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October 27, 2020

PM Imran Khan says tried his best to make friends with India

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday said Pakistan would continue to cooperate and strengthen its ties with Kabul regardless of who takes the office.

Addressing a two-day seminar ‘Pakistan-Afghanistan Trade and Investment Forum 2020’, the prime minister said: "Peace in Afghanistan is inevitable for regional peace and prosperity. It is the Afghan people’s prerogative to elect officials and choose the government.” He termed Afghanistan a ‘natural trade partner’ of Pakistan, adding that "his dream is to have an ‘open trade border’ with the neighbouring country to fully capitalise the scope of bilateral ties".

He said open trade border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, on the pattern of Europe’s trade linkages among bordering states, would help boost economic activity for the mutual prosperity.

Expressing apprehensions about India, Imran Khan said it could play a negative role in tarnishing growing relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan. He said the incumbent Indian government was the worst example of fascism despite its tall claim of being the largest democracy, adding that the international organisations and the United Nations (UN) had started to raise concerns over the Kashmir issue.

Modi-led Indian government is bent upon inflicting atrocities on innocent Kashmiri people, the PM said, adding that minorities had been under continuous suppression. “It [lockdown] is the worst example of suppression and barbarity,” he remarked.

“India has never seen a government so anti-Muslim. The RSS propagate ethnic cleansing of Muslims,” Imran said, adding that “I know India the best. “Because of cricket, I have many ties and friendships there, so I tried a lot in the beginning until I realised the ideological differences. But we will keep on trying,” he said, and added that the current hateful campaign against Muslims in India was unprecedented. “Over eight million Kashmiris are in an open jail. So, we are suspicious of New Delhi using Afghan soil to design terrorist activities to destablise Pakistan,” said the PM. “Yet, we have decided to accept and cooperate with whoever Afghan people bring to power.”

The premier said Afghanistan had been a part of the Mughal empire. “The nomads would travel from Central Asia to India and back for economic activities. Even the official language of the Mughal court was Persian.” He recalled that Pakistan and Afghanistan had been enjoying cordial relations for centuries as the two countries share religious and cultural traditions. He regretted the 40-year-old conflict in Afghanistan and stressed that Pakistan was the second-most affected country “especially in the last 18 years”.

“Those who stuck in the past ruin their future,” the PM remarked. He said it was time to analyse the gains and losses of the past. “Pakistan has learnt from the history that no foreign force can influence the narrative in Afghanistan. Afghans make their own decisions. Outside interference has never been successful.” He said: "No country other than Pakistan is making utmost efforts to restore peace in Afghanistan for the sake of its own future.”

Imran Khan said future of Pakistan and Afghanistan depended upon their unity, mutual trade and enhanced economic interlinks, and stressed the need for facilitating Afghan trade and investors as both countries had huge potential of investment and economic activities. “Economic revival will bring employment. We need to focus on wealth creation by allowing industries and backing business community.”

Wolsi Jirga (Afghan Parliament) Speaker Mir Rehman Rehmani appreciated efforts of the Pakistani government for supporting Afghanistan for bringing peace there. He said Afghanistan highly valued its ties with Pakistan as both countries shared religious and cultural values. He said his delegation would actively participate in finding ways to promote trade ties with Pakistan during the two-day forum.

There is a need to capitalise on the potential of both countries as the two countries have vast opportunities of trade and investment, he said, adding that both the countries could progress and develop together through mutual cooperation. He appreciated steps taken by the Pakistan government to facilitate Afghan transit trade. Opening of new border points for trade would further facilitate the traders, he added.

Parliamentarians, business community, experts and relevant ministries of both sides highlighted important issues and proposed solutions to the problems being faced by the business community on both sides.

The Afghan side highlighted significance of bilateral trade with Pakistan and said the business community was making sincere efforts to develop strong bond of friendship through economic cooperation which had been reciprocated by Pakistan. Candid discussions were held to remove barriers and overcome hurdles impeding bilateral trade. Some solid recommendations were also floated by both the Pakistani and Afghan counterparts during the discussions. These discussions would help formulate recommendations for future course of action.