Published in The Nation newspaper on 18-Feb-2012
ISLAMABAD - Pakistan will not assist the US if it attacks Iran, Islamabad Friday assured Tehran.
Pakistan will not provide Americans airbases to launch attack on its neighbour, President Asif Ali Zardari said after the third trilateral summit of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.
At the summit the three states expressed their resolve to work collectively for peace and stability in the region and enhancement of mutual cooperation in different sectors, particularly economy and trade.
Addressing a joint news conference, along with his Iranian and Afghan counterparts Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hamid Karzai, President Zardari emphatically stated that Pakistan’s relationship with the brethren countries cannot be undermined by the international pressure of any kind. “Pakistan and Iran need each other and no foreign pressure can hinder their ties.”
This is the first categorical assurance of support to Tehran from the highest echelons of Islamabad, whose own ties with the Washington came under a severe strain in November last year after Nato airstrikes on two Pakistani Army checkposts in Mohmand Agency killed over two dozen soldiers prompting Islamabad to take steps including stopping the passage of Nato supplies through the country and boycott of an international conference on Afghanistan.
About international pressure on Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, the head of the state facing chronic energy shortages, said Pakistan is lobbying the world and our point of view has been looked at and accepted. A private TV channel reported that Tehran has offered Islamabad to double the gas supply promised under Iran-Pakistan gasline project. Zardari said Iran and Pakistan are neighbours and both the countries need to inter-depend on each other for prosperity of the region.
Iranian President Mehmood Ahmadinejad said several of the problems have been imposed on the region by outside forces. “There are countries which have targeted our region for their dominance.” He advocated for enhancing regional cooperation and putting in use all resources to address these problems.
Ahmadinejad also said that nuclear-armed nations were not superior to others, a day after his sanctions-hit government told world powers it was ready to resume stalled atomic talks. “(The) nuclear bomb is not going to bring about superiority,” he told while addressing the predominantly English-speaking audience through a translator.
Ahmadinejad said Iran’s relationship with nuclear-armed Pakistan was an example of an alliance that “is not because of nuclear bomb or weapons… The foundation of our political relationship is humanitarian and is based on common cultural values… Promoting peace and fraternity are the common goals of the three countries and our nations. We have got hopes to a victory in future.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who reportedly adopted a hard line during Thursday’s delegation-level talks between Islamabad and Kabul, appeared to be toned down during the joint press conference. However, he said the impediments in the way of Pakistan-Afghanistan cooperation need to be removed sooner than later and stressed the need for evolving an actionable policy to deal with all the confronting issues.
Karzai also said the recent engagements between the two countries have been fruitful and deep in understanding each other’s point of view. Expressing satisfaction over his meetings with Pakistani leadership, Hamid Karzai said the tripartite summit was futuristic, recognising the opportunities and dangers that surround the region.
President Zardari denied that Pakistan’s military played a double game in the 10-year war in Afghanistan, but admitted that private Pakistanis may be involved. “I deny this notion that any of our armed forces are directly or indirectly involved,” he said when asked about the alleged involvement of Pakistani spies and officials in the “war on terror”.
“Yes I cannot deny that there is a residue in Pakistan of the war that was fought against the Soviet Union,” he said referring to Pakistan’s involvement in the 1980s war in Afghanistan that gave rise to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
“We cannot deny may be there are people among our population who are involved in this, but this is a world problem,” Zardari said, adding, “The three presidents you see sitting together, we shall fight this menace. Nobody is more concerned or more involved in it than me personally,” he said.
President Zardari thanked the visiting presidents for coming to Pakistan to attend the trilateral summit. He invited the Iranian president to make a bilateral visit to Pakistan at the earliest.
The Iranian president said Thursday’s summit in Islamabad and the next to be held in Kabul are going to have very positive impacts for people of the three countries. He said Iranian people greatly value their brotherly relations with Pakistan and hoped these will further augment in future.
Earlier the three presidents held wide-ranging talks on cooperation in diverse fields focusing on cooperation in counter terrorism and transnational organised crimes including drug and human trafficking, border management and trade.
In a joint statement issued at the end of the summit, the three countries pledged to develop framework of comprehensive cooperation and to take pragmatic steps for realising mutually beneficial cooperation to promote stability, peace and shared prosperity.
The joint statement, signed by President Zardari and his Iranian and Afghan counterparts at the conclusion of the summit, resolved to ensure respect for their countries sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity, as enshrined in the UN Charter.
They agreed to commence a process of trilateral consultations for an agreement pledging not to allow any threat emanating from their respective territories against each other. They resolved to strengthen cooperation for eradicating extremism, terrorism and militancy and to address the root causes of these menaces, condemning the killings of civilians as well as any kind of assassinations.
The three leaders also agreed to broaden cooperation in political, security, economic, cultural, social and educational fields and enhance people-to-people contacts including exchange visits of parliamentarians, academicians and journalists.
The summit mandated foreign ministers of the three countries to prepare and coordinate a Road Map for Trilateral Cooperation for submission to the next Summit.
It also mandated the interior ministers to develop a framework of trilateral cooperation particularly in the areas of counter terrorism, counter-narcotics and border management within six months.
The three countries agreed to enhance three-way trade by facilitation measures, including preferential tariff and free trade arrangements as well as barter trade. Commerce ministers would outline steps for enhancing three-way economic cooperation. They also expressed commitment to expand trade in transit and encourage the private sector to invest in the three countries.
The joint statement said Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan would cooperate in combating the problems of narcotic drugs production and trafficking and in combating transnational organised crimes.
They agreed to enhance connectivity through road and rail links; develop mutually beneficial cooperation in the energy, mining and minerals, agriculture and cooperate for the safe, voluntary and early return of Afghan refugees to their homeland in honour and dignity. They emphasised the need for enhancing their cooperation at international level, especially within the United Nations system.
The summit mandated senior officials to meet regularly to monitor the implementation of the decisions taken by the Trilateral Summit. The Fourth Trilateral Summit would be held in Kabul by the end of this year.
Earlier in his opening remarks at the summit, President Zardari said connectivity among the three countries is imperative. He tasked the foreign ministers of the three countries to prepare a roadmap for trilateral cooperation for consideration at the next summit meeting. “We must work together to realise peace and prosperity in our region. To face the difficult times ahead we should solidify our relationships,” he added.
Published in The Nation newspaper on 18-Feb-2012