ISLAMABAD - Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says his meetings with Pakistani leaders in Islamabad have made significant progress towards developing close economic relations and strengthening joint efforts against the common threat of terrorism.
Mutual suspicions, mistrust and uncertainty have been the hallmark of relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which share a long but mostly porous border. Their ties plunged to new lows toward the end of former President Hamid Karzai’s term in Kabul when he regularly accused the Pakistani military of supporting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, charges Islamabad denied.
However, officials in both countries have reported a reduction in tensions since Asharf Ghani was sworn in as the new Afghan president in September.
Ghani acknowledged the progress Saturday at the conclusion of his two-day visit with civilian and military leaders in Islamabad. He was addressing a news conference with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
President Ghani said that the two countries have begun a comprehensive dialogue on strengthening security cooperation against the common threat of terrorism.
“We also discussed that we must overcome the past. We will not permit the past to destroy the future… The most fundamental part, Mr. Prime Minister for which I thank you, is that our fates are linked because terror knows no boundaries," saud Ghani. "And it is this focus, this renewed attention on ensuring that whatever we agree on is implemented and implemented consistently.”
Unlike his predecessor, President Ghani sounded upbeat about renewed commitments he received from Pakistani leaders. He said the two sides have also achieved new grounds in promoting close economic and trade ties.
“I want to welcome the enormous steps that have been taken in the last three days to achieve progress on the economy," said Ghani. "We have overcome obstacles of 13 years in three days.”
For his part, Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif reaffirmed Islamabad’s resolve to support Afghan peace and reconciliation efforts, saying security and future prosperity of both the nations remain linked.
“We both recognize that we have a historic opportunity to work together and build a strong relationship, based on mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and marked by mutual trust, understanding and close cooperation," Sharif said. "Our two countries face formidable challenges, including extremism and terrorism, a precarious security environment and transnational crimes. I am convinced that we can effectively meet them through common resolve and common endeavors.”
President Ghani arrived in Islamabad Friday and visited the headquarters of the powerful Pakistani military in neighboring Rawalpindi where he was greeted by Pakistani soldiers in an honor guard.
He paid tribute to Pakistani troops killed in the war against terrorism and held talks with Army chief General Raheel Sharif. The visit to the military headquarters is being seen as a watershed in the history of bilateral relations because most Afghans blame the Pakistani army for security problems facing their country.
President Ghani together with Mr. Sharif watched an exhibition cricket match between Afghanistan and Pakistan before ending his first state visit to the neighboring country.