H.E Salahuddin Rabbani Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan speech on India - Afghanistan Relationships: Recent Development and Implications

بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

Honorable General Nirmal Chander Vij,        

Distinguished Scholars,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honored to visit VIF and thank its leadership for the opportunity to speak to you today.

I am particularly delighted to be among India’s accomplished scholars, strategists, and diplomats.

Our gathering today follows the second meeting of the Afghanistan-India Strategic Partnership Council, which took place yesterday.

Her Excellency Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and I co-chaired yesterday’s meeting and had a wide-ranging discussion on issues of mutual interest and concern, as our two Governments continue implementing the key objectives of the Afghanistan-India Strategic Partnership Agreement.

I am pleased to report that we were satisfied with the progress the four Joint Working Groups have made in the areas of political and security; trade, commerce & investment; development cooperation; and human resource development , education & culture.

The Joint Statement that was released yesterday highlights the key themes of our discussions , on which I will touch later.

I now wish to give you an overview of the recent developments in Afghanistan, including our foreign policy priorities, the status of Afghanistan-India bilateral relations, as well as continued international support for the stabilization and sustainable development of Afghanistan. 

The National Unity Government defined new objectives of foreign policy and made it more pragmatic in order to promote a new image for Afghanistan.

Security remains a major priority of our foreign policy, so do sustainable development and regional economic integration. The inter-connectedness of these priorities on our foreign policy agenda continues to drive our robust engagement and partnership with friends at the regional and global levels.

Our goal is to promote our shared interests, including addressing our common concerns about regional and global security threats that undermine our collective peace and prosperity.

That is why Afghanistan’s alliances focus on ensuring stability, which provides an enabling regional and global environment for prosperity for all.   

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Afghanistan views regional security, peace & stability as the main prerequisites for the countries of the region to reach their full socio-economic and political potentials.

As the land-bridge between South Asia and Central Asia, peace and security in Afghanistan should matter for continental Asia.

Based on this rationale, we have led the motto of “Afghanistan’s stability equals regional stability” to take momentum in the region.

Hence, we have explored all options in building trust with our neighbors, extended neighbors, countries of the wider regions and beyond.

The process of globalization has shrunk distances among countries to the extent that we no longer have the luxury of disregarding our neighbors’ difficulties due to their spillover-effects.

National problems become regional challenges fast these days.

This requires that regional stakeholders act together in response to address any existing or potential challenges that undermine regional peace and stability.

Indeed, building trust and confidence in the region encourages a collective response to any of our common challenges.

That is why Afghanistan has enhanced collaboration with all countries of the region and beyond through regional organizations and processes, particularly through those with an emphasis on regional and global confidence-building, including: SCO, SAARC, CICA and the Heart of Asia–Istanbul Process. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On the Afghanistan-India bilateral cooperation, we have enjoyed unbreakable ties throughout our shared history.

We share a common civilization and memory with many cultural ties that provide a solid foundation for the time-tested friendship between our two nations.

In this light, we have a common regional interest and that is to promote and bolster regional security so that we alongside others advance our common economic goals for a sustainable secure future.

We signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement in 2011 that took our cooperation to the next level.

Under this pact, we have further strengthened our already strong bilateral cooperation in the areas, which I highlighted earlier.

Progress in each sector will help us reach our common goal of helping ensure peace, stability and prosperity throughout the region.

Yesterday, H.E. Minister Swaraj and I agreed to further expand our bilateral cooperation.

Afghanistan and India are using all possible routes, including land, air, and sea to increase trade and commerce.

This demonstrates our shared resolve to take advantage of every opportunity to expand our economic cooperation and that no barriers can reduce commercial exchange between our two countries. 

  • We have signed a motor vehicle agreement;
  • Established an Air Freight Corridor between Kabul and Kandahar with New Delhi;
  • Agreed to expedite the operationalization of the Chahbahar Port; and
  • Later this month, the India-Afghanistan Trade and Investment Show would provide opportunities for our business communities to meet and explore investment opportunities in Afghanistan and India.

These are some of the recent developments, opening up more windows of opportunity to further strengthen our bilateral and strategic ties.

India’s large-scale infrastructure projects such as the Afghanistan-India Friendship Dam (Band-e- Salma), the new Afghan parliament building, transmission lines to electrify Kabul, construction of a major part of the national ring road, as well as thousands of scholarships for Afghan students to study in India are some of the vital projects implemented with Indian assistance.

Indeed, the people of Afghanistan recognize the goodwill and generosity of India and immensely appreciate it.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you know, there have been some positive developments with respect to the US foreign policy towards South Asia, which provides us with new opportunities for trilateral cooperation.

The new US policy for Afghanistan and South Asia outlines three fundamental points that Afghanistan has always sought and now welcomes:

  1. It makes an open-ended commitment to fighting terrorism and violent extremism in Afghanistan and our region;
  2. It calls for increased regional cooperation, requesting India to do more in Afghanistan.
  3. It emphasizes on Sanctuaries of terrorism to be targeted

Indeed, the threats of terrorism and violent extremism in Afghanistan and South Asia would have been eliminated long before, had terrorists been denied safe havens and institutional support in the region.

 

We have repeatedly brought this to the attention of the international community for a united response.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We should make no distinction between good and bad terrorists regardless of who and where they target.

This requires a regional counter-terrorism strategy that enjoys broad and deep support from the whole region to fight and eliminate terrorism as a common threat to all of us.

Failure to adopt such a strategy and to act on it will have grave implications for the stability and security of our region and the world at large.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The announcement of the new US Afghanistan policy comes at a time when regional anti-terrorism sentiment is on the rise.

Countries of the region have either adopted or are in the process of developing a counter-terrorism strategy to fight the threat and its violent ideology in the region.

Our collective response should not only be to fight terrorism but also to address such common problems as poverty, unemployment, and a lack of socio-economic facilities and opportunities for our youth that provide an enabling environment for terrorism.

We also appreciate that the new US Afghanistan policy recognizes the importance of an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process.

Through the Kabul Process, we seek to end war and violence in Afghanistan, provided that the Taliban and other armed groups accept our red-lines to discontinue violence, respect the Afghan constitution, and support the gains Afghanistan has made in partnership with India and the rest of the international community.

In this light, we welcome India’s support with our ongoing peace efforts, and look forward to further engagement with India on this critical issue.

In closing, let me once again emphasize that our ultimate goal is to achieve sustainable peace in Afghanistan.

We look forward to working with India, US, and other regional and global stakeholders to end decades of imposed war and violence in Afghanistan.

Our collective success in this endeavor will enable us to ensure regional peace and prosperity and this in turn should help maintain international security.

I would like to thank again VIF for hosting us today and look forward to our Q&A discussion so I hear and benefit from the views of many distinguished scholars and diplomats in this audience.

Thank you.