RECCA VII Declaration

Deepening Connectivity and Expanding Trade through Investment in Infrastructure and Improving Synergy

Preamble

The Seventh Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA-VII) was convened in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan on 14-15 November 2017 to further strengthen and enhance regional economic cooperation in support of sustainable development and stability in Afghanistan and across the wider region. His Excellency Rashid Meredov, Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, His Excellency Sarwar Danish, Second Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and His Excellency Salahuddin Rabbani, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan addressed the inauguration session.  The Conference was co-chaired by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The Conference brought together high-level delegations and senior representatives from over 67 countries and organizations.

The regional and partner countries and organizations participated in RECCA VII,

Thanking the Government of Turkmenistan for hosting and co-chairing this important international gathering in an excellent manner,

Appreciating the active participation of RECCA regional and partner countries and organizations at the Conference,

Reaffirming the commitment to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter as well as adherence to universally recognized principles and norms of international law,

Recognizing the inter-linkages between development and security challenges and acknowledging that a secure, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan is vital to peace, stability and prosperity in the region as a whole.

Reaffirming that regional economic cooperation and integration offers broad opportunities for growth, and can assist with exploiting and developing the long term economic potential that exists in Afghanistan and the wider region; and stressing the need for further advancing regional economic cooperation as an effective means to achieve economic prosperity in Afghanistan and the wider RECCA region.

Acknowledging Afghanistan’s central role as an important hub for regional and inter-regional trade, transit, and transport as well as the role that RECCA is playing in sharing the benefits of this centrality in support of sustainable development and stability in Afghanistan and the wider region. In this context, Expressing appreciation and strong support for the ongoing efforts and commitment of the Government of Afghanistan as well as the continued efforts by regional and partner countries and organizations under RECCA.

Emphasizing that RECCA VII builds on the commitments made during the previous six meetings of RECCA (Kabul, 2005; New Delhi, 2006; Islamabad, 2009; Istanbul, 2010; Dushanbe, 2012; Kabul, 2015) as well as the promising progress made with respect to the implementation of the priority projects in areas such as energy; transport networks; trade and transit facilitation, communications and business-to-business partnerships and labor support;

Supporting RECCA’s new approach to project implementation including new investment criteria such as the bankability of the projects as well as the diversification of fund mobilization and pursuing innovative financing modalities for infrastructure development, including public private partnership and power purchase agreements, with a view to address the investment deficit; 

Underlining the collective commitments made at the Brussels International Conference on Afghanistan towards deepening and strengthening cooperation to achieve Afghanistan’s Self-Reliance during the “Transformation Decade of 2015-2024” including the commitments regarding peace, security and regional cooperation;

Affirming that the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process (HoA-IP) continues to play  an important role in  promoting regional political, security and economic cooperation through enhancing political dialogue and building trust aimed at promoting peace, stability, and prosperity in Afghanistan and the entire Heart of Asia region, and stressing the importance of  closer linkages and complementarities between RECCA and HoA-IP;

Acknowledging the importance of removing non-tariff barriers to trade and transit including through bilateral negotiations on customs cooperation as well as effective implementation of bilateral and multilateral transit-trade agreements and their possible expansion to other countries;

Acknowledging the significant contribution that small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) can make to the economic growth and income generation in Afghanistan and the wider region. Stressing the importance of market access for SMEs in particular for women entrepreneurs. Welcoming in this context, the inclusion of women’s economic empowerment as a new component of work under RECCA and the convening of the Special Event on Women’s Entrepreneurship on the sidelines of RECCA VII;

Welcoming an increasing number of MoUs signed between the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) and Chambers of Commerce in the region and beyond and supporting the joint initiative by the RECCA Secretariat and ACCI to establish the RECCA Chamber of Commerce and Industries as a regional network aiming at further enhancing business-to-business dialogue and partnership in support of the priority projects under RECCA;

Welcoming the promising progress made regarding the priority projects under RECCA including the steps taken towards the operationalization of the agreement on the Chabahar International Transport and Transit Corridor; completion of the third section of Khaf-Herat Railway, the award of contract on transmission line in Afghanistan under CASA 1000, the ongoing progress under TAPI and completion of the feasibility studies of TAP 500;

Welcoming the signing of the Lapis Lazuli Route Agreement on the sidelines of RECCA VII as a flagship agreement towards deepening connectivity and expanding trade in the wider region;

Supporting the efforts under RECCA to bring synergy and complementarity between RECCA, HoA-IP and other regional bodies such as CAREC, ECO, OSCE, SAARC, SCO, and UNESCAP as well as among various transport and transit corridors and initiatives including the Belt and Road Initiative, the Chabahar Corridor, the Five Nations Railway Corridor, the Middle Corridor including Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway, and the Lapis Lazuli Corridor,

Taking note of various bilateral economic cooperation projects between Afghanistan and neighboring countries in areas such as road connectivity, energy, trade as well as air freight connectivity,

Have stated their commitment towards the implementation of the respective regional cooperation and investment projects and their associated deliverables as listed below:

  1. Energy:

1) The Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India Gas Pipeline Project (TAPI):

  1. a) Sign the Pipeline System Rules Agreement, a Host Government Agreement and a Transportation Agreement,
  2. b) Commence the construction work on TAPI pipeline.
  3. c) Support the TPCL in accelerating pipeline construction and convening more investment road shows around the world to raise additional funds.

