Without naming Pakistan, India has said that the terror and violence unleashed against Afghanistan does not allow for easy implementation of development work in the war-torn country.
“Peace is essential to development; terrorism is anathema to development,” Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar said at a meeting on regional integration and prosperity on Tuesday ahead of Wednesday’s Brussels Conference.
“The scale of terrorism and violence unleashed against Afghanistan is of a magnitude that simply does not allow for easy project implementation, efficient delivery of assistance or the rapid inflow of investments into an economy that has huge resources and obvious potential,” Akbar said.
“The international community must ensure security if it wants stability and economic development in Afghanistan. We cannot underline ‘must’ often enough. We abandon this duty at our own risk, for the fangs of terrorism recognise no borders.”
Being hosted by the European Union and the Afghan government, the Brussels Conference is aimed at acting as a platform for the South Asian nation to set out its vision and track record on reform.
“For the international community, it will be the opportunity to signal sustained political and financial support to Afghan peace, state-building and development,” the conference website says.
The event is expected to be attended by up to 70 countries and 30 international organisations and agencies.
Akbar’s comments on Tuesday came after India pulled out of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) Summit that was scheduled to be held in Islamabad in November citing Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism in the region.
New Delhi’s move came after the September 18 cross-border terror attack on an army base at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir that claimed the lives of 19 Indian soldiers.
Afghanistan, along with Bangladesh and Bhutan, too pulled out of the summit citing the same reason.
In a curt message to the Saarc secretariat in Kathmandu, Kabul stated: “Due to increased level of violence and fighting as a result of imposed terrorism on Afghanistan, President of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani with his responsibilities as the Commander in Chief will be fully engaged, and will not be able to attend the summit.”
In his speech in Brussels, Akbar said that India was committed “to work with the people and government of one of our closest friends towards peace, stability and progress in Afghanistan and in our wider region”.
“India has dedicated its efforts and resources into bilateral cooperation with Afghanistan, with improvements of internal capabilities and provision of year-round regional connectivity,” he said.
“We have already completed significant development projects including scientific water management through dams and infrastructure projects like highways, worth over $2 billion.”
Akbar recalled that India committed $1 billion more in aid during Afghan President Ghani’s visit to New Delhi last month.
“This is the essence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘neighbourhood first’ policy,” Akbar said.
“Afghanistan, historically, has been the wedge between East and West, the passage for seamless travel between India and Central Asia, West Asia and regions beyond.”
Highlighting India’s development work in the South Asian nation, Akbar said that the Zeranj-Delaram road, with the potential to connect Iran to major cities of Afghanistan through the Afghan ring road was constructed by India.
He also referred to the trilateral agreement signed in May by India, Iran and Afghanistan to develop the Chabahar port in Iran that would become “a hub for immense economic opportunity”.
At the same time, the minister lamented that though India offered a special facility at its border at Attari for Afghan products coming to India via Pakistan, “the access has been blocked for political reasons by Pakistan”.
“Nations cannot become walls aborting a trade and culture that is as old as written history, and as powerful as the lore etched in common memory,” Akbar said.
“But, we will continue to work with Afghanistan for assured and reliable access for Afghanistan’s products to India’s markets through land, sea and air,” he stated.
“The full utilisation of Afghanistan’s transit rights as a member of WTO will enable greater prosperity. Those who deny transit hurt Afghanistan’s economy, with negative resonance for our larger region.”
Akbar said that Afghanistan as the “Heart of Asia” also offered energy routes such as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline and the Central Asia-South Asia (CASA-1000) power project.
“Connecting the Afghan economy across the regional compass is the way towards comprehensive development and prosperity in the entire Eurasian region,” he said.
Stating that better connectivity was not an option, but an imperative, Akbar said: “Those who impede connectivity have retrograde objectives.”