Peace and stability in Afghanistan vital for region’s socioeconomic development, says FM Bilawal

Published May 6, 2023
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto addresses a joint press conference with his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang in Islamabad on May 6. — Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto addresses a joint press conference with his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang in Islamabad on May 6. — Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto on Saturday stressed the importance of “peace and stability in Afghanistan” for the region’s socioeconomic development and vowed to work together with all stakeholders, including China, towards its achievement.

Addressing a joint press conference with his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang in Islamabad, Bilawal said: “In our dialogue today, we also noted the peace and stability in Afghanistan remains vital for socio-economic development, connectivity and prosperity in the region.

“We will continue to work together with all stakeholders for peaceful, stable, prosperous and united Afghanistan,” he asserted.

A day ago, the foreign ministers of China and Afghanistan arrived in Islamabad to participate in bilateral and trilateral meetings on a range of issues, including security and the economy.

Later on Saturday, the three foreign ministers held the fifth China-Pakistan-Afghanistan Trilateral Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with “productive discussions on political engagement, counter-terrorism, trade and connectivity”.

The ministry said Pakistan looked forward to advancing the common agenda of the three countries for regional cooperation under a trilateral framework.

The Chinese minister — who is on a two-day visit — had called on President Arif Alvi on Friday, where both sides resolved to work together to promote regional peace and prosperity as well as jointly cope with external challenges.

Meanwhile, Acting Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi’s four-day visit is a continuation of Pakistan’s political engagement with Afghanistan, which, among other things, included Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar’s visit to Kabul in November last year and a visit of a high-level delegation led by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif in February.

Pakistan voices support for China ‘on all its core issues’

Today, Bilawal highlighted the long-standing friendly relations between Pakistan and China: “Our two countries have stood with each other for decades and would continue to stand with each other in the decades to come.

The minister reiterated Pakistan’s firm support for China “on all its core issues, including One-China policy, Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and the South China Sea”.

“Pakistan remains profoundly grateful to China for its generous and timely assistance as we continue to grapple with the headwinds in a global economy,” he added.

Bilawal further termed the Pakistan-China friendship as “irreversible”, “a historic reality”, and a “consensus choice of the two nations”. He added: “Pakistan remains against bloc politics or great power competition of any kind.”

“We are committed to remaining engaged with China to promote south-south cooperation, especially in light of emerging global concerns like human-induced climate change,” he vowed.

Talking about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Bilawal said it remains a “win-win economic initiative open to all investors around the world”.

The minister said Pakistan reiterated its “abiding commitment to its [CPEC’s] high-quality development”.

Bilawal further said: “CPEC remains a shining example of the Belt and Road Cooperation, which is accelerated socioeconomic development, job creation and improvement of the people’s livelihoods in Pakistan.”

Bilateral talks

According to a statement issued from the Foreign Office (FO), the two foreign ministers reviewed the entire range of bilateral relations and cooperation, including in political, strategic, economic, defence security, education and cultural domains, as well as regional and global issues of mutual interest.

“The two sides agreed to further strengthen Pakistan-China strategic relations amidst profound regional and international changes. The foreign ministers expressed satisfaction at the growing momentum in high-level exchanges between Pakistan and China while reaffirming the need for convening important bilateral sectoral engagements.

“The two foreign ministers underlined that Pakistan-China friendship was a historic reality and conscious choice of the two nations. As ‘All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partners’, Pakistan and China enjoy complete mutual trust, and their iron-clad friendship enjoys complete consensus in both countries,” the FO statement added.

The two sides also hailed CPEC as a “shining example” of Belt and Road cooperation which had accelerated socio-economic development, job creation and improvement of people’s livelihoods in Pakistan.

Reaffirming their commitment to high-quality development of CPEC, both sides noted with satisfaction the steady progress of CPEC projects. The two sides reiterated the key significance of ML-1 project under the CPEC framework and agreed to advance its earliest implementation.

They also agreed to actively advance the Karachi Circular Railway alongside key areas of cooperation including, inter alia, agriculture, science and technology, IT, and renewable energy.

“Acknowledging industrialisation as highly conducive to long-term sustainable economic growth and development, they also agreed to work together in the guidance of the Framework Agreement on Industrial Cooperation to actively advance industrial cooperation. Both sides reiterated that CPEC is an open and inclusive platform for win-win cooperation and invited third parties to maximise benefits from CPEC.

“The Pakistani side expressed gratitude to the Chinese side for its economic and financial support, and its generous assistance package for post-floods reconstruction and rehabilitation.

“The two sides reiterated their firm resolve to counter terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Acknowledging the endeavours and sacrifices made by Pakistan in fight against terrorism and extremism, the Chinese side appreciated the measures taken by Pakistan to ensure enhanced security of Chinese projects, personnel and institutions in Pakistan, as well as the steps taken to apprehend and bring to justice the perpetrators targeting Chinese nationals in Dasu, Karachi and other attacks. The two sides agreed to further build on the cooperation in security and counter-terrorism domains,” the press release reads.

Earlier today, Bilawal appreciated China’s “principled and just stance” on the issue of India-occupied Kashmir as well as its “firm support for Pakistan’s territorial integrity”.

Addressing a delegation-level meeting with China at the Foreign Office (FO), Bilawal said, “We deeply appreciate China’s firm support for Pakistan’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and national development as well as China’s principled and just stance on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.”

The minister stressed upon the importance of Pak-China relations: “There is absolute unison when it comes to the Pak-China strategic partnership. I can assure Your Excellency that this sentiment is shared by everyone in Pakistan for China and the great Chinese nation.

“China can always count on Pakistan as its most reliable partner and trusted friend. Friendship with China is the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy. The centrality and criticality of Pakistan’s all-weather partnership with China cannot be overstated,” Bilawal asserted.

He termed Chinese assistance and support in the evacuation of Pakistani nationals from Sudan as a “recent manifestation of our friendship”.

Bilawal earlier welcomed his Chinese counterpart to Islamabad.

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