ISLAMABAD - Newly sworn-in Afghan President Ashraf Ghani who is in Pakistan on a two-day official visit Friday held series of meetings with civil and military leaders, boosting prospects for regional peace and stability.

Unlike his predecessor, President Ghani is seeking close and cooperative relations with eastern neighbour Pakistan by reducing the trust deficit that tattered bilateral relations between Islamabad and Kabul.

On its part, Pakistan's leadership made it clear to the new Afghan President that their country would not interfere in Afghanistan's internal matters - that means Pakistan neither had a design of seeking strategic depth or any favourites in Afghanistan.

They impressed upon the new Afghan leadership that Pakistan has been advocating that peace and stability in Afghanistan is its core interest and that was why it is supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process there.

On the other hand, Afghanistan's new political administration after deep thought found it an appropriate time to mend fences with Pakistan for mutual interest largely because of the departure of US-led international forces from the war-torn country in the coming years.

Foreign policy experts are of the view that peace in the region would remain elusive until Afghanistan and Pakistan join hands. "It is about time that Afghanistan and Pakistan enter into a new era of constructive relations for the interest of peace and economic development in the region,” remarked Najam Rafique, one of the directors of Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad.

President Ghani, who is heading a high level delegation, held separate meetings with his Pakistani counterpart President Mamnoon Hussain, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman, Sartaj Aziz, Ishaq Dar, Safron Minister Qadir Baloch and addressed an investment conference.

A formal welcome ceremony in honour of the Afghan president will be held today (Saturday) at the Prime Minister House. Later, Ashraf Ghani will hold delegation-level talks with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

President Mamnoon while talking to the Afghan President said that close cooperative relations with Afghanistan based on mutual respect and trust remains a high priority in Pakistan's foreign policy. He said Pakistan would continue to fully support a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.

Briefing about the meeting of the two presidents, Press Secretary to the President Saba Mohsin Raza said that Afghan president was warmly received by President Mamnoon upon his arrival at the Presidency. The president on the occasion said the two sides should work closely to further strengthen parliamentary, academic, media and civil society contacts.

She said during the meeting which was held in a very cordial atmosphere, the two presidents discussed whole gamut of issues ranging from bilateral relations to further cementing mutual cooperation and from the common challenges to further strengthening economic, trade and people to people contacts for the mutual benefit of the people of the two countries.

Afghan president expressed keen desire of the government and people of Afghanistan to further strengthen bilateral relations with the people and the government of Pakistan in all areas of mutual interest. He thanked President Mamnoon for the warm welcome.

Later, the president also hosted banquet in honour of President of Afghanistan at Aiwan-i-Sadr which was attended among others by federal ministers, services chiefs, parliamentarians, ambassadors, business representatives and senior officials.

President Ghani also met with Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif at General Headquarters Rawalpindi and discussed security issues and defence cooperation. Ghani appreciated Pakistan's efforts to fight terrorism and sacrifices rendered by the nation. He said Afghanistan wants to bolster security and defence ties with Pakistan including cooperation in training and border management. He also assured of Afghan cooperation to jointly curb the menace of terrorism.

Earlier, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif received the distinguished guest on his arrival at the GHQ. A contingent of Pakistan Army presented guard of honour to the visiting president. The Afghan president inspected the guard of honour along with the army chief. He laid the floral wreath on the Martyrs Monument and offered Fateha. At the outset, the national anthems of the two countries were also played.

According to ISPR, Afghan delegation was given detailed briefing on security situation on the Pak-Afghan border. National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Defence Secretary Lt-Gen (r) Alam Khattak and ISI DG Lt-Gen Rizwan Akhtar were also present.

Besides other senior ministers, Afghan president was accompanied by Defence Minister General Bismillah Muhammadi, Afghan Chief of General Staff General Sher Muhammad Karimi and senior Afghan security officials.

In his meeting with Sartaj Aziz, both the leaders agreed to promote bilateral cooperation in economic and trade relations to the benefit of the two countries. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was also present. Speaking on the occasion Aziz said Pakistan accords great significance to its relations with Afghanistan. He offered all possible cooperation to Afghanistan in various sectors.

JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman also called on Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and discussed regional situation. Afghan president invited Fazl to visit Afghanistan.

Afghan president also addressed the Pakistan-Afghanistan Business and Trade Forum in Islamabad. He said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s vision of making it a trade centre will bring prosperity in the region. He invited Pakistani business community to invest in Afghanistan. He said investment in Afghanistan will open avenues for trade in the Central Asia. Afghan president vowed to increase bilateral trade between the two countries to $5 billion in two years. Addressing the ceremony, Minister for Commerce Khurram Dastagir said Pakistan has the capacity of becoming a trade centre in the region.