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Meetings in Dushanbe
Posted:Jul 7, 2017
 
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Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s two-day visit to Dushanbe, Tajikistan where he met with his Tajik and Afghan counterparts was important not just because of the political significance of Nawaz and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani finally meeting but for the economic benefits we can get out of increased trade with the Central Asian Republics. Appropriately, the main focus of the visit was the CASA-1000 project under which Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan will import electricity 1300 MW of electricity to Pakistan and Afghanistan. With the prime minister of Kyrgyzstan also in attendance, the four leaders agreed to move ahead with the project and agreed that Pakistan would receive 1000 MW of the electricity and Afghanistan would get 300 MW.
 
 Pakistan has long sought access to the Central Asian market, particularly for its energy needs. With the Tapi pipeline beset by security problems and Pakistan’s tensions with India and Afghanistan, this meeting was a useful opportunity to explore alternatives while seeking a diplomatic breakthrough with Afghanistan. Nawaz also held a separate one-on-one meeting with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, where the two countries agreed to increase bilateral trade to $500 million – a nearly tenfold increase from its current volume. The strength of ties between the two countries – and the importance of Central Asia to Pakistan – can be gauged by the fact that this was Nawaz’s fourth visit to the country while Rahmon has come to Pakistan twice.
 
At the end of the trip, the leaders of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan issued a joint declaration which focused on regional peace. Given the well-documented issues between Pakistan and Afghanistan, it is positive that both countries agreed that security and stability needed to be improved . They also reiterated their support for the ‘Kabul process’, a peace process that is meant to be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. Heartening though this may be, it is still far from a genuine breakthrough. 
 
The extremist plague in both countries is far from being eradicated and both states respond to attack by blaming their neighbour for nurturing and sheltering militants. Ghani still has not budged on his refusal to visit Pakistan. There was some hope with the US senatorial delegation which visited both countries getting them to agree to a deal to conduct coordinated and complementary security operations against militant groups on both sides of the border. How this plays out in reality is still to be seen. But at least there is now some hope that the summit in Dushanbe showed the two countries how cooperation is essential if they are to both benefit from greater engagement with the Central Asian republics.
 
 
 
 
 
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