DUSHANBE – Russia and Pakistan has urged the Nato-led coalition in Afghanistan to step up training of local forces, while Russian president lamented slow pace of work on vital energy projects in Pakistan and Afghanistan, saying his country is ready to invest billions of dollars.
The call by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari on Friday to the coalition partners in Afghanistan for pacing up security training ahead of their planned withdrawal was joined by Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai and Tajik leader Emomali Rahmon during a quadrilateral regional summit in Dushanbe.
"The heads of state emphasise that reduction of foreign military presence in Afghanistan should be accompanied by adequate increase of efforts by the participants of the international coalition for training and arming Afghan national security structures," the leaders' joint statement said. The four nations also agreed to work more closely to combat extremism and drug trafficking along with organised crimes.
Speaking after the talks, Medvedev stated that security in Central Asia is the sole responsibility of the countries of the region. He said he believes that help from other countries is important but not crucial. "In the end, responsibility for what is going on in the region will fall on our countries - Russia, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan," Medvedev stressed, adding that it is a view shared by "all participants of today's summit."
The Russian leader pointed out that currently a lot depends on partners "who help solve various tasks in the region." However, these are non-regional powers, and in Dmitry Medvedev's opinion it is necessary for the four states taking part in the Dushanbe summit to step up their efforts. "Otherwise, we take the risk that the great efforts we are undertaking are in vain," the president explained. In particular, he was at pains to point out that Moscow is willing to develop political dialogue with Afghanistan.
Earlier, during the summit meeting the Russian president lamented a lack of progress in joint energy projects with Pakistan and Afghanistan in his meeting with his counterparts in the four-way summit. "There's a whole range of projects that have been on the table for a long time which have seen no movement forward and which should be implemented," Medvedev said in the Tajik capital Dushanbe. "It is time to move from words to deeds," he said, referring to a project codenamed CASA-1000, whose aim will be sending power from Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and a trans-national gas pipeline.
Medvedev said Russia was ready to invest "hundreds of millions of dollars" into the CASA-1000 project to send power from Tajikistan and fellow Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan and Pakistan. "But for it to happen, necessary organisational decisions should be taken first, we have to be invited," Medvedev told reporters after the talks.
He also confirmed Russia's interest in a key trans-national gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India. The 1,700-kilometre (1,050-mile) Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline has been on hold for many years due to the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and economic reasons.
The gas price has also been a contentious issue. "The question is at what price Turkmenistan would be selling gas to the project's participants?" Russian energy minister Sergei Shmatko told reporters in Dushanbe. The TAPI pipeline aims to transport over 30 billion cubic metres of gas annually from the Dauletabad gas fields in southeast Turkmenistan and could become a cash cow for Afghanistan in transit fees.
There is a series of projects which have been on the table but there has been no progress in their implementation," Medvedev concluded. These projects cover the transport, agriculture, chemical, construction and food industries.
On the other had, in his meetings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon on the sideline of the summit, President Asif Ali Zardari proposed a trilateral trade agreement to include Tajikistan along the line of Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement.
While talking to President Hamid Karzai, President Zardari said that in order to eradicate poverty and illiteracy, the root cause of breeding militant mindset, the regional countries need to concentrate on exploring more economic opportunities for their people and to provide them better future prospects.
Briefing the media about the meeting, Spokesperson to President Farhatullah Babar said that the president while emphasising upon the need to have trilateral trade arrangements said that such an arrangement would not only benefit the people of the three countries would also generate huge economic activity in Afghanistan.
Recent incidents on the border also came under discussion during the meeting. The two leaders welcomed setting up of a joint military commission to deal with such unwanted incidents that could hamper the amicable equation of the two countries.
Discussing development of Afghanistan, the president highlighted that the two countries direly need energy avenues to meet their developmental requirements. He said that we should work zealously on all the energy related projects to meet our growing needs and to expedite process of development. The president also emphasised upon the early implementation of CASA-1000 project.
President Zardari said that connectivity through all available modes hold the key to the development of the region by tremendously boosting the mutual trade activities and prompting people to people contacts.
The president said that Pakistan has always called upon the international community to support and work for the permanent solution to the issues in Afghanistan and we are ready to provide all possible assistance to the international community in this regard. He said that Pakistan would continue to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of reconciliation. He also called upon international funding agencies to honour their commitments with respect to vital projects that promise a new era of development and prosperity in the region.
The President said that we look forward to the fifth meeting of the trilateral 'Core Group' later this month in the USA. He said that Islamabad would soon host the 2nd working level meeting of the Joint Commission for Peace Reconciliation. The President said that the success of Afghanistan transition hinges on the progress in reconciliation with various factions as well as preparedness to Afghan institutions to handle its responsibilities. He said that Pakistan was ready to provide all help in capacity building of Afghan institutions.
President Zardari met Tajik President Emomali Rahmon met here at Qasr-e-Millat, Dushanbe, and discussed matter relating to bilateral relations, regional situation, common challenges and the way forward in addressing the issues of common concern.
Spokesperson to the President Farhatullah Babar said that from the onset of the meeting, President Zardari thanked his Tajik counterpart for providing an opportunity to the leadership of the four participating countries to meet and have candid discussions at the platform of Quadrilateral Summit and also during their one-on-one meetings. During the meeting the two Presidents agreed upon the need to work earnestly on extending existing connectivity modes between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.
The two presidents also welcomed Russia's intended participation in building rail link network among the four participating countries of the Summit. Matters relating to extending air links between the two countries also came under discussion. Various options in this regard were discussed by the two presidents and both the sides agreed to work further on establishing air links as soon as possible. The two presidents also agreed upon early implementation of CASA-1000 project for the mutual benefit and called upon IFIs to honour their commitments.
President Emomali Rahmon appreciated President Zardari for his efforts for promoting regional connectivity which promises to usher a new era a development for the region. Later the two Presidents left for Ismail Somoni where President Zardari laid the foundation of Pakistan Embassy Complex.