China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan have agreed to explore trilateral investment possibilities to revive the ailing Afghan economy.
The agreement was reached during the 5th China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue held in Islamabad on Saturday, according to a joint statement issued on Monday.
China’s top diplomat Qin Gang, his Pakistani and Afghan counterparts Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and Amir Khan Muttaqi attended the dialogue.
“Underscoring the imperative to generate economic activity within Afghanistan, the ministers stressed the importance of exploring realistic pathways towards the revival of the Afghan economy,” the statement said.
To this end, it added, the ministers agreed to consider further supporting the reconstruction of Afghanistan and exploring trilateral investment possibilities aimed at industrialization and job creation.
The three sides urged the “relevant countries” to lift their unilateral sanctions against Afghanistan and return the billions of dollars in 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, the three sides called on the international community to support the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan and help it improve governance and strengthen the capacity building, so as to effectively protect the basic rights and interests of all segments of the Afghan society, including women and children.
The Taliban who surged back to power in August 2021, have been facing criticism for imposing restrictions on women and girls.
Last month’s countrywide ban on Afghan women working with the UN further aggravated the criticism.
“The three sides reaffirmed their resolve to fully harness Afghanistan’s potential as a hub for regional connectivity,” the statement added, reaffirming commitment to further the trilateral cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and to jointly extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a multibillion-dollar economic and infrastructural developmental arrangement between Pakistan and China under which Beijing has invested more than $25 billion in the South Asian nation since 2014.
After the complete withdrawal of US-led foreign forces from Afghanistan, Islamabad and Beijing appear to have agreed to extend the CPEC to Afghanistan.
The Taliban administration has also insisted on stabilizing the war-torn country to become the transit between Central and South Asia.
The three sides also stressed that existing projects, including CASA-1000 (Central Asia-South Asia power project), TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Pipeline), Trans-Afghan Railways, etc., would enhance regional connectivity as well as ensure economic uplift and prosperity for the peoples of this region.
The three sides stressed the need to not allow any individual, group, or party, including the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), etc., to use their territories to harm and threaten regional security and interests or conduct terrorist activities.
“All three sides underscored the need to refrain from intervening in internal affairs of Afghanistan, and to promote Afghan peace, stability, and reconstruction,” the statement went on to say.
Pakistan has seen a surge in terrorist attacks following the re-capture of Kabul by the Taliban.
Over the past year, at least 300 people, including security personnel, were killed and 521 got injured in 436 terrorist incidents, according to the army.
Some 157 suspected militants were killed, and nearly 1,400 were arrested during more than 8,000 intelligence-based operations in a year.
Islamabad and the TTP have held a series of peace talks and cease-fires over the past years to end the lingering militancy but failed to reach a permanent understanding.
The Taliban, who brokered an over a month-long cease-fire between the militant network and Pakistan soon after they came back to power, urge the two sides to “resolve their differences through negotiations.”
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