Leaders of both countries in meeting agree to restart work on TAPI project, CASA-1,000, Trans-Afghan Rail project, and other long-stalled projects
Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to resume work on several projects that have been stalled, including a four-nation energy corridor.
The much-awaited agreement was reached during a meeting between acting Afghan Foreign Minister Maulvi Amir Khan Muttaqi, and Pakistan’s visiting State Minister for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar in Kabul on Tuesday, said separate statements from the two countries’ foreign ministries.
Khar, who arrived in Kabul on Tuesday morning for a day-long visit, met with top interim Taliban government leadership, including acting Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi and acting Minister for Mines and Petroleum Shahabuddin Delawar, as well as delegation-level talks with Muttaqi and his team.
Kabul’s top diplomat informed Khar that his country is ready to resume work on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, the CASA-1,000 (Central Asia-South Asia power project), the Trans-Afghan Rail project, and other projects that have been on hold for a long time.
The $7 billion TAPI project, which was supposed to be completed by the end of 2017, has been pushed back due to the Taliban’s war against the US-backed Afghan regime, which ended in August last year.
A 1,600-kilometer (994-mile) pipeline will transport 3.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from Turkmenistan to the three South Asian countries.
While CASA-1000 is a $1.16 billion project currently under construction, it will allow surplus hydroelectricity from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to be exported to Afghanistan and then to Pakistan.
The acting Afghan foreign minister, for his part, highlighted issues pertaining to the release of imprisoned Afghan refugees in different Pakistani jails, bilateral and transit trade, and treatment of refugees in Pakistan, said a statement issued by his ministry in Kabul.
According to the statement, Khar assured the Afghan side that Islamabad would take immediate steps to resolve these issues.
Although Pakistan is thought to have had some influence over the Taliban, the two sides are still struggling to resolve a number of long-standing issues, including cross-border attacks on Pakistani security forces and fencing of a 2,640-kilometer (1,640-mile) porous border between the two neighbors.
Afghanistan does not recognize the de facto border region between the two countries, commonly known as Durand Line, on the grounds that it was created by a British colonial regime “to divide ethnic Pashtuns”.
Islamabad, however, maintains that the Durand Line is a permanent border between the two neighboring countries.
Bilateral issues discussed
The two sides discussed a variety of bilateral issues of mutual interest, including cooperation in education, health, trade and investment, regional connectivity, people-to-people contacts, and socioeconomic projects, according to a statement issued by Foreign Ministry in Islamabad.
“Bilateral trade, connectivity, and people-to-people contacts were discussed” during Khar’s meeting with the acting deputy prime minister, the statement said.
The Pakistani state minister also had a luncheon meeting with Afghanistan’s Women Chamber of Commerce, where she underlined the “important role of women in the society and expressed Pakistan’s keen interest in strengthening linkages between women entrepreneurs of Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
She assured that Pakistan would give special consideration to the import of products manufactured by women-owned businesses