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India committed to economic reconstruction of Afghanistan, says Swaraj

14 Jan 2019 Afghanistan Times

India on Sunday said it was committed to the economic

reconstruction of Afghanistan and to promote an inclusive “Afghan-led,

Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled” peace and reconciliation process in the

war-torn country.

India’s position was enunciated by external affairs minister

Sushma Swaraj at the historic India-Central Asia Dialogue here, with the

participation of Afghanistan, which focused on a plethora of regional issues

including enhancing connectivity to the country ravaged by terrorism.

“I would like to specifically point out that our region is

facing serious challenges posed by terrorism. India, Central Asia and

Afghanistan are societies which are tolerant and plural. The ideology of hate

which the terrorists would like to spread has no place in our societies,”

Swaraj said while addressing the first session of the dialogue.

“We also need to ask that who these terrorists are, who

funds them, how do they find sustenance, who protects and sponsors them,” she


“No business development, no investment can take place in a

country suffering from terrorism. To promote business development in our

region, we agreed to fight the scourge of terrorism together,” Swaraj said, adding

that terrorism seriously erodes all avenues of development which a country can

have. Development partnership has emerged as an important component of India’s

engagement with Afghanistan.

The minister offered to extend this partnership to Central

Asia as well, where India can bring countries closer by taking up concrete

projects under lines of credit and buyers’ credit, and by sharing its


She said more efficient connectivity will lead to the full

realisation of the growth potential of the region. “We are geographically close

and, in terms of air connectivity, only about three hours away,” she said

adding the time has come to develop more efficient transit routes, as well as

to better utilise existing opportunities and find innovative solutions.

India has proposed the setting up of the ‘India-Central Asia

Development Group’ to take forward this development partnership between India

and Central Asian countries. The group will come up with concrete proposals,

Swaraj said.

She mentioned the joint efforts of India, Iran and

Afghanistan that have led to the development of the Chabahar port in Iran as a

viable route to connect to Afghanistan and potentially to Central Asia.

“Chabahar provides a shining example of what strong

partnership can achieve to overcome any obstacles,” she said.

India has already sent a very substantial quantity of wheat

to Afghanistan using the Chabahar port. Last month, an Indian company opened

its office and took over operations at the Shaheed Beheshti port at Chabahar,

she said.

India is also looking to develop the Chabahar-Zahedan

railway link which would bring it close to the Zaranj-Delaram road link which

India has already built in Afghanistan. India has also put forward several

proposals towards enhancing cultural cooperation and training programmes for

capacity building for candidates from Central Asia.

Swaraj said “India supports the people and government of

Afghanistan in their efforts to build a united, sovereign, democratic,

peaceful, stable, prosperous and inclusive nation. India supports all efforts

for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan which are inclusive and Afghan-led,

Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled”.

These efforts should preserve the gains of the last 18

years. The violence and terror imposed on Afghan people should end. It should

strengthen unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, she


India is extending development assistance to Afghanistan of

over USD 3 billion, focused on reconstruction, infrastructure development,

capacity building, human resources development and connectivity.

Under the ‘New Development Partnership’ launched in

September 2017, new projects are being taken up including Shahtoot Dam drinking

water project for Kabul city, low-cost housing in Nangarhar province, 116 High

Impact Community Development Projects and a host of other infrastructure

development projects. Over 3,500 Afghan nationals are trained and receive

education in India every year, she said.

Bound together by shared history and cultural linkages, India

and the Central Asian states look forward to the dialogue as an important

initiative to enhance their cooperation in wide-ranging spheres including

exploring ways to substantially enhance India’s economic involvement in

business and development sector of Central Asia, the MEA had said.

Swaraj arrived in the ancient city of Samarkand on Saturday

on a two-day visit to attend the first-ever India-Central Asia Dialogue.

The MEA earlier said that the first-ever India-Central Asia

Dialogue, with Afghan participation, “will take India’s outreach to the region

to a new high.” Foreign ministers of Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and

Turkmenistan and the First Deputy Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan are also

participating in the dialogue.

India will host the next India-Central Asia Dialogue with

the participation of Afghanistan at the foreign ministers’ level in 2020.

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