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Pakistani, Afghan members of civil society to hold talks on Monday

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Islamabad: Pakistani and Afghan members of the civil society and researchers will be opening a two-day dialogue in Islamabad on Monday to help improve bilateral relations at a time when mistrust has badly affected official contacts between the two countries.

Organizers said “the Pakistan-Afghanistan Track 1.5/II project Beyond Boundaries has assumed unusual significance because of the current tensions and the stalled dialogue between the two governments”.

The key objectives of the initiative are expanding the peace constituency through friendship groups in both countries; improving support for better Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship through dialogue among the influential stakeholders and informing policy makers through consensus recommendations.

The working groups on regional security and civil society will address varied themes that are important in the peace process between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is also expected to build upon existing commonalities and increase future people-to-people contact.

“The Track 1.5/II becomes important also because the bilateral relationship has been fraught with mutual mistrust been the proxy battleground for complicated regional relationships,” Imtiaz Gul, the Pakistani organizer told the media.

Gul’s Centre of Research and Security Studies (CRSS) has launched the process in partnership with its Afghan counterpart DURAN Research and Analysis (DRA).

“The arrival of the Afghan civil society and youth delegation marks the resumption of dialogue between non-governmental and political stakeholders from the two countries to the backdrop of a politically difficult and challenging environment,” a CRSS statement said.

Initiatives like beyond boundaries will bring together influential government and non-governmental stakeholders who can help lessen tensions, address misconceptions, and revive some level of confidence, it added.

The process will also urge both governments and key stakeholders away from the prior behavior of confrontation and an antagonistic-approach towards a more trust and collaborative-based approach for peace, security, and regional cooperation.

(IANS)

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Air Trade Corridor Between China And Afghanistan Now Open

In the wake of its increased economic engagement in the region, China recently set up a trilateral foreign ministers' level dialogue with Pakistan and Afghanistan

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afghanistan and china
Google Maps. VOA

Landlocked Afghanistan has opened its first direct air link with China, dispatching 20 tons of pine nuts on the inaugural cargo flight.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and senior Chinese diplomats attended the special ceremony Monday in Kabul, hoping the air corridor will lead to increased Afghan exports of dry and fresh fruits to Chinese markets and address a massive trade deficit.

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A boy receives polio vaccination drops during an anti-polio campaign in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

 

During the past year, Afghanistan has launched air corridors with India, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia.

A presidential statement said 20 tons of pine nuts will be exported daily to China until the end of the season this year. Beijing is one of the largest importers of Afghan pine nuts.

Afghan officials estimate the air corridor would enable them to transport 23,000 tons of pine nuts annually to China, earning up to $800 million in revenue.

Ghani described pine nuts, pistachio nuts, and cumin as “the hidden treasures” of Afghanistan, saying the trade corridors would enable the country to utilize its full potential.

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Australia’s Defense Minister Marise Payne (L-R), China’s PLA Lieutenant-General He Lei and Canada’s Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan listens to U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’ address at the IISS Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, June 2, 2018. VOA

Afghan businessmen and traders expect raw materials, including saffron and semi-precious stones, which are found in Afghanistan, will also be exported to China through the newly opened link.

The Afghan government has been searching for alternate trade routes to reduce dependence on uneasy neighbor Pakistan for international trade. Under a bilateral understanding, Islamabad allows Kabul to use Pakistani land routes and sea ports for international exports.

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But Afghan officials and businessmen say political tensions and border skirmishes often prompt Islamabad to close major border crossings for days, hampering overland Afghan shipments, mostly containing perishable goods.

In the wake of its increased economic engagement in the region, China recently set up a trilateral foreign ministers’ level dialogue with Pakistan and Afghanistan to help ease tensions between the two countries and increase mutual security cooperation to fight regional terrorism. (VOA)