Focus on Afghanistan in summit on connectivity

By Express News Service
NEW DELHI:  The meeting on ‘Central and South Asia: Connectivity’ in Uzbekistan on Friday had an underlying agenda deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, with hectic parleys taking place on the sidelines.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, who began his Afghan engagement in Tajikistan earlier this week, with discussions with Afghan Foreign Minister Mohamed Haneef Atmar, had meetings with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and US Special Envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad.

On Friday, Jaishankar held discussions on the war-torn country with European Union High Representative on Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell Fontelles. The external affairs minister briefly touched upon the Afghan situation in his address. “Development and prosperity go hand in hand with peace and security. For reliable connectivity within and through Afghanistan, the world must have confidence in its governance. Our connectivity deliberations expect predictability, efficiency and observance of norms of our time as its foundation,” he said.

Afghanistan President Ghani slammed Pakistan for its inability to stop terrorists crossing over to Afghanistan. “Pakistan needs to engage constructively in the peace process for the region. Permit me to make it clear, our government is committed to peace, but our forces are prepared to fight to protect our people,” he said.

Responding to Ghani’s comments, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said that two issues — the situation in Afghanistan and disputes between regional players were hampering connectivity in the region. “Disappointed. Pakistan has done more than anyone to convince the Taliban for peace,” he said. Khan also brought up the Kashmir issue, saying that if the dispute is resolved between India and Pakistan, the region can open up for connectivity and prosperity.

Meanwhile, in apparent references, Jaishankar slammed Pakistan and China for causing hindrance in connectivity projects. He hit out at Pakistan for only agreeing in principle for projects and not following them up on the ground and blamed China for not respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations. The real issues are of mindset, not disputes. Blocking connectivity while professing support benefits no one.