Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of Pakistan, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang of China, and the Acting Foreign Minister Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi of Afghanistan held the 5th China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue in Islamabad, Pakistan on the 6th May 2023.
The trilateral talks between China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan were initiated as a collaborative effort to promote regional stability, enhance economic development, and strengthen mutual cooperation. The discussions serve as a platform for the three countries to address common concerns, foster understanding, and seek peaceful solutions to shared challenges.
The trilateral dialogue was first proposed by China held on 27 May 2017 in Beijing, demonstrating its commitment to promoting regional peace and cooperation. Recognizing the significance of a stable and prosperous neighborhood, China invited Pakistan and Afghanistan to engage in constructive dialogue and explore avenues of cooperation. The invitation was met with enthusiasm by both Pakistan and Afghanistan, who embraced the opportunity to engage in a meaningful exchange.
Since the initiation of the trilateral talks, several rounds have been successfully conducted in each of the participating countries. The meetings have taken place in a respectful and positive atmosphere, where all parties have had the opportunity to express their perspectives and concerns openly.
The trilateral talks have yielded encouraging outcomes, demonstrating the commitment of China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to fostering regional stability and development. Through these discussions, the three countries have deepened their understanding, built trust, and strengthened their ties. The tripartite cooperation is paving the way for joint initiatives that have the potential to transform the region into a hub of connectivity and prosperity.
It is important to note that the trilateral talks are an ongoing process, and further rounds of discussions are planned in the future. The participating countries remain dedicated to advancing the objectives of the dialogue and are actively working towards the implementation of mutually beneficial projects and initiatives.
During the recent tri-lateral dialogue, stressing that a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan serves the common interest of the region, the Foreign Ministers underscored the critical importance of trilateral cooperation in promoting this objective. The three sides resolved to further deepen and expand their cooperation in the security, development, and political domains based on the principles of mutual respect, equal-footed consultation, and mutual benefit.
The three sides underscored the need to tackle security challenges posing a serious threat to regional and global security, and directly impacting the stability and economic prosperity of the entire region.
The three sides agreed to coordinate and cooperate on security, organized crimes, drug smuggling, etc., and called on the international community to strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation and provide necessary supplies, equipment, and technical assistance in this regard to the relevant countries.
The three sides stressed the need not to 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 actions and activities. All three sides underscored the need to refrain from intervening in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and to promote Afghan peace, stability, and reconstruction.
Underscoring the imperative to generate economic activity within Afghanistan, the Ministers stressed the importance of exploring realistic pathways toward the revival of the Afghan economy. To this end, the Ministers agreed to consider further supporting the reconstruction of Afghanistan and exploring trilateral investment possibilities aimed at industrialization and job creation.
Expressing solidarity with the people of Afghanistan, the three sides stressed the importance of sustained and urgent humanitarian support to the people of Afghanistan including the imperative to bridge funding gaps for humanitarian operations. The Ministers underlined that humanitarian support to the people of Afghanistan must remain delinked from any political considerations.
The three sides reaffirmed their resolve to fully harness Afghanistan’s potential as a hub for regional connectivity. Reaffirming their commitment to further the trilateral cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and to jointly extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan. Stressed that the importance of existing projects including CASA-1000, TAPI, 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 emphasized pushing forward the “hard connectivity” in infrastructure and “soft connectivity” in norms and standards, further exploring the facilitating measures for the movement of people and trade activities between the three countries. The three sides agreed to enhance transit trade through Gwadar Port.
Expressing satisfaction at the existing trilateral cooperation, the three sides agreed to carry out exchange and training programs and to strengthen people-to-people exchanges by conducting the trilateral programs in line with the List of China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Practical Cooperation Projects, adopted by Foreign Ministers in this dialogue.
The three sides reaffirmed continued cooperation in areas of mutual interest like economic development, capacity building, and improving livelihoods. The Ministers agreed to strengthen cooperation in the fields such as agriculture, trade, energy, capacity building, border management, etc.
The Foreign Ministers called upon the international community to engage constructively with the Afghan side. In this regard, they acknowledged the efforts made under the aegis of various mechanisms and formats, including in particular, the Neighboring Countries of Afghanistan, to promote dialogue and constructive engagement with the Interim Afghan Government. The three sides also urged the international community to assist Afghanistan in countering narcotics effectively and develop alternative crops to enhance its capacity for independent and sustainable development.
The three sides urged the relevant countries to lift their unilateral sanctions against Afghanistan and return the 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 Afghanistan to 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 Ministers expressed appreciation to the neighboring countries, in particular, Pakistan, for the generous hospitality in hosting millions of Afghan refugees, and called on the international community to provide necessary support and assistance to these countries and Afghanistan for the dignified return and reintegration of refugees into the Afghan society.
The three sides resolved to continue with the trilateral cooperation mechanism, including the Director-General Level Practical Cooperation Dialogue, and forge closer-good neighborly relations and partnerships.
Pakistan has a longstanding interest in the stability and peace of Afghanistan. As a neighboring country, it shares a long and porous border that has allowed the flow of people, goods, and ideas for centuries. Consequently, any instability or conflict in Afghanistan directly affects Pakistan’s security and socio-economic well-being.
First and foremost, Pakistan seeks a stable and prosperous Afghanistan. It is believed that a peaceful Afghanistan will contribute to regional security and provide greater opportunities for cooperation, economic integration, and development. Pakistan is committed to supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process that leads to lasting stability and reconciliation among all factions within Afghanistan.
Furthermore, Pakistan recognizes the importance of an inclusive political system in Afghanistan that addresses the aspirations of all ethnic and sectarian groups. It firmly believes that a representative and inclusive government will lead to better governance, national cohesion, and long-term stability. Pakistan remains committed to supporting an Afghan political settlement that respects the rights of all Afghans and ensures their equal participation in shaping the country’s future.
Another key interest for Pakistan is the elimination of terrorist safe havens in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been at the forefront of the fight against terrorism, and we have paid a heavy price in our own struggle against extremist elements. Therefore, we are deeply committed to working with Afghanistan and the international community to eradicate the menace of terrorism. A stable Afghanistan free from terrorist activities is in the best interest of both countries and the region as a whole.
Pakistan’s concerns in Afghanistan primarily revolve around the potential spillover of violence, the influx of refugees, and the impact on our economy. We have experienced the consequences of such challenges in the past, and it is our sincere hope that Afghanistan can overcome its internal conflicts to prevent further suffering for its people and neighboring nations. Pakistan stands ready to offer assistance and support to help alleviate these concerns and facilitate the process of peace and stability in Afghanistan.
China’s stakes and interests in Afghanistan offer a positive outlook for the country’s development and regional stability. Through economic cooperation, participation in the Belt and Road Initiative, counterterrorism collaboration, responsible resource extraction, and regional integration efforts, China can contribute to Afghanistan’s long-term progress. Embracing this positive narrative paves the way for increased cooperation, improved livelihoods, and a brighter future for the Afghan people.