Pakistan, China urge Afghanistan to join CPEC, Belt & Road Initiative

November 15, 2018

TEHRAN _ Pakistan and China have urged neighboring country Afghanistan to join the Belt & Road Initiative as well as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), according to reports.

Addressing the opening session of the 4th Trilateral Dialogue between China, Pakistan and Afghanistan in Islamabad on Monday, the Chinese envoy to Pakistan Yao Jing said Kabul can also act as a “bridge” to help expand connectivity between East, South and Central Asian regions.

Jing said that all partners of peace would use their influence on fighting groups to join negotiating table for a peaceful solution to the conflict. "China would also push the development process in war-torn Afghanistan as it is a facilitator of better dialogue and connection between Pakistan and Afghanistan."

He added that CPEC is not against any country, but it is purely an economic initiative aimed at the peaceful development of its neighborhood, which includes Afghanistan.
Underscoring Pakistan's efforts for stability and peace in the region, the envoy said Islamabad is doing a lot to bring peace back in its neighboring country, adding that peace in Afghanistan was China’s objective.

“The Pakistani government is working hard for a political settlement of the Afghan issue and China would cooperate with both Pakistan and Afghanistan to achieve peace," he added. "Under the BRI, China wants peaceful development of all its neighbors," he said.

Pakistani senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed said 21st century was the Asian Century with a decline of the West. "The Greater South Asia has emerged as a geo-economic concept, driven by economy and energy, roads and railways and ports and pipeline, and Pakistan is the hub of this connectivity due to CPEC."

He added that Afghanistan was a natural partner in CPEC’s expansion. He further stressed that the focus should be culture, corridors and connectivity rather than conflict or confrontation.

Afghan envoy to Pakistan Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal saidKabul supports CPEC and its expansion into Afghanistan as it would further develop the country internally as well as strengthen its international relations within the region. "As an economist by profession, I believe that a line must be drawn between economics and politics in order for all partners to integrate in regional connectivity."

CPEC is a multi-billion dollar project under Belt and Road initiative that is likely to transform the regional economy and bring China and Pakistan closer to each other and to the world. It has raised few eyebrows in the Western world, and hampered Pakistan’s ties with the U.S. but that has not dampened the spirits in Islamabad or Beijing.
Last week, during his visit to China, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said the ambitious project would serve as a vital link for Pakistan and China to the Middle East and Central Asia and open fresh investment avenue, new markets and vistas. He further said it will cut distances and bring much-needed resources to producers and new producers to consumers.

Under Imran Khan, relations between Islamabad and Kabul have shown a marked improvement from the previous government. Khan has reaffirmed his interest in burying the hatchet and opening channels of engagement with the Afghan government. The invitation to Pakistan to be part of CPEC, experts believe, will go a long way in strengthening ties between the two neighbors.

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