ISLAMABAD - Pakistan said Sunday peace in Afghanistan is key to increasing economic connectivity with Central Asian countries under China's global Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of which Islamabad is a major beneficiary.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan told a gathering of business leaders in Beijing that leaders from all the Central Asian countries attended last week's second BRI conference in the Chinese capital and they mostly talked about Afghan peace as well benefits it would bring for the region.
"This will have dividends for Afghanistan, and Afghanistan certainly needs peace after almost four decades of war, but it will have a huge impact on Pakistan and Central Asian countries. Peace in Afghanistan would increase connectivity between Pakistan and Central Asia, and of course connect China," Khan said.
The Pakistani leader noted again that his country is helping the peace process in Afghanistan. He was apparently referring to efforts the United States is making to secure a politically negotiated end to the conflict through an intra-Afghan dialogue, involving Taliban insurgents.
"For the first time, after almost 17 years, there is a prospect of peace. Pakistan is now playing its part in getting the Taliban and the (Afghan) government together and hoping that there will be a political settlement," Khan stressed.
China has invested more than $19 billion in infrastructure and development of power plants in Pakistan, helping the South Asian neighbor improve its transportation networks and energy shortages.
The two countries have vowed to extend to Afghanistan their multi-billion dollar bilateral China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) cooperation, which is considered as a flagship pilot project of BRI.
American special envoy for Afghan political reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, is scheduled to arrive Monday in Islamabad for consultations with Pakistani officials about his ongoing discussions with the Taliban, stakeholders in Afghanistan, and countries around the war-shattered nation.