News Analysis: Experts eye new chance for warmer Pakistan-Afghanistan ties

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-28 15:56:36|Editor: Jiaxin
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by Kaswar Klasra

ISLAMABAD, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- As a trilateral foreign ministers meeting among Afghanistan, China and Pakistan concluded in Beijing recently with focuses on cementing relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as extending an economic corridor between China and Pakistan to the Afghan side, the three parties are making efforts to restore long-waited peace and stability to the region after 17 years of turbulence.

Pakistan on Wednesday stated that improved bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan would bring peace and development in the entire region. Efforts made by China over the first trilateral dialogue among the foreign ministers of Pakistan, China and Afghanistan "is a good step and it will yield positive results," Pakistani Press Information Department quoted the country's Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, who visited China for the trilateral discussion, as saying.

Tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan has become a hurdle in rebuilding peace and stability in the region as well as in the Afghanistan peace process. The two countries accuse each other of providing militants groups with safe zones to launch attacks across the border. Skirmishes between their forces at the border areas were also on media reports.

"Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to improve bilateral relations as soon as possible and to realize harmonious co-existence, promising to resolve their concerns through comprehensive dialogue and consultation," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters after the trilateral meeting on Tuesday.

The three countries also reaffirmed their commitment to pushing forward the reconciliation process in Afghanistan, calling on the Taliban to join in the process. China and Pakistan expressed support for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Another focal point being regarded as a success of the meeting is that the three parties have agreed to discuss to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan.

"In the long run, through Afghanistan, we will gradually connect the CPEC with the China-Central and Western Asia Economic Corridor," said Wang.

As an important neighbor of China and Pakistan, Afghanistan has an urgent desire to develop its economy and improve people's livelihood, and it is willing to integrate itself into the process of regional interconnection, according to Wang.

Pakistani analysts think China's efforts of hosting the meeting and offering the extension of CPEC are an active move to improve the current scratched ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Speaking to Xinhua, Aamir Ghauri, a veteran editor of Pakistan's influential daily The News in Islamabad welcomed the trilateral meeting and termed it as a positive development.

"Extension of the corridor to Kabul offers Afghanistan a chance to be part of a global tomorrow rather than remain a bombed and battered yesterday," said Ghauri.

"China's economic strategy in South and Central Asia is based on the fact that building up economic prosperity in the region will help reduce threat posed by radical groups," said Mustansar Abbas Klasra, an Islamabad based security expert.

In the trilateral meeting, Pakistan and Afghanistan reiterated their willingness to synergize their own development strategies with China's Belt and Road Initiative, in which CPEC is a flagship project, and to explore the possibility of trilateral partnership under this initiative.

Sohail Iqbal Bhatti, an Islamabad-based foreign policy expert, termed the trilateral meeting as an excellent step to the prosperity in the region.

"China has taken another excellent step by bringing Pakistan and Afghanistan across the table. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan need to improve bilateral ties and China has provided them with a platform," Sohail said.

He was of the opinion that China has invested heavily in Pakistan on CPEC and wants to make it a great success. It is trying to bridge the gap between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

China knows that the uneasy relationship between the two neighboring countries would sabotage the progress CPEC brought to the region. That's the reason China is trying to bring the two closer, Bhatti told Xinhua, adding that China will be successful in this venture.