Zardari to host trilateral summit on 16th
By Baqir Sajjad Syed
ISLAMABAD: Presidents of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran will meet here from Feb 16 to 17 at the third trilateral summit, committed to promoting regional cooperation and strengthening peace and stability, but the event is expected to have more visuals than substance.
“We aren’t expecting anything major in the joint declaration to be issued at the end of the two-day summit,” a Pakistani diplomat said.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Afghan leader Hamid Karzai are expected to arrive in Islamabad on Feb 16.
The three sides have been holding the trilateral summit since 2009, but so far they have made little headway in substantively bolstering cooperation because of their mutual suspicions. Additionally, US influence on Afghanistan and Pakistan has prevented the forum, established on President Ahmadinejad’s initiative, from taking off in real terms.
The joint declarations issued at the end of the two previous meetings virtually carried nothing more than reiteration of their commitment to the much cherished goals of expanding political, security, economic and cultural ties, maintaining peace and stability in the region and attaining prosperity of their people.
The three-way format that is primarily focused on exploring cooperation in the fields of economics and trade, counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism, would provide an opportunity to the leaders to discuss connectivity issues, efforts for jointly fighting terrorism and organised crime, improving border management, controlling narcotics smuggling, in addition to reconciliation with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The three countries are faced with common problems of drug-trafficking, terrorism, trans-national crimes and failing economies, but Afghanistan is of major interest to the other two — Iran and Pakistan — because both share border with it, have hosted Afghan refugees and are impacted directly by the developments in the war-torn country.
But, more significantly it is Afghanistan which makes Islamabad and Tehran to converge and also diverge. Despite the prevailing cynicism about the trilateral forum, leaders of Pakistan and Iran have expressed strong confidence in it.
President Asif Ali Zardari, talking to visiting Iranian Vice President Ali Seedlou on Tuesday, expressed the hope that the “forthcoming summit would prove to be an important milestone in our journey towards finding peace, stability and Afghan-led conciliation process”.
He stressed the need for the regional countries to jointly combat extremism and terrorism. “It is high time that the regional countries work together and extricate our people from the threat posed by extremists and militant mindset.”
During his last visit to Kabul, President Ahmadinejad had impressed upon President Karzai to use the trilateral forum to discuss his country’s fractured relations with Islamabad.