Pak, Afghan leaders pledge security cooperation

 Pakistan and Afghanistan on Saturday pledged to work together for "peace, stability and prosperity" as the two wary neighbours, wracked by terrorism, attempt to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

PTI| Updated: Nov 15, 2014, 18:06 PM IST

Islamabad: Pakistan and Afghanistan on Saturday pledged to work together for "peace, stability and prosperity" as the two wary neighbours, wracked by terrorism, attempt to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan's foremost priority was building a "peaceful neighbourhood" and reaffirmed that a peaceful, stable, united and prosperous Afghanistan is in Pakistan's vital national interest.

"I have vision of a strong, comprehensive and enduring partnership between Pakistan and Afghanistan ? contributing to the security and prosperity of our two nations, and reinforcing efforts for peace and development in the region. I am gratified that President (Ashraf) Ghani has a similar vision," Sharif said.

Several weeks ago, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had invited the Taliban to join national reconciliation negotiations, an initiative backed by Sharif who stressed that the process must be fully Afghan-led and Afghan owned.

"I also reaffirmed Pakistan's support for the intra-Afghan reconciliation process that then new government is initiating. This process, we agreed, must be fully Afghan-led and Afghan-owned," Sharif said.

Ghani said the two countries need to formulate a "narrative" for peace and development as they have agreed for "peace, security and prosperity" of the coming generations.

"We have a shared vision that Pakistan and Afghanistan will serve the hearts of Asia to ensure that economic integration in Asia becomes a reality and does not remain a dream.

"I want to welcome the enormous steps taken in the last three days to achieve progress in the economy," Ghani said adding that economic cooperation was a key to progress.

Ghani's two-day visit to Islamabad, first after assuming office, aimed at rebuilding damaged ties between the two nations which was often tense under his predecessor Hamid Karzai.

He said their countries faced formidable challenges of extremism and terrorism, a precarious security environment, and trans-national crimes but they can meet the challenges.

Ghani, who held in-depth security and economic cooperation talks with Sharif, prised his Pakistani counterpart saying they have overcome obstacles of 30 years in last three days.

"We have overcome obstacles of 30 years in last three days," said Ghani.

Sharif said Pakistan is committed to comprehensively upgrade cooperation in all fields, including border security and defence, Afghanistan's reconstruction and rehabilitation, capacity building, parliamentary exchanges, and cultural, educational and sports links.

"We reaffirmed our resolve to forge a robust economic partnership ? by expanding trade, promoting investment, improving infrastructure, building road and rail links and enhancing energy collaboration. The two Finance Ministers have signed the document that advances the realisation of this vital goal," Sharif said.

The two sides also agreed that connectivity and regional economic cooperation were the indispensable elements of their engagement.

"We envision trade, energy and communications corridors through trans-regional initiatives like CASA 1000 and TAPI Gas Pipeline," Sharif said.

Ghani reciprocated by saying that the two sides should not let the past bitterness destroy the future.

Yesterday, Ghani also met army chief General Raheel Sharif and President Mamnoon Hussain.

He is expected to watch a cricket match between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It is believed that one of the main agendas of Ghani was to get support from Pakistan for start of peace talks with Taliban militants. It was, however, not immediately known how much support he got for the same.