November 14, 2014 / 6:59 AM / 3 years ago

Pakistan says security 'inextricably linked' with Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan’s military told new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that the security of the two countries was “inextricably linked” on Friday as Ghani kicked off a two-day trip aimed at rebuilding damaged ties between the two countries.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (L) walks with Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif's adviser on foreign affairs, after arriving at Chaklala Airbase in Rawalpindi near Islamabad November 14, 2014. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

Relations have been harmed by regular accusations from both countries that the other is harboring anti-government insurgents who cross the porous border and mount deadly attacks.

The trip is Ghani’s first state visit to Pakistan.

A tweet from Pakistan’s Major General Asim Bajwa, head of the military’s public relations wing, said Ghani’s trip took place amid a positive atmosphere and that border cooperation was “in focus”.

“Tribute to Pak sacrifices, Bodes well for region,” he said. “Security, stability a shared goal. Our security inextricably linked.”

Pakistan Foreign Office spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said discussions between Ghani and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who took power last year, would be wide-ranging.

“Peace and stability, everything to do with bilateral cooperation, political engagement, economic cooperation, the training program - everything is on the table,” she said.

One of Pakistan’s chief concerns is the growing influence of its arch rival India in Afghanistan as NATO troops pull out this year. India has trained hundreds of Afghan security officers under a bilateral agreement.

Earlier this month, the Pakistani military offered a brigade-level training package to the Afghan military. Such offers have been made before, but the Afghans declined amid suspicions that Pakistan was sheltering Afghan insurgents.

Ghani met Friday with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, and the two set a goal of doubling two-way trade to $5 billion within two years, an Afghan statement said.

Ghani, who took power in September following a protracted election dispute, has sought a role for China in mediating peace negotiations with the Afghan Taliban.

China enjoys good relations with both Afghanistan and Pakistan, which also faces a Taliban insurgency, and is concerned about Islamist militancy in its Xinjiang region.

Aslam says Pakistan welcomes an expanded role for China and is awaiting any requests from the Afghan government that might help kick-start the moribund Afghan peace process.

Editing by Maria Golovnina and Nick Macfie

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