NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan should not risk security: Pakistan PM

NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan should not risk security: Pakistan PM

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan should not risk security: Pakistan PM

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (R) walks with Pakistan Air Chief Tahir Rafique Butt (L) as he looks over aircraft at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex in Kamra, some 65 km west of Islamabad on Dec 18, 2013. AFP photo

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has described 2014 as a defining year in Afghanistan’s history and emphasized the need for preserving regional peace and security, as NATO/ISAF troops draw down from Afghanistan before the end of this year. 

“We hope the drawdown will be managed while preserving regional peace and security. Pakistan also wishes Afghanistan every success in drawing a path for sustainable peace,” Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif told the Hürriyet Daily News in a written interview ahead of the Turkey-Pakistan-Afghanistan Trilateral Summit that is set to take place in Ankara today. 

Here are Prime Minister Sharif’s answers to questions from the Daily News on both the summit and bilateral relations between Turkey and Pakistan: 

What will be the main topics of the 8th trilateral summit and what results do you expect out of this reunion of the three leaders in Ankara? As this meeting comes in the run-up to Afghanistan’s presidential elections, how do you think this summit will contribute to the building of Afghanistan’s stability?

This is a defining year in Afghanistan’s history. As such, this summit’s focus on “sustainable peace in the heart of Asia” is very timely. We wish Afghanistan success with their upcoming elections as well as in their security and economic transitions. We appreciate Turkey’s continued support for promoting regional peace and stability. In this context, the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Turkey Trilateral process provides a useful platform. We hope this summit will also contribute to our collective endeavors for peace, stability and socio-economic development in Afghanistan. Given Turkey’s close ties to Afghanistan and Pakistan, we hope it will continue to play an important role.

The 7th Trilateral Meeting was focused on cooperation in the fight against terrorism in an effort to increase border security, intelligence sharing and other security-oriented measures. To what extent have these measures been realized and brought about concrete results?

I am happy to note that considerable progress has been made since the 7th summit. Our trilateral cooperation in counter-terrorism and security areas is an ongoing effort. All three countries have an interest and a stake in it. Among others, tripartite military exercises were conducted recently aimed at counter-terrorism. Similarly, under the Istanbul Forum, the three chambers of commerce have met and explored business prospects. We anticipate that this useful cooperation will continue.

2014 will mark another historic moment for Afghanistan with the withdrawal of NATO. Is Pakistan concerned that the withdrawal could cause more security problems? Do you think Turkey and Pakistan could play a role in compensating a possible security deficit in Afghanistan?

Peace and stability in Afghanistan has a direct bearing on Pakistan. We support a sovereign, independent and united Afghanistan. The drawdown of NATO/ISAF by the end of the year as part of the security transition, will be a watershed event. We hope the drawdown will be managed while preserving regional peace and security. Pakistan also wishes Afghanistan every success in drawing a path for sustainable peace and development. Turkey has excellent relations with both Afghanistan and Pakistan and has always played a helpful role. I am confident that both Turkey and Pakistan will continue to be factors of stability in Afghanistan and the region. 

‘Special relationship’

On the bilateral level, what economic, trade or energy projects are on the agenda of Turkey and Pakistan? What can Turkey and Pakistan do to boost their economic relations further?

Pakistan and Turkey enjoy a “special relationship” underpinned by a strong political, institutional and popular base. Our two leaderships remain committed to translate this existing goodwill into a comprehensive, future-oriented, economic-driven partnership between the two countries.
During the recent visit of Prime Minister Erdogan to Pakistan in December 2013, the decision by the two sides to conclude a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) by the first quarter of 2014 and the operationalization of the ECO Container Train service represent tangible manifestations of this shared vision. It is reassuring to note that our respective private sectors are an integral part of this enterprise. I am confident that my interactions with leading Turkish companies in Istanbul on Feb. 14 will build on the momentum of the Business Forums held earlier in Istanbul and Lahore, during the last two leadership level visits.

On our part, the two governments should aim to provide greater facilitative frameworks to actively encourage the process. To give greater focus to these efforts, I propose that the two sides revive the trade target of $2 billion in the next couple of years. 

Is there a certain date for signing the preferential trade agreement?

As I have suggested, we have decided to conclude our Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) by the first quarter of 2014. Technical negotiations are currently underway to finalize the process.

What are your expectations from Turkish investors? In which areas do you think Turkish investors could be focused in Pakistan?

During my interactions with the Turkish business community, I see a clear appreciation of the available business opportunities in Pakistan aided by the investment-friendly business policies of the government. 

Successful implementation of a number of projects, including the 56 MW wind-power plant in Sindh and the Metro Bus service and the Solid Waste Management system in Lahore have added to investor confidence.

Addressing energy deficiencies and promoting regional connectivity remain central planks of our strategy for sustainable economic development. I believe that Turkish expertise in the energy, infrastructure, and urban development sectors can perfectly complement our developmental vision, besides accruing long-term mutually beneficial relationships. Textiles, agro-based industries, Tourism, Information Technology and Telecommunications are also attractive sectors for Turkish investments. 

There are reports of the growing capacity of bilateral cooperation in the defense industry. What are concrete projects in this field and what more can the two countries do?

The close brotherly relations between our two countries are amply reflected in the defense field. Frequent exchange of high level visits and regular military collaborations reinforce these ties. The Mid-Life Upgrade project of our F-16 Aircraft by the Turkish Aerospace Industry (TAI) offers a tangible manifestation of this cooperation. The two countries could consider more joint ventures and research and development projects in the realm of defense.