Sunday October 17, 2021

Neighbours discuss how to engage with Taliban

The participants of the meeting expressed determination for promoting peace, security and stability in Afghanistan and the region

September 17, 2021

DUSHANBE: Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours — Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan — Thursday met here to deliberate on how to engage with the Taliban from the platform of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Council of Heads of State (SCO-CHS).

Prime Minister Imran Khan Thursday held several meetings with the international leaders on the sidelines of the 20th SCO-CHS meeting. Among these included a meeting with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said.

The two leaders exchanged views on the situation in Afghanistan. Imran underscored that Pakistan had a vital interest in a peaceful and stable Afghanistan affected by conflict and instability for over 40 years.

He stressed that the international community "must stand by the Afghan people, help avert a humanitarian crisis, and take steps to stabilise the economy". He reiterated Pakistan’s full support to efforts for stabilisation of Afghanistan and hoped that the international community will also play a positive role in this regard.

The two leaders also discussed mutual efforts for strengthening Pakistan-Belarus relations and exchanged views on regional and international issues. Reviewing the bilateral relations, Imran expressed satisfaction over the growing cooperation between the two countries.

He said Pakistan was "committed to further enhancing its relations with Belarus across all fields of mutual interest, including trade, investment, agriculture, industry and defence". It was also agreed to enhance bilateral exchanges at the highest parliamentary and political levels.

The two sides noted that the visit of the Belarus foreign minister to Pakistan later this year would contribute significantly to consolidation and further expansion of bilateral cooperation in diverse fields.

The prime minister renewed his invitation to President Lukashenko to visit Pakistan. President Lukashenko also invited the prime minister to visit Belarus at the earliest convenience and presented him souvenirs from his country.

The premier also met with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Imran underscored the importance of peace and stability in the country for Pakistan and the region and stressed that the international community must "remain engaged to support the Afghan people, to address urgent humanitarian needs, and take steps to stabilise the economy".

He stressed that sustainable peace and security in Afghanistan would contribute to regional peace, connectivity and progress. The two leaders also exchanged views on bilateral relations and discussed key regional and international issues.

"The leaders affirmed the commitment to enhance Pakistan-Kazakhstan relations in diverse fields particularly trade, investment and transportation links," it read. The statement said the prime minister underlined that Pakistan resolves to comprehensively upgrade engagement with Central Asian countries through its “Vision Central Asia” policy.

The prime minister further emphasised the importance of connectivity and Pakistan’s "pivotal position in providing the shortest access route to the sea", the statement said. The premier also highlighted the significance of the Trans-Afghan railway project connecting Termez-Mazar-e-Sharif-Kabul-Jalalabad-Peshawar.

The prime minister also elaborated his vision of socio-economic development and shifting country’s priority from geo-politics to geo-economics. To promote regional integration, the two sides also decided to enhance connectivity through land and air routes, said the statement.

The two leaders agreed to increase the frequency of high-level political exchanges and the premier renewed the invitation to President Tokayev to visit Pakistan. President Tokayev, in turn, extended an invitation to the prime minister to visit Kazakhstan.

Furthermore, the prime minister met Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on the sidelines of the SCO summit. Prior to the bilateral meetings with foreign leaders, the prime minister addressed the Pakistan-Tajikistan Business Forum organised by the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) and TDAP where businessmen from Pakistan and Tajikistan were in attendance.

"I believe we have representatives of 67 Pakistani companies here in Dushanbe," he noted. More than 150 Tajik companies also participated in the Forum. According to a statement from the PM Office, a large number of B2B meetings were held among companies representing textiles, pharmaceuticals, leather, fruits and vegetables, processed food, transport and logistics, construction, education, tourism and mining.

Fifteen MOUs were signed for joint ventures and many orders were booked by Pakistani exporters, the statement said. The Forum began with welcoming remarks by the Qodirzoda Sadi, Chairman of the State Committee on Investments and State Property Management of the Republic of Tajikistan, followed by a speech from Advisor to the PM on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood.

Dawood said the objective of Pakistan was regional connectivity & enhanced regional trade. He said the visit of President of Tajikistan to Pakistan in June this year provided impetus to the historical ties between the two countries. “We want to follow examples of ASEAN and EU in enhancing intra-regional trade and connectivity.”

He said, “You trade through our seaports and we will trade through your land routes. There are a lot of challenges and it will take time, but we need to work together to overcome these problems. We want to have joint ventures in textiles, pharmaceutical sectors & logistics sectors.”

He said, “Private sector is the engine of growth, the driver of growth. I want to tell the business community that we are here in Tajikistan to make it easy for you to enter Central Asian markets and we are exploring all the sectors”.

The Business Forum was then addressed by PM Imran Khan and Deputy Prime Minister of Tajikistan. Prime Minister Imran Khan invited Tajik businessmen to invest in Pakistan.

He appreciated the cheap hydro power generated by Tajikistan and said Pakistan expects early materialisation of CASA 1000 project. The prime minister appreciated signing of business deals and MoUs.

He also informed the Forum that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan was extremely important for regional connectivity and Pakistan will work together with Tajikistan and other neighbouring countries of Afghanistan to support the process of peace, progress and prosperity.

The prime minister added that the advancement of these objectives would also enhance connectivity and benefit the region. On the sidelines of the Business Forum, the 4th meeting of Tajikistan-Pakistan Business Council was held.

The JBC meeting was co-chaired from the Tajikistan side by Akhunzadeh Jamshed, Chairman of Tajikistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and from the Pakistani side by Zahid Shah, Vice President Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry. In the meeting cooperation in textiles, pharmaceuticals and logistics sector was discussed.

Earlier in the day, PM Imran Khan was accorded a red carpet welcome by Tajik Prime Minister Kokhir Rasulzoda who arrived at the airport to receive him. The premier is accompanied by a high-level ministerial delegation, including Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

The SCO summit is the first meeting of the heads of states since the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul and all eyes will be on the Afghan representative at the meeting. Afghanistan has an observer status and has been striving for full membership of the organisation.

After attending the SCO-CHS, the prime minister will hold talks with the Tajik president. The talks will cover the entire gamut of bilateral relations, especially enhancing trade, economic and investment ties with a particular focus on regional connectivity.

The two countries have earlier expressed a strong commitment to enter into a formal strategic partnership. "Pakistan and Tajikistan enjoy close brotherly relations underpinned by the bonds of common faith, history and culture. The two countries have shared perceptions and a common desire to promote economic development, peace, security and stability in the region", the Foreign Office had said earlier.

"The prime minister has been invited by President Emomali Rahmon and this will be his third visit to Central Asia underlying Pakistan’s enhanced engagement with the region,” said the Foreign Office while announcing the visit.