India to get Afghan transit trade route

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    Frontpage news on the Dawn:

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    India to get Afghan transit trade route

    By Anwar Iqbal and Masood Haider
    Thursday, 07 May, 2009 | 01:05 AM PST |

    [​IMG]
    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (C) speaks alongside Afghan President Hamid Karzai
    (L) and Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zadari before US-Afghanistan-Pakistan trilateral
    consultations at the State Department in Washington.—Reuters



    WASHINGTON: Pakistan and Afghanistan signed on Wednesday a memorandum of understanding to begin talks on a transit trade agreement which will ultimately allow India to use the Wagah-Khyber route for trade with Kabul.

    The memorandum of understanding commits the two ‘countries to achieving a trade transit agreement by the end of the year, which we believe will have great economic benefits for both peoples,’ said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who hosted the Afghan and Pakistani presidents for the first round of the second trilateral talks.

    ‘This is an historic event. This agreement has been under discussion for 43 years without resolution,’ she said.

    ‘Afghanistan and Pakistan have reached an important milestone in their efforts to generate foreign investment and stronger economic growth and trade opportunities.’

    Secretary Clinton also used the opportunity to regret the loss of innocent lives in US bombings, saying that ‘she wanted to convey to the people of both Afghanistan and Pakistan that ‘we will work very hard with your governments and with your leaders to avoid the loss of innocent civilian life. And we deeply, deeply regret that loss’.

    Later, the Afghan and Pakistani foreign ministers signed the memorandum before Presidents Asif Ali Zardari and Hamid Karzai went to the White House for a trilateral summit with President Barack Obama.

    ‘Pakistan and Afghanistan are conjoined twins. Our suffering is shared. Our joys are always shared,’ said President Karzai while talking to the media after Secretary Clinton.

    ‘The life that we live is affected by the opportunities that we have and the lack of opportunities that occurs because of the circumstances in which we live today.’

    ‘Today we sit here as three democratic states, enjoined in the history of democracy, looking forward to working together,’ said President Zardari while responding to his remarks.

    Although India is not mentioned in the memorandum of understanding, it will be the main beneficiary of a transit trade agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan as Kabul’s major trade partner.

    Both India and Afghanistan have long insisted that Pakistan open its land route for transit trade between the two countries which do not have a common border.

    But Secretary Clinton said that the opening of a transit trade route will also open new opportunities for both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    ‘When … I look at the map of the world and see how strategically located both countries are, this is an agreement that will bring prosperity to both countries along the trade routes and beyond,’ she said.

    ‘Nothing opens up an area to economic development better than a good road with good transit rules and an ability to transport goods and people effectively.’

    The agreement, she said, would also help bring more foreign direct investment into Afghanistan and Pakistan, because that’s always the first question: ‘How do we get our goods to market? How do we get them to another economy in another country?’

    Secretary Clinton brought a high-powered delegation to the talks which included Director CIA Leon Panetta, Director FBI Robert Mueller, Pentagon’s Under-secretary for Policy Planning Michele Flournoy, and chief of the US Central Command General David Petraeus.

    The Pakistani delegation, headed by President Zardari, also included Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, three ministers, several advisers and the DG ISI.

    Bilawal Zardari, two ministers, advisers and the DG ISI left after the first round so did the CIA and FBI chiefs and Afghan intelligence and military officials.

    SECOND ROUND

    Only the two presidents, their foreign ministers and envoys in Washington attended the second round with Secretary Clinton who was assisted by the US special envoy Richard Holbrooke.

    Secretary Clinton said that Wednesday’s discussions focussed on concrete initiatives to expand economic opportunities and trade, to bolster the agricultural sector as an essential source of revenue and jobs in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    The three countries also discussed measures to help build the industrial sector in Pakistan, to create more jobs and opportunities for people. They also discussed measures to improve joint cooperation on security.

    ‘We do not believe either Afghanistan or Pakistan can achieve lasting progress without the full participation of all of your citizens, including women and girls. The rights of women must be respected and protected.’

    President Zardari urged the US, ‘the world’s oldest and most powerful democracy’, to nurture democracies in other countries.

    ‘We thank the United States for its support for democracy, for security in Pakistan, and look forward to further support,’ he said. The president said that Afghanistan, Pakistan, and United States were all victims of terror.

    ‘I am here to assure you that we shall share this burden with you all, for no matter how long it takes and what it takes, democracies will deliver,’ he said. ‘My democracy will deliver.’

    The Pakistanis, he said, stood with ‘our brother Karzai and the people of Afghanistan against this common threat … this is a cancer. It needs to be done away with.’

    The president said that Pakistan carried a huge burden of confronting al Qaeda and Taliban together, ‘but we are up to the challenge because we are a democracy, and democracy is the only cure to this challenge.’

    Mr Zardari said that as the United States was making progress after seven years of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan will too.

    He said that democracy in Pakistan was only seven months old and during this period, the government had performed better than the dictatorships in the past years.

    Mr Zardari said that Pakistan would need high level of support in the days to come and would also be far more transparent in its actions.

    ‘Democracy will avenge the death of my wife and thousands of other Pakistanis and citizens of the world. Pakistani democracy will deliver. The terrorists will be defeated by our joint struggle,’ he said.

    Afghan President Karzai welcomed the US promise to minimize civilian deaths in the fight against the Taliban, hoping that the US could work together with Pakistan and Afghanistan to reduce and eventually completely remove the possibilities of civilian casualties.

    ‘Afghanistan would like to assure the United States, its most valued strategic ally, and Pakistan, its neighbor, brother and friend’ that it would do its best to defeat the terrorists.


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