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Afghanistan-Pakistan’s Healing Relations

The Pakistan embassy in Kabul issued more than 2,000 visas in one day on October 12, following a government decision to facilitate Afghan citizens. The move was part of Islamabad’s new policy to improve relations with its western neighbor, following its global role in the Afghan peace process to end nearly two decades of war in Afghanistan. Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansour Ahmad Khan announced that his country’s consulates in Afghanistan would continue to issue visas to Afghan citizens. On September 29, the Pakistani Federal Cabinet approved a new visa policy for Afghanistan to issue multiple-entry visas to facilitate Afghan businessmen and citizens. Previously, Pakistani embassies and consulates in Afghanistan issued only one-time entry visas for Afghan visitors.
Last month, Islamabad also opened all borders with Afghanistan, northwest of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including the main Torkham crossing for pedestrians, which had been closed since March due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country in March. Islamabad also announced the creation of 12 markets in the border areas with Afghanistan and Iran to promote trade activities in the border areas with its neighbors. The new initiative came as Abdullah Abdullah, the leader of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, paid a three-day visit to Islamabad in the last week of September.
In a statement after meeting with Abdullah last month, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed hope that Abdullah’s visit would help open a new chapter in the troubled relations between Kabul and Islamabad, adding that he would soon travel to Afghanistan and would meet President Ashraf Ghani.
Landlocked Afghanistan has for decades relied heavily on Pakistan’s land routes and seaports for bilateral and international trade. However, tensions over alleged support for militants and other types of blame games between both the countries have significantly weakened bilateral trade in recent years. If expanding Afghanistan’s economic and trade relations with Pakistan is a factor in changing Pakistan’s policy, Afghanistan needs this more than Pakistan. Afghanistan, as a landlocked country that can get the closest access to the seaport through Pakistan, depends economically on Pakistan. Afghanistan needs Pakistani products, in particular, raw materials and construction materials, especially cement, essential goods such as clothing, etc., and the market for Pakistani materials and goods.
Hopes for improved relations between the two countries, optimism about the closeness of the two countries and Pakistan’s support for bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table to reach a political solution for decades of instability and war have brought the two countries closer and also raised the hopes of the people for an end to the war and instability. However, both the countries need to further strengthen their ties. They have to keep on moving forward on the positive achievements and consider their long-term benefits in consideration. China – Pakistan’s CPEC and China’s Belt and Road Initiative as a whole can play a dominant role in the region and can turn Afghanistan into and important trade route. It can also assist Afghanistan in overcoming its economic hardships, like poverty, unemployment and insecurity. However, for that to happen it is vital that insecurity in Afghanistan must reduce an its relations with Pakistan must improve.
(Sahar News)

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