Remarks

By

HE Shaida M. Abdali

Ambassador of Afghanistan to India

 

“2014: Way Ahead for India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan”

 

 

South Asian Free Media Association-India Chapter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Delhi, July 23, 2013

 

Excellencies,

Distinguished Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

First of all, I would like to thank the South Asian Free Media Association-India Chapter for organizing today’s timely seminar on a topic of great importance to all three countries, and to South Asia as a whole. Indeed, this is a prime example of the seminal role free media can and should play to promote substantive and results-oriented dialogue among key stakeholders in maintaining regional security, stability, and prosperity. And no countries other than Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan share a greater common interest in sincerely cooperating with one another to bolster and uphold peace in our region. This Seminar can further advance the consensus among our three countries that stability and prosperity in one country directly contribute to those of the other two and vice versa.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

We are fast approaching 2014, a pivotal year for Afghanistan and the region as a whole. Although physical transition is taking place in my country, it will have regional implications. And those implications entail both challenges and opportunities, which call for sincere, results-oriented cooperation throughout the region, particularly among our three countries. The one challenge that worries us all is how to work together to ensure regional stability, following the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan. If we begin addressing this challenge now, we should be able to benefit from the many opportunities that would naturally flow from a stable Afghanistan in the post 2014 period.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

The new democratically elected government of Pakistan under the visionary leadership of HE Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has taken initial, bold steps towards honest cooperation with Afghanistan and India. The Afghan people and government welcome with great optimism the Prime Minister’s call for a new policy that sees the end of interference in the Afghan affairs now and beyond 2014.

 

To that end, this past Sunday, HE Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, visited Kabul, and delivered an invitation from HE Prime Minister Sharif to HE President Hamid Karzai to visit Pakistan. The President accepted the invitation “in principle,” however, asked that a substantive agenda with specific objectives on supporting the peace process and effectively fighting terrorism be prepared, before the visit could take place.

 

HE Foreign Minister Dr. Zalmai Rasool also met with HE Aziz and expressed our hope to make considerable progress with the new government of Pakistan in all areas, including in the fight against terrorism and extremism and the networks and systems supporting them. HE Aziz offered to use his country’s influence and contacts with the Taliban, in support of the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. This is a welcome offer of assistance, which Afghanistan had been seeking. The two sides also      emphasized the importance of expanding transit trade, a following a meeting of the Coordinating Authority to address issues related to the Afghanistan and Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement (APTTA).

 

Indeed, achieving substantive results in the above areas of mutual concern and interest will directly contribute to HE Prime Minister Sharif’s other objectives. A peaceful, stable Afghanistan will create markets for Pakistani products and skilled labor, while allowing energy pipelines, such as the TAPI pipeline, to be built across Afghanistan, providing Pakistan and India with energy to fuel their booming economies. And the many cross-country investments towards regional economic cooperation will raise the stature of Pakistan with the international community. When this happens, the image of Pakistan will globally improve away from frequent association of the country with negative perceptions.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

We too welcome HE Prime Minister Sharif’s commitment to reviving the Composite Dialogue with India. The two countries have vast human and economic potential, which can and should be unlocked to benefit their respective nations, as well as the rest of the region. Both countries realize that making substantive progress towards normalization of bilateral relations with a focus on economic cooperation will go a long way in ensuring regional stability and prosperity.

 

The Afghan government and people have consistently called for good neighborly relations. From decades of imposed war and destruction, we know that the pursuit of zero-sum designs would help no nation in our region, except creating further mistrust and suspicion that often lead to conflict, misery, and human suffering that have beset our region for too long.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Many countries led by the United States have made vital contributions towards institutionalization of peace, democracy, and freedom in Afghanistan. They have lost thousands of their military forces and hundreds of their civilian workers in order to maintain international peace and security, which was compromised on 9/11. Twelve years on, with continued international aid, the Afghan people have made significant progress towards their aspiration for a peaceful, democratic, and self-reliant country free from the dark forces of extremism and terrorism.

 

Let me assure you against the 2014 myth of Afghanistan falling apart after the withdrawal of NATO forces from our country. On June 18th, we took over from NATO the complete leadership and ownership of all military operations across Afghanistan. The Afghan people have welcomed this last phase of security transition, with a positive impact on security conditions in all areas which have come under the protection of the Afghan forces.

 

We welcome the appropriate role, which NATO has adopted: to train, advise, and equip our strong 350,000 force, ready and willing to defend our country against any state-or non-state aggression. As the press frequently reports, our forces daily frustrate the enemy’s complex terrorist attacks on civilians in Afghanistan.

 

Parallel to the security transition, the Afghan government is striving to ensure the success of our democratic political transition process through implementation of a legitimate presidential election next year on April 5, 2014. This past week, HE President Karzai signed into major law electoral reforms on the structure and appointments of the Independent Election Commission to dispel any concerns about fairness of the electoral process.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

As I recently said, the implications of winning in Afghanistan through regional cooperation are quite clear: a sovereign Afghanistan at peace internally and at peace with others focused on win-win objectives towards a region where every nation would be secure and prosper through economic cooperation. This is the world in which we live today, a world which is increasingly interdependent and where zero-sum goals have proven a failure and a disaster. Sincere, results-oriented cooperation is the call of our peoples in the region and beyond, and Afghanistan stands ready to do our part for the good of all.

 

In the post 2014 period, we look forward to working with India and Pakistan to deepen regional cooperation towards achievement of our common objectives.  We hope that the new government in Pakistan will soon begin delivering on its new foreign policy objectives to engage constructively with its neighbors. This must begin with a firm recommitment to facilitating the Afghan-led peace process to end the war in Afghanistan, paving the way for meaningful regional economic cooperation.

 

At the same time, we renew our call on the international community to stay the course in Afghanistan. Our gains of the past 12 years should be consolidated through implementation of win-win objectives, which have been outlined in the Bonn, Chicago, and Tokyo Conferences, as well as through regional initiatives such as the Istanbul Process.

 

Thank you.

 

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