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Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a matter of immense pleasure for me to address this august gathering of distinguished politicians, academicians, and thinkers today in the 3rd China-Afghanistan-Pakistan trilateral dialogue on the topic “Quest for peace in Afghanistan: Role of neighbouring countries”.

I commend Pakistan-China Institute and KonradAdanauerStiftung for organizing this trilateral dialogue providing an opportunity for brain storming on the pursuit for enduring peace and stability in Afghanistan through a collective and coordinated regional approach. This topic is of central importance in the context of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

I cordially welcome the guests and speakers who have come from Afghanistan and China for participation in this dialogue along with participants from Pakistan. I am confident that your deliberations will be constructive and meaningful.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Pakistan’s policy of peaceful neighbourhood is rooted in Qaid’s dictum “peace within and peace without”. The government under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is pursuing the vision of good neighbourly relations for creating an atmosphere of mutual trust and confidence with all our neighbouring and regional countries. “Respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries remain the cardinal elements of our approach.

Pakistan’s commitment and persistence in pursuing such principled and forward-looking approach has received recognition from the international community and regional countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For Pakistan, Afghanistan is an important neighbour. Friendly relations between our peoples are based on common bonds of religion, ethnicity, history, geography strengthened through mutual interaction and movement of people spanning over centuries and millennia. Unfortunately, prolonged conflict throughout the past 35 years in Afghanistan has, apart from causing immense suffering to the people, has prevented the country region from realizing its full development potential.

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 endeavours 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.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Pakistan, Afghanistan and China are three close neighbours having common interests and stakes in promoting peace and development in the region. The geo-strategic location of our three countries makes us important partners in transforming our region into a regional hub providing at the cross roads of East and West. Enduring peace and stability in Afghanistan can enable our three countries to reap economic benefits accruing from this natural strategic advantage.

It is heartening that the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia held in Islamabad on 9 December reflected an overarching regional and international consensus on a collective and coordinated approach in pursuing an Afghan led reconciliation process.

Important meetings were held on the sidelines of the Conference between President Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. A Quadrilateral Contact Group has been set-up between Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States to explore ways and means of facilitating a politically negotiated settlement as the most viable option for achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan.

It is heartening that today as I speak here, the Quadrilateral Contact Group involving Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States is 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.

We need to be cognizant that the reconciliation process will have to take into account 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, 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.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Pakistan remains focused on strengthening engagement and collaboration with Afghanistan in the fields of security and counterterrorism with a view to creating conducive environment for steering infrastructure and energy connectivity projects. We are looking forward to the mega China-Pakistan-Economic Corridor (CPEC) to become the catalyst for trans-regional commerce, trade, industry and investment flows. The project has been rightly termed as a game changer as it has the potential to change the fortunes of our peoples by fostering employment, economic growth and development.

Similarly, the projects like TAPI and CASA-1000 will help fulfill our energy needs, on the one hand, and build a stronger regional infra-structural base, on the other.

Besides, Pakistan is undertaking a number of bilateral projects in Afghanistan in the field of health, education and infrastructure development. Around 2,500 Afghan students are studying in Pakistani universities under Prime Minister’s of scholarship scheme.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In our view, terrorism is a major threat to global and regional peace. Pakistan has suffered huge human and economic losses due to this menace. But our sacrifices in the struggle against terrorism have further strengthened our resolve. Our counter-terrorism policy is based on zero tolerance for any terrorist group or outfit. Indiscriminate action against the terrorist outfits in Zarb-e-Azb is un-refutable evidence of our strong conviction. We believe that close cooperation at bilateral and regional levels is vital to eliminate this scourge and realize our shared goal of economic integration and connectivity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate my best wishes for your deliberations today and for the success of this trilateral dialogue.

11 January 2016

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