Distrust between Pakistan, Afghanistan "major cause of regional instability": Clinton

 
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Washington, Feb 19(ANI): The historic distrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan remains a 'major cause of instability' in the region, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has pointed out.

"As we have underscored from the beginning, Pakistan plays a pivotal role. It is a nuclear-armed nation of nearly 170 million people with deep ties and strong interests in Afghanistan," Clinton said at the Launch of the Asia Society's Series of Richard C. Holbrooke Memorial Addresses.

"Unfortunately, the historic distrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan remains a major cause of regional instability and does not serve the long-term interests of the people of either country," she added.

Clinton said that while Pakistan had legitimate concerns that should be understood and addressed by the Afghan Government under any reconciliation process, with steps that provide transparency and reassurance, Pakistan also had "responsibilities of its own, including taking decisive steps to ensure that the Afghan Taliban cannot continue to conduct the insurgency from Pakistani territory."

"Pressure from the Pakistani side will help push the Taliban towards the negotiating table and away from al-Qaida," she added, referring to the Afghan peace process.

For the reconciliation efforts to succeed, Pakistan will have to be part of the process, said Clinton, adding that it will have to "respect Afghan sovereignty" and work with Afghanistan to improve regional stability.

"We know cooperation is possible. Just last month, Afghanistan and Pakistan took a huge step forward with formal ratification of a long-awaited Transit Trade Agreement, which will boost economic opportunity on both sides of the border by opening new markets and trade routes for Afghan and Pakistani goods. This was one of Richard's [Holbrooke] proudest accomplishments, because it had been in negotiation since the early 1960s," she stated.

Clinton insisted that expanding this cooperation to security issues- including reconciliation- was in the interests of both Pakistan and Afghanistan, and would be "a focus of our diplomatic efforts going forward." (ANI)

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