ISLAMABAD: The foreign ministers of Pakistan, China, and Afghanistan have reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen trilateral cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and jointly extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan.

Following the trilateral dialogue, the three sides issued a joint statement, expressing their determination to leverage Afghanistan’s potential as a hub for regional connectivity.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang of China, and Acting Foreign Minister Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi of Afghanistan participated in the dialogue representing their respective countries.

During the meeting, the three foreign ministers emphasised the significance of ongoing projects such as CASA-1000, TAPI, and Trans-Afghan Railways, highlighting their potential to boost regional connectivity and promote economic development and prosperity in the region.

The three parties emphasised the need to advance “hard connectivity” in infrastructure and “soft connectivity” in norms and standards.

They agreed to explore measures to facilitate the movement of people and trade activities. They also decided to boost transit trade through the Gwadar Port.

Three states vow to prevent TTP, ETIM from using their territories to harm security; need to avoid interference in Afghan affairs stressed

The foreign ministers acknowledged that a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan is in the best interest of the region. They emphasised the critical role of trilateral cooperation in promoting this objective.

The three sides agreed to further deepen and expand their cooperation in the domains of security, development, and politics, guided by the principles of mutual respect, equal-footed consultation, and mutual benefit.

The three parties highlighted the importance of addressing security challenges that pose a significant threat to regional and global security, and directly impacting the stability and economic prosperity of the entire region. They agreed to coordinate on security matters, including organised crime, drug smuggling and others.

They called upon the international community to strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation, and provide the necessary supplies, equipment, and technical assistance to relevant countries in this regard.

The three sides stressed the importance of preventing any individual, group, or party, including the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), from using their territories to harm or threaten regional security and interests or carry out terrorist activities. They also stressed the need to avoid interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs and instead focus on promoting peace, stability, and reconstruction in the country.

Highlighting the need to boost economic activity in Afghanistan, the ministers emphasised the significance of exploring feasible pathways towards reviving the Afghan economy.

As a step towards this goal, they agreed to consider additional support for the reconstruction of Afghanistan and exploring trilateral investment opportunities that promote industrialisation and job creation.

Expressing the solidarity with the people of Afghanistan they stressed the crucial need for sustained and urgent humanitarian support, including bridging funding gaps for humanitarian operations. They underlined that humanitarian support for the people of Afghanistan should not be linked to any political considerations.

They expressed satisfaction with the current trilateral cooperation and agreed to carry out exchange and training programs, as well as strengthen people-to-people exchanges by implementing trilateral programs in line with the List of China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Practical Cooperation Projects adopted by the foreign ministers during this dialogue.

The three sides reiterated their cooperation in areas of mutual interest, such as economic development, capacity building and improving livelihoods. The ministers agreed to enhance cooperation in agriculture, trade, energy, capacity building and border management.

The ministers also urged the international community to engage constructively with Afghanistan, acknowledging the efforts made under various mechanisms and formats, including the Neighboring Countries of Afghanistan, to promote dialogue and constructive engagement with the Afghan Interim Government.

The ministers also urged the international community to provide assistance to Afghanistan in countering narcotics effectively and developing alternative crops to enhance its capacity for independent and sustainable development.

They called on the relevant countries to lift their unilateral sanctions against Afghanistan, return assets overseas for the benefit of the Afghan people, and create opportunities for economic development and prosperity in Afghanistan.

Taking note of the Afghan Interim Government’s repeated assurances to respect and protect women’s rights and interests, they called on the international community to support the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan and to help Afghanistan improve governance and strengthen capacity building to effectively protect the basic rights and interests of all segments of Afghan society, including women and children.

The ministers expressed gratitude to neighbouring countries, especially Pakistan, for hosting millions of Afghan refugees and providing them with generous hospitality.

They called on the international community to provide necessary support and assistance to these countries and Afghanistan for the dignified return and reintegration of refugees into Afghan society.

The three sides emphasised their commitment to continuing the trilateral cooperation mechanism, including the Director-General Level Practical Cooperation Dialogue, and to forging closer, good-neighbourly relations and partnerships.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2023

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