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'Heart’ of Asia cannot function if arteries are clogged, says Sushma Swaraj in Islamabad

Highlights

India on Wednesday extended a hand of friendship to Pakistan, saying it was time the two countries display maturity and self-confidence\" to do business with each other as the world was rooting for a change and offered to move cooperation at a pace Pakistan is comfortable with.

India on Wednesday extended a hand of friendship to Pakistan, saying it was time the two countries display "maturity and self-confidence" to do business with each other as the world was rooting for a change and offered to move cooperation at a pace Pakistan is comfortable with.


Speaking at 'Heart of Asia' ministerial conference on Afghanistan, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also asked the international community to ensure that the forces of terrorism and extremism do not find sanctuaries and safe havens in "any name, form or manifestation".


She said the 'heart' of Asia cannot function if arteries are clogged and noted that India's vision for the war-torn country was one of interlinked trade, transit, energy and communication routes, with Afghanistan as an important hub.
"Let me take this opportunity to extend our hand to Pakistan as well. It is time that we display the maturity and self-confidence to do business with each other and strengthen regional trade and cooperation. The entire world is waiting and rooting for a change. Let us not disappoint them.

"For its part, India is prepared to move our cooperation at a pace which Pakistan is comfortable with. But today, let us at least resolve to help Afghanistan — in the best traditions of good neighbourliness — through more effective transit arrangements," she said.


Swaraj, who was accompanied by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, India's High Commissioner to Pakistan TCA Raghavan and envoy to Afghanistan Amar Sinha, said terrorism in that country has grown in both intensity and scope in the last few months and that India was ready to work with the Afghan government to strengthen its defensive capability.

"Terrorists have made concerted efforts to capture and hold territory, reminding us that they have not changed. We salute the Afghan National Security Forces and the Afghan people for countering the forces of terrorism and extremism with courage and resilience.


"They need the continued support of the international community to defend Afghanistan's unity and security. For its part, India is ready to work with Afghanistan to strengthen its defensive capability," she said.

Swaraj said it was the collective duty of "all of us to ensure that the forces of terrorism and extremism do not find sanctuaries and safe havens in any name, form or manifestation.

"We, in Afghanistan's proximity, have a particular responsibility in this regard," she said.

"An end to terrorism and extremism, and adherence to internationally accepted redlines are essential for reconciliation and lasting peace in Afghanistan," she added


Earlier on Tuesday, Swaraj met her Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz during a banquet hosted by him for the heads of delegates participating in a multilateral conference on Afghanistan.

Sartaj Aziz greeted Ms Swaraj warmly and both engaged in a brief conversation. Mr Aziz later sat next to Ms Swaraj.

Ms Swaraj arrived in Islamabad on a two-day visit, primarily to attend the 'Heart of Asia' 5th Ministerial Meeting on Afghanistan on Wednesday.
She will hold talks with Mr Aziz and call on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the conference today.

The fifth 'Heart of Asia' conference, an annual gathering of Asian and other countries, is aimed at enhancing cooperation for countering security threats and promoting connectivity in the region.

The high-ranking delegations from 14 participating states, 17 supporting countries and 12 international and regional organisations are participating in the two-day conference.

After arriving in Islamabad, Ms Swaraj said the relationship between the two countries should be better and that she will hold talks with Pakistani leaders to find ways to improve bilateral ties.



External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with Pakistan's Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz in Islamabad. (Photo: AP)

"I have come with the message that ties between the two countries should be good and move forward," said Ms Swaraj.

The foreign minister's visit comes after talks between the National Security Advisors of India and Pakistan in Bangkok on Sunday, where they discussed terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir and a range of key bilateral issues apart from agreeing to carry forward the "constructive" engagement.
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