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Accord with Kabul on border coordination

By Baqir Sajjad Syed 2016-06-21
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani and Afghan officials on Monday agreed on instituting a mechanism for coordination on their border to prevent flare-ups like the recent deadly clashes at the Torkham crossing point that left four soldiers dead on both sides.

`The idea behind the proposed mechanism is to improve coordination between both sides,` an official said after a meeting between Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry and visiting Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai. The Afghans were here for discussions on border management, particularly the Torkham border incident.

However, a final decision in this regard would be taken by Adviser tothe PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani at a meeting scheduled to be held later this week on the sidelines of the June 23-24 Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit in Tashkent.

Mr Karzai also met Mr Aziz after his meeting with the foreign secretary.

`During the discussions, it was emphasised that there was a need for creating a suitable mechanism for consultation on border management issues. Effective border management is vital for promoting peace, countering terrorism and strengthening relations between the two countries,` the Pakistan Foreign Office said in a statement.

On its part, the Afghan Foreign Ministry said in a statement: `To prevent such incidents from happening again, both sides agreed to establish an effective mechanism for consultation and coordination of issues of mutual concern and interest.

Afghanistan has been sitting on aset of protocols proposed by Pakistan for coordination on the border and its management since 2012.

It was unclear if the Afghan agreement on improvement meant a forward movement on the proposed border management/coordination steps, which are often referred to as Border SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures).

Afghans have remained opposed to any regulation of the border as they do not recognise the Durand Line, which is considered the international border between the two countries. Mr Karzai repeated that opposition during his meeting with Foreign Secretary Chaudhry.

According to the Afghan Foreign Ministry, Mr Karzai `raised with Foreign Secretary Chaudhry the various violations by Pakistan, including their building of installations and check posts inside the Afghan territory in Angor Ada, Ghulam Khan, and Khoja Kheder Mountain. Moreover, he strongly protested against Pakistan`s ongoing unprovoked artil1ery-shelling of Afghan villages`.

The meetings took place after last week`s telephonic conversation between Mr Aziz and Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar, which happened in the midst of the standoff over the construction of a border gate by Pakistan at the Torkham crossing point.

Pakistan reopened the crossing point on Saturday after keeping it closed for almost a week.

Pakistani officials emphasised that the meetings went well. The FO statement said that the talks were marked by cordiality and a mutual desire to amicably resolve border-relatedissues.

`Both sides decided to work in the spirit of good neighbourly relations and friendly cooperation between the two countries, it added.

A similar impression was given by the Afghan side, which said Mr Karzai and Mr Chaudhry met `in an amicable and friendly atmosphere with a constructive agenda`.