ISLAMABAD - Pakistan yesterday said Afghan soil was being increasingly used against Pakistan by a ‘neighbour’ – ostensibly India.

Without naming any country, the foreign ministry said the ‘neighbour’ was involved in subversive activities inside Pakistan and terror financing.

The statement came as Pakistan is engaged in a war of words with both India and Afghanistan while the New Delhi and Kabul are inching closer.

Afghanistan has long accused Pakistan of giving safe haven to the Taliban and other militant groups, allegedly allowing them to organize attacks back across the border.

Pakistani authorities deny these charges, and point to the ongoing military offensives in the tribal region as evidence of Islamabad’s commitment to fighting terror. Pakistan believes terrorism was exported by Afghanistan as Kabul was not ready to act against the militants along the porous border – known as the Durand Line.

This week, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani was in India and claimed the Chabahar agreement with New Delhi will help India bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Pakistan via a sea-land route.

“Chabahar will end the monopoly. Why are we so concerned that a country (Pakistan) can block two great nations (India and Afghanistan) from trade,” he contended. Ghani had bilateral talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

And yesterday, the US maintained it would encourage Afghan President Ghani’s move of asking Pakistan to include India in the transit trade agreement for stronger trade relations between all the countries of the region.

Deputy spokesman of the US State Department, Mark C Toner said: “I would just say, speaking broadly, that we would support stronger trade relations within the region. And we’ve long said that it’s a priority for the United States at least, but it should be a priority for the countries in the region to all work more cooperatively and constructively together. And a trade agreement would be part of that.”

Asked what was the US’ position on Afghanistan asking India’s inclusion in the transit trade agreement it has with Pakistan, Toner replied: “I think we would encourage, as I said, stronger trade relations between all the countries of the region.”

The Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement is a bilateral trade agreement between Islamabad and Kabul. It has been renegotiated several times. The treaty was signed in 1950 which gave Afghanistan the right to import duty-free goods through Karachi.

About Afghanistan’s stand that if India is not included, it would deny Pakistan the right to transit its goods to Central Asia through Afghanistan, Toner said: “I’m not going to weigh in on the negotiations between – bilateral negotiation between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

He was of the opinion that Afghanistan has rights to make its own decisions with regard to who it decides to allow trade relations with.

A foreign office spokesman here said Pakistan believed it was important for both states to closely work together for peace, progress and stability of our region. “It requires a strong commitment for not letting our territories be used against each other. Pakistan is abiding by this solemn commitment.

Pakistan remains committed to lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he said.

In response to the queries regarding Afghan President's statement, the spokesman said: “Pakistan remains committed to peace and stability in Afghanistan. We firmly believe that peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan's interest and also necessary for stability and progress of the region. Our efforts for peace, stability and economic progress of Afghanistan are a matter of our commitment to the brotherly people of Afghanistan, millions of whom have been hosted in Pakistan for past 37 years.”

He said under a transit trade agreement between the two countries, Pakistan had been extending all facilities for transit of Afghan exports and imports through Pakistan’s ports. “We have also been facilitating the transit of Afghan fruits to India through Wagah,” he added.

The spokesman regretted: “We have noted with disappointment the unhelpful statements made by Afghan leadership in complete disregard to the efforts that Pakistan has made and continues to make for peace and stability in Afghanistan.”

He said Pakistani security forces were engaged in a valiant fight against terrorism. “Their efforts are making an immense contribution to securing the porous border to help bring lasting peace to Afghanistan, and the region,” he said.