2) The Central Asia-South Asia Regional Energy (CASA-1000) Project

  1. a) Complete the environmental and social impact surveys as well as the design and survey works in Afghanistan HVDC line component,
  2. b) Finalize the selection and contracting of the project’s engineering firm to minimize delays in completing the HVDC line and converter substations in Tajikistan and Pakistan.

 3) Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan 500-kV Line (TAP 500)

  1. a) Prepare technical assessment and design plan and assign the consulting company
  2. b) Finalize the project’s coordination and monitoring mechanism

 

  1. Transport Networks

       1) Afghanistan Railway Network – Segments connecting Afghanistan to neighboring countries

 

  1. a) Complete the detail design and commence the construction of Aqina – Andkhoy – Shiberghan (108 km)
  2. b) Complete the detail design and commence the construction of Torghundi-Herat (173 Km)
  3. c) Complete the detail design and commence the construction of Chaman-Spinboldak (11.5 km) – Phase I and Spinboldak to Kandahar (96km) – Phase II
  4. d) Complete the feasibility study and commence the construction of Jalalabad – Torkham railway line (75 km)
  5. e) Complete the feasibility study and commence the construction of Lashkargah-Bahram Chah (258 Km)
  6. f) Complete the feasibility study and detail design of the Chabahar – Zaranj – Farah Railway

      2) The Five Nations Railway Corridor

  1. Complete the Fourth Section of Khaf – Herat (Ghorain – Robat Paryan) (36km)
  2. Complete the Kolkhozobod – Panji Poyon-Shirkhanbandar segment (Tajikistan-Afghanistan, (63 km) 
  3. Complete the detail design and commence the construction of Sherkhan Bandar – Kunduz – Mazar – e - Sharif (187 km)
  4. Complete the detail design and commence the construction of Mazar-i-Sharif - Shiberghan line (170 km )
  5. Complete the feasibility study and commence the detail design and construction of the Sheberghan - Maimane - Qala e Now – Kushk (472 km)

      3) Road Priority Projects:

  1. a) Complete the civil works for the construction of Baghlan-Bamiyan road
  2. b) Complete the rehabilitation of the Salang road and tunnel
  3. c) Complete the remaining section of the Afghanistan Ring Road

      4) Transport and transit corridors

  1. a) Implement the MoU signed between China and Afghanistan under the Belt and Road Initiative.
  2. b) Complete the internal procedures of the contracting parties required for the entry into force of the International Transport and Transit Corridor (Chabahar Agreement), finalize the additional protocols and complete the infrastructure and facilities required under the agreement in a timely manner,
  3. c) Complete the internal procedures of the contracting parties required for the entry into force of the Lapis Lazuli Transit, Trade and Transport Route (Lapis Lazuli Corridor), complete or improve the transport infrastructure and procedures as required under the agreement in a timely manner,
  4. Trade and Transit Facilitation

1) Complete the internal procedures of the contracting parties required for the entry into force of Cross-border Transport Agreement between Afghanistan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan and encourage its possible extension to other countries including Kazakhstan.

2) Review the existing transit trade agreements among the RECCA countries with a view to address their implementation bottlenecks as well as their possible expansion to other countries,

3) Build customs facilities at key crossing points, enhance border management capacities, improve customs procedures, customs harmonization and cooperation including customs-to-customs information sharing.

4) Commence a comprehensive feasibility studies for building Special Economic Zones, Multi Modal Transport and Logistics Facilities in priority places including Zaranj and Aqina in Afghanistan.

             5)  Accelerate accession to and implementation of the TIR Convention

  1. Communications

      1) Complete the Afghan Fiber Optic Ring and its connection with China

      2) Accelerate work on the Digital CASA

      3) Implement open access policies towards enhancing regional digital connectivity 

  1. B2B and Labor Support

1) Strengthen efforts in support of food industry development at a regional level and implement the Afghanistan-Kyrgyz Republic-Tajikistan Agro Food Industry Development project based on the findings of the feasibility study.

2)Enhance Regional Business-to-Business Partnerships and in this context, operationalize the RECCA Chamber of Commerce as a regional network to connect businesses and encourage innovative public-private partnerships and direct foreign investment including in the RECCA priority regional projects.

3) Finalize a model bilateral agreement on labor support and develop a regional labor exchange and support strategy to incentivize greater cross-border labor market cooperation.

