ISLAMABAD, Sep 15 (APP): President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday said that strengthening and expanding multifaceted cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan and among the regional countries was a key to the regional stability, security and economic development.During his meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai here at the Aiwan-e-Sadr on Wednesday evening, President Zardari said that the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan had reached new levels.However, he said, there was a need to strengthen bilateral institutional arrangements for the promotion of durable and mutually beneficial cooperation in diverse fields including security, development, trade, economic and investment linkages, infrastructure and energy connectivity and people to people exchanges.
Those who were present during the delegation level meeting included among others Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Minister for Foreign Affairs, General Abdul Rahim Wardak, Minister for Defence, Dr. Rangeen Dadfar Wardak, National Security Advisor, Dr. Hazrat Omar Zakulwal, Minister for Finance, Dr. Anwar-ul-Haq Ahadi, Minister for Commerce, Asadullah Khalid, Minister of Border and Tribal Affairs, Majnoon Gulab, Charge d’affaires, besides other senior Afghan officials.
The Pakistan side included Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Interior Minister Senator A. Rehman Malik, Minister for Food and Agriculture Nazar Muhammad Gondal, Finance Minister Hafeez Sheikh, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, M. Salman Faruqui, Secretary General to the President, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, Pakistan’s Ambassador in Kabul Muhammad Sadiq Khan and other senior officials besides Ms.
Ispahani and the Spokesperson to the President Farhatullah Babar.
Briefing the media, Spokesperson to the President Farhatullah Babar said that the President thanked his Afghan counterpart for the valuable assistance to rescue and relief efforts for the flood victims.
The President especially mentioned and appreciated assistance in cash, provision of helicopters by the Afghan government, medicines, the services of the medical teams and the Afghan businessmen who made valuable contributions in this regard.
He said that Afghan gesture of helping the people in need indicates the strong bonds that exist between the people of the two countries.
Farhatullah Babar said that while discussing situation in Afghanistan, President Zardari highlighted the fact that a stable, peaceful and economically sound Afghanistan was in Pakistan’s own interests.
The President appreciated the efforts and the progress made under President Karzai’s leadership towards stabilizing Afghanistan.
He said that Pakistan supports the roadmap as articulated in the Kabul Conference.
He said that “we believe that military operations alone cannot restore and guarantee peace and stability and the international community should follow a holistic approach combining military, political and developmental tracks”.
The President said that a viable reconciliation was vital for durable and long-term peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan was supportive of an Afghan-led and inclusive political reconciliation process.
He appreciated the efforts of President Karzai towards peace efforts and bringing opposition groups in the political mainstream.
Discussing regional security situation, President Zardari underlined the need for the two countries to work more closely and for concerted and coordinated efforts since the two countries were faced with the common challenges emanating from terrorism and extremism.
In this regard, the President also suggested initiation of a bilateral security dialogue to build closer coordination among security agencies of the two countries. He said that Pakistan was ready to assist Afghanistan in capacity building in all fields.
He said that Pakistan has always called upon the international community and the coalition partners to accord priority to combat drug threat, which was the major source of funding of militants, and to focus on creating windows of opportunities for the people who are affected by the menace of terrorism in order to address the issue effectively.
He said that Pakistan has always advocated an integrated approach ranging from promoting alternative livelihood and agriculture development to eradication of drugs needs to be adopted by the international community to counter militancy.
The President said the excellent equation being enjoyed by the leadership of the two countries must serve to provide momentum to the efforts for strengthening bilateral on one hand and to amicably resolve any issue that comes in the way forward, on the other.
The President said a complete consensus among the leadership of the two countries on strengthening institutional engagement and developing strong institutional arrangements in order to establish, promote and deepen regular high level bilateral dialogue between the relevant institutions in diverse areas was a no small achievement.
He said that security, counter-terrorism, economic cooperation, trade and investment, infrastructure development and connectivity, energy linkages were among the top priority areas to further enhance mutual cooperation.
President Zardari said that economic development for the two countries was a key to stability and peace and the two countries must adopt a joint approach to realize enormous potential of bilateral economic, trade and investment cooperation.
He said that the two countries need to take measures within the respective policies to expand bilateral economic cooperation, trade and investment linkages.
Welcoming the conclusion of negotiations on Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) in July 2010, the President hoped for its early materialization for the benefit of the two countries’ economies.
Mr. Babar said that President Karzai expressed his deep grief for the people who were affected by the recent devastating floods. He said that the people of Afghanistan could feel in their hearts the miseries of those who lost their dear ones, homes and other belongings as a result of unprecedented natural disaster.
He thanked President Zardari for the support and sincere interest of Government of Pakistan for the peace, stability and economic development of Afghanistan.
Later, the two leaders addressed a joint press stakeout and answered the questions raised by the correspondents of local as well as international media.
The President also hosted dinner in honour of President Hamid Karzai and the visiting delegation – APP