 600 Afghan students is joining thousands of other Afghan students to pursue higher studies in Pakistan.
In another gesture of solidarity with the brotherly Afghan people, we have decided to enhance our commitment of assistance for reconstruction and socio-economic development in Afghanistan from US $ 385 million to US $ 500 million. The additional amount of US $ 115 million would be utilized to complete ongoing projects and initiate new ones.
We have also extended the stay of registered Afghan refugees upto December 2015.
In the regional context, trade, energy and connectivity are the essential components of our economic cooperation agenda. We both agree that there are huge opportunities for promoting closer commercial, energy, infrastructure and communications links. We have committed ourselves to accelerating the realization of trans-regional projects, including CASA-1000 and TAPI gas pipeline.
I conclude by stressing that everyone, especially Pakistan, has a vital stake in Afghanistan’s success in its journey to peace and development. I re-assure you that Pakistan will stand by and support the Afghan people every step of this way.
I also re-affirm my commitment to continue to work with President Karzai in advancing our shared objectives of peace, progress and prosperity in the region and beyond.
I thank you!