 Conclusion

The RECCA regional and partner countries and organizations will work collectively to address the implementation bottlenecks, including the investment needs with respect to the above priority regional cooperation and investment projects, through diversification of fund mobilization attracting investment from a diverse public and private sources including from the new investment banks and sovereign wealth funds.

Toward this end, and through a strengthened network of RECCA National Focal Points, the RECCA regional and partner countries and organizations will strive to achieve the above deliverables including through  i) the organization of Investment Road Shows and Regional Business Forums; ii) the preparation of Bankable Projects Briefs for Public and Private Investors; iii) entering RECCA into new strategic partnerships with other regional bodies and initiatives and bringing greater synergy among them; iv) bringing synergy among various transport and transit corridors in the wider RECCA region; v) preparation of  the RECCA Annual Reviews; vi) strengthening research capacity under RECCA and vii) transforming the RECCA Website into an interactive web-portal for real-time regional investment promotion and knowledge sharing;

The RECCA regional and partner countries and organizations will support the operationalization of the RECCA Chamber of Commerce; the women’s economic empowerment activities under RECCA as well as the establishment of a Center for Research and Evaluation in the framework of RECCA.

The RECCA VII participants requested the RECCA Secretariat to explore appropriate ways and means to maximize synergy between RECCA, HoA-IP and other regional platforms and make recommendations for consideration by RECCA.

The RECCA VII participants extended their appreciation to the governments of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan and all partner institutions for convening the Academic Forum, Business Forum, the Special Event on Women’s Entrepreneurship, as well as the Exhibition and the Business Matchmaking Event in the framework of RECCA VII and stressed the importance of effective follow-up on the outcomes of these events. They also welcomed the successful convening of the RECCA Business Forum in Istanbul in March this year and thanked the government of Turkey for hosting this event.

The participants also thanked the RECCA Secretariat for the excellent work including in preparing the conference documents and stressed the importance of continued support to the Secretariat in the new phase of RECCA’s development.

The Participants took note with appreciation of the multiple interests expressed by RECCA regional countries to host the next RECCA meeting.

 

 

 

 

 

Publish Date: Sep 11, 2017 Category: General

 

New Delhi (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.

    Documents Exchanged
  • 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.

The President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani welcomes the decision by the President of the United States Donald J. Trump, which shows an enduring commitment by Afghanistan’s foundational partner in this global conflict.

President Ghani said, “I am grateful to President Trump and the American people for this affirmation of support for our efforts to achieve self-reliance and for our joint struggle to rid the region from the threat of terrorism.”

The new strategy increases capacity in the Resolute Support Mission. It puts particular emphasis on enhancing Afghan air power, doubling the size of the Afghan Special Forces, and deepening NATO’s ability to train, advise and assist Afghan National Defence and Security Forces.

This announcement is part of a package of support enabling Afghans to achieve the goal of stability and self-reliance, by focusing on efforts for the eradication of poverty, economic investment, and better equipping the ANDSF to achieve its military objectives. The Afghan government is prioritizing acceleration of its rigorous reform agenda to eradicate corruption, and enhance effectiveness, transparency, and rule of law.

Following this strategy towards stability allows the region to work together in achieving mutual goals of peace and prosperity, and provides a clear pathway for reginal countries to end support for non-state actors.

“The US Afghan partnership is stronger than ever in overcoming the threat of terrorism that threatens us all. The strength of our security forces should show the Taliban and others that they cannot win a military victory. The objective of peace is paramount. Peace remains our priority,” said President Ghani.

The Afghan government welcomes renewed US emphasis on seeing security in Afghanistan as part of a wider regional package. The strategy complements Afghan initiatives, including the Kabul Process, that seek to engage the region in sharing common security burdens.

Arg, Kabul: The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan strongly condemns the terror attack targeting a bus of pilgrims in Anantnag District of Jammu and Kashmir in India as a result of which a number of Indian compatriots, including women and children, were killed and wounded.

Condemning the terror attack, President Ghani said, “Being enemies of civilization and humanity, terrorists don’t respect any religion and law but in order to disseminate terror and hate, they target sacred locations and civilians including women and children.”

Afghanistan, which is at the front-line in the fight against terrorism, has always evinced its honesty and valor in counter-terrorism efforts, once again stressing on putting up a collective and earnest fight against terrorism through a unified strategy.

The Government and people of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan offer their condolences and sympathies to the government of Republic of India, its people and victims of this terror attack.

Arg, Kabul: The President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani congratulates Ram Nath Kovind on becoming the 14th president of the Republic of India.

President Ghani wishes a fruitful tenure to president Kovind. He also wishes prosperity to the people of our friendly partner-nation India. President Ghani looks forward to bolstering of Afghan-India relations under President Kovind.

President Ghani described ex-president of India Pranab Mukherjee as a good friend of Afghanistan, wishing him a successful life ahead.