ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif formally inaugurated the fifth Heart of Asia ministerial conference along with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Islamabad.
Addressing the conference, Nawaz called for an intensification of efforts in order to move forward from a conceptual domain to tangible landmarks for the implementation of concrete ideas, projects and visions in the heart of Asia. “Working for the achievement of a peaceful neighbourhood is a cardinal principal of Pakistan’s foreign policy,” he said.
“We firmly believe that peace is vital for development, and development is vital for durable peace,” he asserted. “Afghanistan is a sovereign state and the world community fully respects its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said, adding the democratically-elected government in Afghanistan was the only legitimate authority in accordance with its unanimously adopted constitution.
The prime minister recalled remarks he made during a visit to Kabul in May 2015 that the enemies of Afghanistan were the enemies of Pakistan. He said that the government of Pakistan would continue to support an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process which remains the most viable option to end violence and promote stability in Afghanistan.
“The emergence of newer and more threatening terrorist groups like Islamic State should also strengthen our resolve against terrorism,” he said. “We should envisage collective and coordinated measures on the regional security front to ensure that the gains and struggle against terrorism are durable and irreversible,” he said.
– Cross-border movement of refugees –
“Finalisation of border management standard operating procedures will be helpful in containing the movement of terrorists across the border,” he said. “The massive cross-border movement of refugees constitutes a security risk and is exploited by the miscreants for their nefarious designs,” Nawaz said, adding that efforts for stability in Afghanistan should envisage the return and resettlement of Afghan refugees to their homeland in a dignified manner.
He said that the theme of the conference reflects Pakistan’s desire for promoting regional development, increasing economic and create linkages, improving quality of life for our peoples and meeting security challenges. “For us, Afghanistan is more than a neighbour. Our cordial ties are rooted in shared history, common religion, cultural and linguistic affinities and people to people relations since time immemorial. Due to these close bonds, Pakistan has always stood by Afghanistan,” he said.
He reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to strengthening its relations with all its neighbours and regional countries, as well as promoting regional cooperation and connectivity. Upon his arrival, Ghani was received by Prime Minister Nawaz at Nur Khan Airbase and presented a guard of honour and given a 21 gun salute.
High-level officials of the civil and military leadership were present at the reception included Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif, National Security Adviser Nasir Janjua, Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi and Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif.