Pakistan visit to improve ties, says Ghani

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani arrives for a speech after offering Eid Al-Fitr prayers during the Eid Al-Fitr at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, June 4, 2019. (AP)
Updated 04 June 2019

Pakistan visit to improve ties, says Ghani

  • Ghani said he agreed to visit Imran Khan after the two leaders met on the sidelines of the OIC meeting in Saudi Arabia

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday said he will visit Pakistan on June 27 to open a new chapter in his country's uneasy relationship with its neighbor and mend ties that are often characterized by mistrust and tit-for-tat accusations.
Ghani said he agreed to visit Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan after the two leaders met last week on the sidelines of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting in Saudi Arabia.
"I hope the visit will be positive," Ghani said in his message to mark Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that caps the fasting month of Ramadan.
Kabul routinely accuses Pakistan of harboring its Taliban enemies, yet in recent months Islamabad has lent its support to US efforts to broker an end to Afghanistan's long-running war. Ghani said he held out hope that years of mistrust can be replaced with a new relationship that will allow peace to flourish in the region.
Washington's peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was in Islamabad on the weekend meeting with senior officials, including Khan and the powerful army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa. Khalilzad is looking to press forward on efforts to find an end to America's longest running conflict. Pakistan has promised to aid the peace process and has so far pressed Taliban, many of whom have families living in Pakistan, into talks. Khalilzad, who has already held several rounds of talks with the religious militia will meet again with their leadership later this month in Doha, where they maintain a political office.
He will press the Taliban to hold talks with the Afghan government, which the insurgent group has continued to refuse, calling Ghani's administration a US puppet.
In his address to the nation, Ghani urged the Taliban to again mark Eid with a cease fire as they did last year, but the religious militia has already refused, saying there will be no end to fighting while US and NATO troops are still in Afghanistan.
Taliban leader, Maulvi Hibatullah Akhunzada, in his Eid message to insurgents issued on Monday, again rejected a cease-fire while repeating a Taliban promise that they have no ambitions to monopolize power in a post-war Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, in northern Baghlan province, a remote-controlled mine hidden in a motorcycle parked outside a mosque exploded, killing two worshippers and wounding eight.
The explosion occurred as worshippers were leaving the mosque in Nahrin district after saying their morning Eid prayers, said Javed Bashrat, provincial chief police spokesman.
A series of bombings in the past week have rattled the Afghan capital. On Monday, five people were killed when a bomb attached to a bus exploded, the second attack of this type in as many days.
The Islamic State affiliate operating in Afghanistan has taken responsibility for several of the attacks, and the Taliban claimed an attack against a US military convoy last week that killed four Afghan civilians and slightly wounded four American service personnel.


‘Clear risks’ for stability in China’s Pacific lending, Australian think tank warns

Updated 57 min 3 sec ago

‘Clear risks’ for stability in China’s Pacific lending, Australian think tank warns

SYDNEY: China’s financial largesse in the Pacific carries “clear risks” for stability if left unchecked, a Sydney think tank warned, while saying allegations of “debt-trap” diplomacy are so far overblown.
In a study released Monday, the influential Lowy Institute warned that fragile Pacific nations risked borrowing too much and leaving themselves exposed to demands from Beijing.
China has repeatedly been accused of offering lucrative but unserviceable loans to gain leverage or snap up strategically vital assets like ports, airports, or electricity providers.
While Lowy said allegations that China was engaged in “debt-trap” diplomacy in the Pacific were overblown, the trend was not positive and countries like Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu were dangerously exposed.
Between 2011 and 2018, China committed loans to the region worth $6 billion — around 21 percent of regional GDP.
A majority of that money, $4.1 billion, was earmarked for Papua New Guinea.
Only a fraction, less than $1 billion, has so far been dispersed but China is still the single largest creditor in Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu.
“The sheer scale of Chinese lending and the lack of strong institutional mechanisms to protect the debt sustainability of borrowing countries mean a continuation of business as usual would pose clear risks,” the report said.
The South Pacific has become a forum for intense competition for influence between China, the United States, and Australia in recent years.
The island nations sit on a vital shipping crossroad, contain vast reserves of fish stocks, and provide a potential base for leading militaries to project power well beyond their borders.
Beijing has stepped up engagement in the region through a series of high profile visits and no-conditions lending via its Belt and Road Initiative.
The Solomon Islands and Kiribati recently announced they would switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing after a long courtship by the country’s Communist leaders.
Six Pacific governments are currently debtors to Beijing — the Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu.
Lowy said many of China’s loans carry a modest two percent annual interest rate.
But it warned that China would need to adopt formal lending rules if loans were to be made sustainable as natural disasters like earthquakes, cyclones and tsunamis can quickly upend countries’ ability to pay back loans.
“Three small Pacific economies — Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu — also appear to be among those most heavily indebted to China anywhere in the world,” it said.