The third round of the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Dialogue held in Islamabad on Monday to focus on the role of China and Pakistan in finding a peaceful resolution to the Afghan conflict.
The Pakistani prime minister’s foreign affairs adviser, Sartaj Aziz, on Monday (January 11) said Pakistan was committed to facilitating an intra-Afghan reconciliation process aimed at bringing lasting peace to war-torn Afghanistan.
Aziz was addressing the inaugural session of the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Dialogue organised by the Pakistan-China Institute (PCI) in Islamabad.
“Pakistan desires sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan. We believe a peaceful and stable Afghanistan would become harbinger of regional stability and economic integration. It will not only create a favourable environment for greater trade and energy connectivity, but also stimulate cross-regional exchanges. Pakistan will, therefore, continue its endeavors for strengthening bilateral engagement with Afghanistan through deepening interaction in diverse fields. We are also committed to facilitating an intra-Afghan reconciliation process aimed at bringing lasting peace to Afghanistan,” Aziz said.
He added the purpose of this initiative is to have a dialogue amongst the three neighbors who share a common vision for peace and security, regional economic cooperation and combating terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking.
The Trilateral Dialogue, which is the first such think tank initiative among China, Afghanistan and Pakistan, is serving as a recognized primary platform in the three countries.
Two rounds of the international conference have been held previously, in Beijing in 2013, and in Islamabad in 2014.
The topic for the third round is: “Quest for peace in Afghanistan: Role of neighboring countries”.
Aziz said Pakistan, Afghanistan and China are three close neighbors having common interests and stakes in promoting peace and development in the region, and underlined that, given the impending military withdrawal of US/NATO forces from Afghanistan, this co-operation between the neighboring countries has become more imperative.
He said the Dialogue would focus on the continuing Afghan peace process with special emphasis on the role of China and Pakistan. The objective is to “highlight the role of China and Pakistan, as well as that of the regional countries” in the pursuit of finding a peaceful resolution to the Afghan conflict.
Aziz said the prolonged conflict during the past 35 years in Afghanistan has not only caused immense suffering to the people, it has also prevented the country region from realizing its full development potential.
He said he was pleased to announce that Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States talks on Afghanistan were simultaneously taking place in Islamabad, in which the four countries would try to resurrect a stalled Afghan peace process and end nearly 15 years of bloodshed.
“It is heartening that today as I speak here, the Quadrilateral Contact Group involving these four countries is also holding its first meeting in Islamabad. We hope that these four countries will remain closely engaged in accordance with the principle of shared responsibility with a view to move the Afghan reconciliation process forward towards a lasting outcome,” Aziz said.
However, he said, the reconciliation process will have to be chalked out with utmost patience and discretion.
“We need to be cognizant that the reconciliation process will have to take into account the following fundamentals: One, the process has to be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned as an externally imposed settlement is neither desirable nor it would be sustainable. The role of Pakistan, China and the United States is basically to facilitate the process. Two, the political reconciliation by nature is a complex process requiring time, patience and sense of accommodation by the concerned parties with a view to arriving at a win-win solution,” Aziz said.
Renewed peace efforts come amid spiralling violence in Afghanistan, with last year, after the withdrawal of most foreign forces at the end of 2014, one of the bloodiest on record.
In recent months the Taliban have won territory in the southern province of Helmand, briefly captured the northern city of Kunduz and launched a series of suicide bombs in the capital, underlining how hard Afghan government forces are finding it fighting on their own.
Peace efforts last year stalled after the Taliban announced that their founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had been dead for two years, throwing the militant group into disarray and factional fighting over a new leader.
The Taliban, who were ousted in 2001, remain split on whether to take part in talks, with some factions opposed to any negotiations but others considering joining talks, senior members of Taliban groups said last week.
Officials are keen to limit expectations of a quick breakthrough.
Afghanistan has said the aim is to work out a road map for peace negotiations and a way of assessing if they remain on track.