Islamabad, May 13 (ANI): Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday said that his country and Pakistan would have to work together to defeat a "wildfire of terrorism" sweeping the region and frustrating economic development.
Karzai, who was speaking at a two-day regional economic cooperation conference on Afghanistan, said many factors were hampering cooperation such as inadequate physical infrastructure and inconsistent policies, but by far the most menacing challenge to the region's prosperity today was extremism and terrorism.
"Today parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan have fallen victim to the atrocities of militants and terrorists forcing hundreds of thousands of men, women and children to flee their homes," Karzai said in an opening address to the conference of regional countries, Western allies and international financial agencies.
Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said dialogue and development were the most potent tools in the arsenal against terrorism and called for the conference to endorse a concrete set of projects for "fast-tracking cooperation".
"We stand at a defining moment.The struggle against terrorism is a struggle for a profound vision for a better tomorrow. It is a struggle for hearts and minds, one in which dialogue and development must be the most potent tools in our arsenal," he said.
"We believe it is imperative to turn the page on Afghanistan. They deserve stronger institutions, effective governance, respite from narco trade, meaningful reconstruction and sustainable economic development. They deserve a healing process," he added.
Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have improved since a civilian government came to power in Islamabad last year.
Participants at the conference are focusing on five areas, including mining, energy and infrastructure, health, labour and overland trade.
Karzai was guest of honour at the conference, which is being attended by delegates from 40 countries, business leaders and international organisations.
Officials expect the meeting to approve funding for a raft of transport, energy, trade, infrastructure and job creation projects in a region which the United States has made the frontline of the war against militants.
In a dramatic last-minute change, the venue of the conference was shifted from a convention centre to the prime minister's office for security reasons, officials said.
Wednesday's conference comes a week after a trilateral summit in Washington chaired by President Barack Obama and attended by his Pakistani and Afghan counterparts.
The summit was designed to forge a new anti-terror front in a bid to crush the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, as part of a sweeping new US war strategy.
The UN representative in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, expressed hope late Tuesday that the economic cooperation conference would mark the start of concrete projects. (ANI)