Islamabad  - A high-level Afghan delegation led by National Security Adviser (NSA) of Afghanistan Mohammad Hanif Atmar called on Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa for a bilateral meeting on Sunday.

The Afghan delegation comprised NDS Head Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, Afghanistan Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak, Ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal and other Afghan officials. The Pakistani side was also joined by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua.

Talks focused on the operationalisation of recently concluded Afghan Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Stability (APAPPS). The Afghan side was appreciative of Pakistan’s initiative in preparation of the framework document to improve cooperation and coordination between the two brotherly countries on a host of confidence building and substantive measures. The two sides agreed to fast track the formulation of working groups, especially on bilateral security cooperation and to undertake measures that would assist both sides in reduction of violence at the hands of terrorists.

Afghan NSA Mohammad Hanif Atmar said: “Afghanistan has very positive expectations from Pakistan and with mutual help, we can allay each other’s concerns and apply our energies to bring about enduring peace and stability.”

The COAS said: “Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have suffered heavily due to prolonged conflict and must together explore ways to usher peace in the region by defeating the common enemy. We must begin with the trust that neither covets an inch of the others territory nor is letting its land being used against the other. Suspicions will only fuel negativity and facilitate detractors.”

Both sides chalked out outline plans for operationalising APAPPS and shared ideas towards Afghan reconciliation as the roadmap for lasting peace. Afghan delegation also extended invitation on behalf of Afghan President to COAS for visiting Kabul, which he accepted.

Earlier, both countries agreed on a way forward by holding meetings of working groups of two countries on a regular basis to strengthen bilateral relations and improve security situation in the region.

This understanding reached during a meeting held between Muhammad Hanif Atmar and National Security Adviser Nasser Khan Janjua here at his office.

According to official sources, both sides discussed matters of bilateral interest, security situation and the border management. “The Afghanistan Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) also came under discussion”, the sources said.

Later the Afghan delegation also met with Deputy Chairman Planning Commission Sartaj Aziz and discussed ways to increase economic cooperation, bilateral trade, energy and people-to-people contacts between the two countries.

Sartaj emphasised that connectivity is a key to expanding mutual trade and enhancing bilateral ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Sartaj maintained that the people of Afghanistan have suffered for many years and they deserve rapid improvement in economic and social sectors. Improved regional connectivity can assist supporting growth and development, he said.

He further stated that Pakistan was ready to play meaningful role in terms of extended cooperation in multi-sectoral avenues.

In this regard, both countries should focus on building road and railway linkages which would ultimately enable both sides to utilise the export potential. Both the sides agreed to hold meetings of the sub-working groups on regular basis in order to fast-track the economic and development initiatives. Furthermore, the sub-working groups would identify issues and prepare agenda for the upcoming meeting of the Economic Cooperation Group to be held in September 2018.

It was also agreed to hold meetings of the working groups of the two countries on a regular basis.

This is the first high-level visit from Afghanistan in last two years which aims to resolve issues and misgivings between the two countries through dialogue.

The Afghan delegation is also expected to visit the general headquarters in Rawalpindi where the two sides would have in-depth talks on border security and Afghan peace process.

The visit of Afghan delegation comes against the backdrop of an agreement reached between the two countries earlier this month to operationalize APAPPS.

They agreed to put more efforts to operationalise APAPPS to take a fresh start, bridge existing gaps and build a formal mechanism of cooperation in all areas of mutual interests and to take collective actions to strengthen trust between the two countries.

The APAPPS provides a framework to strengthen mutual trust and deepen interaction in all spheres of bilateral engagements. It is also a mechanism for finding solutions to bilateral areas of concern.

Both the sides agreed that effective and full implementation of the APAPPS would contribute to the common objectives of eliminating terrorism and achieving peace, stability, prosperity and development of the people of the two countries.

Last month Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi visited Kabul where he had interactions with top civilian leaders including Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and both sides had agreed on achieving the common aim of regional security through connectivity.