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The prime minister’s top aide on national security and foreign affairs Monday emphasised the need for joint and coordinated efforts to ensure peace

Heart of Asia: Sartaj Aziz Calls for Pooling Regional Resources for Peace

ISLAMABAD: The prime minister’s top aide on national security and foreign affairs Monday emphasised the need for joint and coordinated efforts to ensure peace and security in Afghanistan, and urged all the neighboring countries to pool their resources for peace and development in Afghanistan.

Sartaj Aziz also reiterated that the enemies of Afghanistan are Pakistan’s foes. The statement exemplifying the strong bond the two neighbours share was made on Monday during the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process: Senior Officials Meeting at the Foreign Office in Islamabad.

Aziz said the recent visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Kabul had added a new dimension to “our mutual commitment to creating a peaceful and prosperous neighbourhood in the region”.

The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was launched in 2011 to provide a platform to the countries in the region, including Afghanistan, to discuss efforts for bringing long-term peace and stability in the war-ravaged country.

Pakistan is co-chairing this year’s process with Afghanistan, which is the permanent co-chair. Fourteen participating countries – including China, Iran, Russia, India, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – 16 supporting countries and 12 international organisations, including the United Nations, are associated with the process.

The ministerial meeting of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process is scheduled to take place in Pakistan later this year.

“We are confident that we shall effectively deal with the challenges facing us today by mutual cooperation for moving forward on the path to peace, progress and prosperity,” Aziz told the participants.

He said that under the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process, Pakistan and Afghanistan shared a vision to build a comprehensive and enduring relationship based on trust and deeper cooperation in security and counterterrorism, trade and economic cooperation, energy and connectivity, support for reconciliation and regional cooperation.

“Afghanistan holds immense significance for Pakistan, not only because we share a common border or ethnic affinity, but also because together we can usher in a new era of regional connectivity and cooperation in line with the vision of the ‘transformation decade’ announced by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.”

Pakistan hopes to add to the dynamism and depth of the process by taking some tangible decisions that could help pace up the process of regional growth and prosperity, added the adviser. “We are firmly committed to ensuring that the transformation phase on which Afghanistan has embarked upon becomes a harbinger of regional growth and prosperity.”

‘Terror biggest challenge’

Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai told the meeting that terrorism was still the biggest challenge for the region.

“All of us are concerned over the growing insecurity in the region. Moreover, the security dynamics of our region are changing dramatically, with new threats emerging in the heart of Asia. We shall respond to these challenges collectively.”

A statement issued by the Foreign Office said in-depth discussions were held on the assessment of the security situation in Afghanistan and the Heart of Asia region.

Regional cooperation to address security challenges in the Heart of Asia region, Afghanistan’s peace and reconciliation process, and the role of the region in this process as well as the regional priorities for economic connectivity – including regional projects like CASA-1000, TAPI gas pipeline and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor – were also part of the discussion.

The lead and co-lead countries of the six confidence-building measures of the process briefed the meeting on the progress achieved so far.

They said there was a convergence of views that peace, security and stability were essential for socio-economic development and prosperity in Afghanistan and the region. “Therefore, the countries and organisations recognised the need to collectively strive for attaining these objectives to create a win-win situation for all,” added the statement.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2015.

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