Pakistan engages in strengthening ties with Afghanistan


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The Senate was told on Tuesday that Pakistan considered Afghanistan a brotherly neighbouring country and remained engaged in serious efforts for deepening and strengthening the relations.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in its written reply to a question, said issues being deliberated in the bilateral interaction included efforts for lasting peace in Afghanistan, friendly exchanges, border management, security and counter-terrorism cooperation, economic and trade interaction, transit trade and Afghan refugees.

Those issues were being dealt bilaterally with the Government of Afghanistan at all levels, it added.

The ministry said the government believed that promoting high-level exchanges with Afghanistan could contribute to strengthen mutual cooperation and collaboration in diverse areas.

The Prime Minister, it added, visited Afghanistan with a high level delegation in May 2015 and discussed the ways of enhancing mutual cooperation and coordination in different areas.

It said that the two countries remained engaged in efforts for politically negotiated settlement to bring lasting peace to Afghanistan.

As part of the efforts, a Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) was established in December 2015 involving Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China. The group is continuing efforts for early direct peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban.

The ministry said to effectively tackle the menace of terrorism, military to military cooperation was also being strengthened.

Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif visited Afghanistan a number of times in last two years with a view to strengthen security and counter-terrorism cooperation.

A hot line had been established between two DGMOs (Directors General Military Operation). Pakistan also continued to emphasize the need of effective border management for curbing cross-border terrorism.

It said Pakistan recognized that transit was an important subject for Afghanistan. It, therefore, continued to take measures to address delays in transit of Afghan goods through Pakistan under the Afghan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) of 2010.

A committee called Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority was working to tackle transit trade issues.

Bilateral trade, the ministry said, was an important matter of interaction between the two countries. The goal was to expand the trade to reach $ 5 billion.

Pakistan was also providing 3,000 scholarships for Afghan students while it was undertaking many health, education and infrastructure projects under $ 500 million bilateral economic assistance, it added.

The ministry said another important issue of the interaction remained Afghan refugees. Pakistan continued to host some 3 million Afghan refugees, including 1.5 million undocumented ones.

In this regard, Pakistan was closely engaged with Afghanistan and other international partners for working out a programme of voluntary and dignified return of Afghan refugees by creating pull factors inside Afghanistan, it added.

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