The first visit of newly elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani provides optimism. Earlier to Ghani’s visit three top Pakistani officials including Chief of Army Staff, Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI) Chief and National Security Advisor visited Kabul, since Ashraf Ghani took oath as president. This visit is important as it validates that both Pakistan and Afghanistan are flexible in resolving the outstanding issues. Though Ashraf Ghani has exceptional educational and administrative background, he is facing numerous challenges amid NATO’s drawdown. Afghanistan’ economy remains a serious challenge and according to Asian Development Bank (ADB) 2013 economic survey, Afghanistan is facing 20 per cent short fall in budget which if sustained would lead to many civil government employees unpaid in next few months.

That is why, unlike his predecessor, the new Afghan president has evaded the blame game and talked of building a new cooperative relationship with Pakistan. His visit focuses on attracting businessmen for investment in Afghanistan; therefore he offered a short to long-term framework for economic and commercial ties between both the countries. He also offered his country as a ‘land bridge’ between Pakistan and Central Asia and sought the same facility from Pakistan for trade with India. He vowed to increase bilateral trade to $5 billion by 2017 and offered a one-year regional cooperation plan which would further reduce the trust deficit between the two countries. Ashraf Gahni has offered Pakistan to setup common supply chains.

KHURRAM ABBAS,

Islamabad, November 15.