Joint Statement on the 2nd Strategic Partnership Council Meeting between India and Afghanistan, New Delhi (September 11, 2017)
September 11, 2017
- The 2nd meeting of the Strategic Partnership Council between India and Afghanistan, set up under the aegis of bilateral Strategic Partnership Agreement 2011, was held in New Delhi on 11 September 2017. External Affairs Minister of India, Smt. Sushma Swaraj, and Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan H.E. Salahuddin Rabbani co-chaired the meeting. During his visit, Foreign Minister Rabbani called on Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.
- The Prime Minister and the External Affairs Minister of India emphasised that the two nations enjoyed time-tested and friendly relationship and reiterated India's abiding support for a united, sovereign, democratic, peaceful, stable, prosperous and pluralistic Afghanistan.
- The Strategic Partnership Council discussed a range of bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest and shared understanding and convergence of views on them. The outcomes of the four Joint Working Groups in the areas of political and security issues; trade, commerce and investment; development cooperation; and human resource development, education and culture were reviewed and assessed positively.
Political & Security Consultations
- Both sides expressed grave concern at the incidents of terror and violence in Afghanistan resulting in loss of innocent lives. Noting that terrorism presented the greatest threat to peace, stability and progress of the region and beyond, they called for an end to all forms of support, State sponsorship, safe havens and sanctuaries to terrorists against Afghanistan.
- It was agreed to strengthen security cooperation between the two countries. India agreed to extend further assistance for the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces in fighting the scourge of terrorism, organized crime, trafficking of narcotics and money laundering.
- The Indian side reiterated its support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process. It was agreed that concrete, meaningful and verifiable steps for immediate cessation of violence were essential for the success of regional and international efforts to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Trade, Commerce and Investment Cooperation
- The two sides welcomed the establishment of the Air Cargo Corridor between Kabul and Kandahar with New Delhi in June 2017. It was agreed to expand it to include other cities in Afghanistan and India as well as to increase the frequency of the cargo flights between the two countries.
- Reaffirming the importance of connectivity and free and unfettered transport and transit access for Afghanistan and Central Asia, both sides agreed to work towards expeditious operationalisation of the Chahbahar Port in Iran under the trilateral Agreement for Establishment of International Transport and Transit Corridor signed in May 2016. In this context, both sides agreed to explore joint investments. The Afghan side welcomed the imminent commencement of wheat shipments of 170,000 metric tons from India to Afghanistan via Chahbahar Port.
- Both sides stressed the need to make the regional Transit and Trade Agreement more inclusive and comprehensive by expanding it both northwards and southwards to connect South Asia with Central Asia. They also highlighted the importance of joint efforts towards expeditious implementation of the TAPI Gas Pipeline Project which stands as an example of connectivity and trade complementarity between Central Asia and South Asia.
- In order to realize the immense potential of trade and investment, it was agreed to identify products and measures to enhance bilateral trade, including direct trade in gemstones, pharmaceuticals, and agri-products. In this context, cooperation in the fields of quality assurance and standardisation, building logistics and cold storages, creating manufacturing capacity for value added products, banking and finance, credit and insurance were identified.
- It was agreed to organize Buyer-Seller meets and interactions between trade chambers and businessmen. In this context, the India-Afghanistan Trade and Investment show being held in New Delhi from September 27-29, 2017 would bring the business communities together.
- The liberalization of visa measures by India for Afghan nationals, including decision to grant upto 5 year multiple entry business visa, was welcomed as a measure that would promote bilateral trade and commerce.
New Development Partnership
- Recognising bilateral development cooperation as a key pillar of the strategic partnership, and positive impact of the projects implemented under the US$ 2 billion development and economic assistance extended by India to Afghanistan towards social, economic, infrastructure and human resource development in the country, both sides agreed to initiate an ambitious and forward looking next generation ‘New Development Partnership’. In this context, as per the priorities and request of the Government and the people of Afghanistan, both sides agreed to take up 116 High Impact Community Development Projects to be implemented in 31 provinces of Afghanistan, including in the areas of education, health, agriculture, irrigation, drinking water, renewable energy, flood control, micro-hydropower, sports infrastructure, administrative infrastructure.
