Distinguished Colleagues, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am happy to deliver India’s country statement.
Earlier this morning, the Prime Minister of India shared India’s vision and commitment to a united, stable, prosperous, peaceful and democratic Afghanistan. This Conference today is geared to international cooperation to see the emergence of such an Afghanistan.
India takes pride in being an active participant in the Heart of Asia Process. This unique platform brings together the countries and organisations of the region and beyond in their efforts to consolidate Afghanistan as a modern and growing democracy. It has been India’s endeavor to promote political consultations and regional cooperation through this platform for a strong, independent and prosperous Afghanistan. Our co-hosting the Heart of Asia Process this year is a reflection of this commitment.
The theme for the Heart of Asia Process this year is ‘Addressing Challenges, Achieving Prosperity.” As Afghanistan faces the challenges related to its multiple transitions, focused and sustained support will be required from all friends of Afghanistan in the international community for overcoming these challenges and achieving durable peace and prosperity.
A key focus during India’s co-chairmanship of this Process has been to centre-stage the importance of connectivity for Afghanistan. Promoting it remains at the very core of India’s cooperation with Afghanistan and also in the region.
Afghanistan has the potential to be the land bridge between various parts of the vast and dynamic Eurasian landmass. There are many promising projects like the TAPI gas pipeline, TAT railway line, CASA 1000. They will bring prosperity to Afghanistan and also bring the Central Asian and South Asian regions closer together.
For India, the issue of connectivity for Afghanistan is not a mere talking-point. We strongly believe that the lack of connectivity directly impacts the economic, security and political situation in Afghanistan. A well connected Afghanistan will be economically vibrant and prosperous and also politically stable. It will be able to engage the energies of its youth and attract its talents back from the foreign lands.
Earlier this year, we achieved a milestone by signing the trilateral transit and transport agreement among India, Iran and Afghanistan for provision of year-round and reliable connectivity to Afghanistan via Chahbahar in Iran. This endeavour will overcome the lack of direct overland access for Afghanistan through Indian markets. Afghanistan will further benefit from the zero duty available to Afghanistan’s exports to India. Benefits to Afghanistan will accrue if Afghan trucks could carry Indian products to markets in Afghanistan, Central Asia and beyond and indeed visa-versa. In this regard, India is willing to receive Afghan trucks on its territory, at Attari. We will be happy to create necessary facilities for Afghan products at Attari.
To fully achieve these benefits it is essential that trade and transit agreements that Afghanistan enters into need to be fully inclusive, comprehensive and are most importantly fully activated. Particular mention may be made of the International North South Corridor and the Ashgabat Agreement which can provide the catalyst for greater integration at the regional level.
India’s engagement in the Trade, Commerce and Investment (TCI) CBM within the Heart of Asia process as the lead country complements our bilateral development cooperation with Afghanistan, including in the spheres of infrastructure, connectivity and capacity building.
In the run-up to this Ministerial Conference, the Ministry of External Affairs of India has also supported a number of events aimed at promoting the ideals and objectives of the Heart of Asia Process. Noteworthy among them are the international seminar organized by the Indian Council of World Affairs in Delhi on 10 to 11 November 2016, the international conference on "Addressing the challenges of international terrorism and radicalization” in Delhi on 23 November 2016 and the seminar that was held yesterday here in Amritsar by RIS & FICCI on Heart of Asia and Connectivity. We are very happy to note that all these events had enthusiastic participation from several Heart of Asia countries.
Afghanistan has faced gruesome violence for decades. In the last few months, terrorism in Afghanistan has grown in both intensity and scope. Terrorist groups have made concerted efforts to capture and hold territory. Taliban have tried to expand its influence to territories in North and North East along with South West where they traditionally were not so strong. These developments only underline the fact that these groups have changed neither their ideology nor objectives. The evil of terrorism, which threatens not merely one or two countries but our entire region, has made the current year the worst in a very long time.
We salute the Afghan National Security Forces and the Afghan people for countering the forces of terrorism and extremism with courage and resilience. Their role was also critical in safeguarding the diplomatic community’s presence in Afghanistan. India saw two of its Consulates in Mazar-e-Sharif and Jalalabad attacked in this year alone. It was only the courage and dedication of the Afghan security forces that ensured the safety of our personnel. Clearly, it is not merely in Afghanistan’s interests if its unity and integrity are safeguarded.
For its part, India is happy to work with Afghanistan to strengthen its capabilities to fight terrorism and violence directed at it.
It is also our collective duty to ensure that resurgent forces of terrorism and extremism do not find sanctuaries and safe havens in any name, form or manifestation. Neighbours of Afghanistan have a particular responsibility in this regard. There is also a need to neither differentiate between good and bad terrorists, nor to play one group against the other. Taliban, Haqqani Network, Al-Qaeda, Daesh, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, etc. are all terror organisations and should be treated as such.
End to terrorism and extremism, and adherence to internationally accepted redlines including renouncing of violence, severing ties with Al Qaeda and other terrorist outfits and commitment to democracy and human rights are essential for successful reconciliation and lasting peace in Afghanistan.
I thank you, Excellencies, for this opportunity, and for your attention.