South Asian Affairs

Pakistan, Afghanistan to modernize border management infrastructure at Torkhan

ISLAMABAD: The third Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) has concluded in Islamabad with agreement on several vital projects to promote regional development and stability. Later briefing newsmen along with Afghan Finance Minister Kaka Jalil Shams, the Minister of State for Finance and Economic Affairs Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar said Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to modernize border management infrastructure at Torkhan.

The two countries also agreed to take comprehensive measures for harmonizing customs rules and expedite signing of Free Trade Agreements, as well as ECO trade agreement and SAFTA. The Minister of State said on the sidelines of RECCA, Pakistan and Afghanistan began discussions on the new trade agreement in the light of Memorandum of Understanding signed in Washington recently. She said the two countries presently have a bilateral trade of 1.2 billion dollars and the trade agreement would go a long way in formalizing trade between the two countries.

In the energy sector, the two countries agreed to establish Trans-Afghanistan Energy Corridor for providing electricity from Kyrgyzstn and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The World Bank has reiterated its support for the project.

Afghanistan welcomed Pakistani offer of one thousand scholarships. Other countries participating in the conference also expressed their resolve to support skill development in Afghanistan so as to create productive employment opportunities for Afghan people.

The initiatives agreed upon during the conference in the communication sector includes extension of rail link from Chaman in Pakistan to Kandhar in Afghanistan. The European Union expressed its willingness to sponsor feasibility study of railway across Afghanistan linking major destinations within that country.

Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar said during Business to Business meeting organized on the sidelines of the conference, interest was shown for projects worth ten billion dollars. The Afghan Finance Minister said the conference produced positive results both for his country and Pakistan. He said the understanding arrived at the conference would help forge regional cooperation and help achieve the cherished objective of peace and prosperity.

On this occasion the Islamabad Declaration was unanimously adopted which reiterated the commitment of the regional countries and development partners for continued cooperation with regards to Afghanistan’s economic growth through rehabilitation and reconstruction process. Finally it was decided that the next Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan will be held in Turkey. NNI