- It was further agreed to implement the following new projects under grant-in aid assistance from India: ·
- Shahtoot dam and drinking water project for Kabul that would also facilitate irrigation; ·
- Low cost housing for returning Afghan refugees in Nangarhar Province to promote resettlement; ·
- Road connectivity to Band-e-Amir in Bamyan Province that would promote tourism to the National Park and economic development; ·
- Water supply network for Charikar city in Parwan Province; ·
- Establishment of a Gypsum board manufacturing plant in Kabul to promote value added industry; and ·
- Construction of a polyclinic in Mazar-e-Sharif.
- The Afghanistan side proposed cooperation in development of communication infrastructure (Optic fibre) and Surobi 2 Hydropower plant with capacity of 180 MW. The Indian side agreed to explore the same.
People to People Contacts, Culture, Education, Health, Science and Technology
- The large scale programme for capacity building, skill and human resource development for the Afghan nationals was positively assessed. The 10th Anniversary of the ICCR Special Scholarship Scheme for Afghan Nationals was commemorated in 2016 and it was agreed to implement it further for the period from 2017 to 2022. It was decided to start implementation of 500 scholarships for graduate studies in India for the next-of-kin of martyrs of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces from the Academic year 2018-19 and expand the medical assistance for Afghan National Army personnel. The Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) training would be used to meet Afghanistan’s need to strengthen its administration and governance at national, provincial and district levels, including through sharing experiences and technical assistance in building capacities of civil administration and project implementation. International partnerships would also be developed in this endeavour. The Foreign Service Institute of India would organize a Workshop for Afghan diplomats in December 2017, including in consular matters.
- Appreciating India's assistance with regard to the establishment of ANASTU (Afghan National Agricultural Sciences and Technology University) in Kandahar, it was agreed to explore further cooperation in strengthening of ANASTU as an agricultural university.
- Welcoming Afghanistan’s participation in the South Asia Satellite launched in May 2017, India agreed to extend assistance to Afghanistan in applications of the remote sensing technology, including in agriculture and resource management.
- Appreciating the work of the India-Afghanistan Foundation to promote cultural and people to people contacts, the decision to host India-Afghanistan Days of Culture in the near future was welcomed. Further, ICCR would provide assistance, including musical instruments to the Afghan National Institute of Music in Kabul.
- With a view to promote tourism and people to people contacts, both sides agreed on further promoting exchange between Parliaments, Election Commissions, media, women, youth, religious figures and institutions, sports teams and facilitating Sister State/ City relationships.
Regional and Global partnerships
- Recalling the historic and successful Heart of Asia - Istanbul Process (HoA) Ministerial Conference in Amritsar in December 2016, Afghanistan welcomed the exemplary work under the Trade, Commerce & Investment – Confidence Building Measure of the HoA led by India and the soft launch of the Trade Portal. Both sides agreed to continue to work within the regional and international frameworks. It was agreed to coordinate on matters of mutual interest at the UN and WTO.
- The following bilateral documents were signed and exchanged:
(a) Motor Vehicles Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger, Personal and Cargo Vehicular Traffic;
(b) Memorandum of Understanding between the National Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority of Afghanistan, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for mutual cooperation in the field of pharmaceutical products regulation;
(c) The Orbit Frequency Coordination Agreement between India and Afghanistan on South Asia Satellite (SAS);
(d) Letters establishing the New Development Partnership and launching 116 High Impact Community Development Projects.
- It was agreed to expeditiously conclude the Agreements/ MoUs related to technical cooperation on police training and development; technical cooperation between railway authorities; mutual legal assistance; and cooperation in the areas of food safety.
Next Meeting of the Strategic Partnership Council
- It was agreed to have regular meetings of the Joint Working Groups, including to monitor implementation of the decisions taken. Both sides agreed to hold the 3rd meeting of the Strategic Partnership Council in Kabul on mutually convenient dates in 2018.