Statement by Sartaj Aziz at Sixth Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference to be held in Amritsar

Islamabad, December 04, 2016 (PPI-OT): H. E. Mr. Arun Jaitley, Minister of the Finance of Republic of India,

H.E. Mr. Salahuddin Rabbani, Foreign Minister of Afghanistan.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured to attend the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia – Istanbul process. I would like to express our appreciation to both co-hosts, Afghanistan and India, for organizing this important Conference.

My participation in the event, despite escalation on the Line of Control and the Working Boundary with India, is testimony to Pakistan’s unflinching commitment for lasting peace in Afghanistan and the region. I look forward to meaningful deliberations today towards this objective.

Pakistan deeply values the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process. Since 2011, this forum is making important contribution in the efforts to promote Afghanistan’s connectivity with neighbouring and regional countries for durable stability in Afghanistan. Pakistan proudly co-hosted this event in Islamabad last December and we continue to actively participate in meetings and CBMs of this process.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We need to make an objective evaluation of our efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan. We appreciate progress in many areas under the leadership of President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. Afghan security forces have firmly and bravely stood their ground in repulsing militant and terrorist attacks. The international community has reiterated its commitment of support to Afghanistan in the areas of security and economic development upto 2020. The Government and people of Pakistan stand in complete solidarity with the elected government and people of Afghanistan in furthering the objective of peace, stability and development in Afghanistan. We would do whatever we can to help achieve this objective.

The Afghan Government has also signed peace agreement with Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA). The implementation of this peace deal can serve as a model for talks with other insurgent groups in future.

At the same time we are cognizant that Afghanistan continues to face many serious challenges. The first and foremost in our view is continuing violence and acts of terrorism claiming scores of human lives. This needs to be addressed urgently and effectively through collective efforts. The security situation in Afghanistan is very complex. It is simplistic to blame only one country for the recent upsurge in violence. We need to have an objective and holistic view.

Secondly, the peace process for talks between Afghan Government and Taliban has not yet produced positive results. Pakistan has been making serious efforts for facilitating the peace talks through the QCG. We believe that all members of the QCG should continue their respective efforts for talks between Afghan Government and Taliban. In our view, there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict and all our efforts should be to achieve a politically negotiated settlement through an Afghan-led Afghan-owned process.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Regional connectivity can stimulate economic development. Towards this end, Pakistan is building its national rail, road and energy transmission network to meet with the growing regional transport needs. The focus is on modern, state of the art infrastructure including through the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). There is immense potential for connecting our transportation and energy infrastructure with Afghanistan, and other countries of West and Central Asia.

Our two countries are already part of CAREC’s planned transport corridors five and six. At the Global Sustainable Transport Conference in Ashgabat last week, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced Pakistan’s decision to join the Ashgabat Agreement and the Lapiz Lazuli Corridor. We also need to expedite energy connectivity projects including TAPI and CASA-1000.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Pakistan is committed to enhancing facilitation for transit of Afghan goods through Pakistan. We believe the two sides need to work together for extension of and improvements in the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA). In this context, let me emphasize that peaceful resolution of outstanding disputes will further improve prospects of regional cooperation and connectivity.

Pakistan has continued to host millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan for the past 3 decades. We are engaged with Afghanistan and UNHCR in the ongoing process of their return to their homeland with honour and dignity. We are working on plans to extend their stay in Pakistan to 31 December 2017 and keep their voluntary return smooth and orderly. It is important to focus on the projects for their sustainable reintegration in Afghanistan.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Regional cooperation plays an important role in ensuring political stability and promoting and deepening mutually beneficial economic interaction. In this context, SAARC is an important forum, not only for promoting regional cooperation but also for the improvement of relations. The postponement of the SAARC Summit scheduled in Islamabad in November 2016 was a setback to these efforts and undermined the spirit of regional cooperation.

In conclusion, I hope our deliberations would be constructive and focused on the efforts for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan, which is our shared objective.

Pakistan also welcomes the invitation of Azerbaijan to host the 7th Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia process in 2017 and looks forward to its active participation in this Conference.

Thank you very much.

For more information, contact:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Government of Pakistan
Tell: +92-51-9205494
Fax: +92-51-9204202
Cell: +92-336-5644459