The 3rd session of the Trilateral Foreign Minister’s Dialogue was held on 07th July 2020 via video conferencing. The Dialogue was previously decided to be held in Beijing, but the plan was revised in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This series of dialogues began in 2017, with China establishing talks with the purpose that the three countries: China, Pakistan and Afghanistan were connected geographically and culturally, holding strategic significance and sharing common welfare interests. Pakistan had begun to further the task of development and Afghanistan at the time was at a vital stage of political and economic reconstruction.

China, holding the most stable position of the three, had offered to assist its neighbors in their agendas in order to safeguard the prosperity of the region. And so, the dialogue was established essentially, for the purpose of fostering cooperation and friendly relations in the area. The subsequent challenges faced by Afghanistan in particular, as well as Pakistan, due to the War on Terror were noted by the trilateral group, in previous sessions. In the rehabilitation effort, Afghanistan was helped by other countries in the region as well, namely Russia and organizations such as NATO.

As suggested by the name, the Dialogue is co-headed by the vice foreign ministers and deputies of the three countries. According to an issued statement, the recent session was co-chaired by the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui, Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Mirwais Nab and Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood. The three members re-asserted the importance of strengthening mutual trust and continuing to coordinate for the regions’ political and economic prosperity.

On the issue of the ongoing global pandemic, the three have decided to support the World Health Organization’s efforts in combating COVID-19 and mobilizing international cooperation for the prevention and control of the disease. There was an emphasis for the international community to reduce stigma and discrimination that accompanies the onset of an unpredictable situation such as this. The stance taken by the trilateral group on the global crisis, in this time of calamity, sets an excellent precedent for the international community and other cooperative groups to extend a united front against the common enemy.

The three discussed the much-awaited Intra-Afghan peace talks that constitute the second phase of the deal signed between the US and the Afghan Taliban in February of this year. The deal was made for regulating the foreseeable withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. The peace talks are vital in formulating a concrete plan for departure, the three agreed, without which Afghanistan would potentially suffer in transition, especially in light of possible re-emergence of terrorist groups in the country.

The Intra-Afghan talks consist of a series of negotiations which garnered strength in 2018. Pakistan and China, along with other regional powers and international peace organizations have played their role in encouraging the peace initiative. In the most recent series of negotiations, the US had agreed to remove troops from Afghan soil given that the Afghan Taliban held their end of the deal. However, such initiatives are constantly undermined by the Afghan government before their completion.

In the most recent Dialogue, Pakistan and China applauded Afghanistan for hastening the exchange of prisoners as this would constitute an important part of the reconciliation process and would serve to show Afghanistan’s initiative in the awaited negotiations with the US. Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to strengthen their bilateral relations particularly through the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS).

The APAPPS was established in May 2018 to enhance institutional coordination between the two nations. After the predicted withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, the Action Plan would provide both the countries with an excellent and much-needed opportunity to promote collective interests and advance economic development.

A joint statement produced after the virtual meeting stated that China and Pakistan extended their cooperation in protecting the region and resisting terrorist activities on Afghan soil which threaten regional peace and common security. It is in the interest of both China and Afghanistan to join hands against security threats in their territories. Pakistan too, geographically placed between the two nations has vowed to help coordinate the peace effort.

Lastly, the trilateral group vowed to extend help against national and regional threats, promote political and economic development, and join forces to combat the global COVID-19 pandemic across the countries. Undoubtedly, the Trilateral Vice Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue is a commendable platform to carry out these objectives. Since the inception of the Dialogue in 2017, the trilateral group has been successful in promoting peace efforts in the region, and in the review of this success, the group has supported the continuity of the initiative in the coming years.

“The three sides expressed readiness to carry out trilateral practical cooperation in flexible manners, and keep exploring new fields of cooperation, with a view to accumulating outcomes for the 4th China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue,” the joint statement concluded.

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