Tribune press service
New Delhi, July 16

The connectivity conference in Tashkent, which was attended by almost all the foreign ministers of Central and South Asia, saw sparks spring up between Pakistan and Afghanistan before the two sides cooled the tensions with a meeting between their leaders Imran Khan and Ashraf Ghani.

Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Imran Khan also crossed swords, albeit indirectly. In an indirect reference to the Pakistani military’s stubborn stance on trade and connectivity with India, Jaishankar said the real issue was mindsets, not disputes. Imran in his speech cited the Kashmir issue as a major obstacle to connectivity projects.

Jaishankar does a dig at Pak on the trade

  • In an indirect reference to Pak’s stubbornness over commerce, connectivity, Jaishankar said it is a matter of mindset, not disputes.
  • Imran Khan cited Kashmir issue as a major obstacle to connectivity projects

With Pakistani Prime Minister on stage, Afghan President Ghani indirectly criticized Pakistan for failing to prevent terrorists from crossing into Afghanistan and for failing to convince the Taliban to engage in meaningful talks.

Wants Chabahar part of the international corridor

  • Speaking at the meeting, Jaishankar called for the port of Chabahar to be included in the north-south corridor.
  • He also said that for reliable connectivity within and across Afghanistan, the world must have confidence in its governance.

Imran, in turn, stressed that the Taliban was not ready for a deal when there were 1.5 lakh of NATO troops in Afghanistan. “Why would they compromise now? Why would they listen to us when they feel victorious? ” He posed, saying that more than 70,000 Pakistanis have also been victims of terrorism.

Although the Tashkent meeting was primarily for foreign ministers, senior leaders from Pakistan and Afghanistan had landed there as the meeting was to continue the discussions they had held over the previous two days in Dushanbe.

The immediate victim of the clash between Imran and Ghani was the proposed weekend peace conference in Pakistan in which elements close to the Kabul regime were to participate. The Taliban had recused themselves because they had discussed several times with the Pakistanis.

Common sense prevailed after the ministers delivered their speeches. Imran and Ghani held a meeting which was also attended by the Director General of Interservice Intelligence, Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed.

Speaking at the meeting, Jaishankar called for the port of Chabahar to be included in the north-south corridor, which was the main topic of discussions. He also said that for reliable connectivity within and across Afghanistan, the world must have confidence in its governance.

Describing connectivity efforts as an act of trust, he said they must comply with international law, respect the sovereignty of nations and be based on economic viability.

The inclusion of the port of Chabahar within the framework of the INSTC (North-South International Transport Corridor) would guarantee secure and unhindered access to the sea for the countries of Central Asia, he said while welcoming the India-Iran-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan Working Group on the Joint Use of Chabahar Port.



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