Remarks by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan H.E. Hekmat Khalil Karzai at the First Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) of the Heart of Asia/Istanbul Process
April 26, 2016
Excellency Dr. Jaishankar,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Government of Afghanistan, please allow me to express my deep appreciation to our co-chair, the Republic of India, for hosting today’s Senior Officials Meeting of the Heart of Asia–Istanbul Process (SOM). We are grateful to our colleagues at the Ministry of External Affairs of India for the very warm welcome and hospitality they have extended to my delegation in this beautiful and historic House in Delhi.
India, as one of the key countries of the Heart of Asia, has actively supported this Process, successfully leading the Trade, Commerce and Investment Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). We are very grateful to the Indian Government for co-hosting the next Ministerial Heart of Asia Conference later this year, which we hope to deliver our two countries’ desired outcome.
As a Strategic Partner of Afghanistan, India continues to play a pivotal role in supporting our shared efforts to make steady progress in various areas, including: security, economic and social development, and cultural cooperation. India’s multifaceted assistance has reached every corner of Afghanistan either through their signature infrastructure projects or small development programs.
For all these ongoing aid programs, the Government and people of Afghanistan are thankful to the Government and people of India, as we endeavor together to achieve the key objectives of the Afghanistan-India Strategic Partnership Agreement, which are in line with the goals of the Heart of Asia Process.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Despite our gains of the past 15 years, there are serious evolving security challenges that confront all of us, which can and should be addressed through sincere, results-oriented regional cooperation. We strongly believe that the Heart of Asia Process remains the most relevant platform, through which we should cooperate to address the threats of violent extremism and terrorism posed by such terrorist and militant networks as:
- Al- Qaeda
- The East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM)
- The Taliban groups
- The Haqqani Network
- And others
These threats, which also feed on the global challenge of narcotics production in Afghanistan, continue to impede the implementation of key regional economic projects that would benefit every nation in our region and beyond.
I must stress that as the theme of this year’s Heart of Asia Process, “Addressing Challenges, Achieving Prosperity,” indicates, the biggest challenge in the region is not so much the threats facing us but a consistent lack of inter-state regional cooperation to address those threats. A lack of will on the part of certain regional states to act in unity with Afghanistan and other cooperative Heart of Asia countries has emboldened our common enemies, who daily undermine the peace, stability, and prosperity of all of us. This dangerous, complex situation needs our collective and concerted efforts to find a durable solution.
Therefore, we believe that the ultimate solution for creating a peaceful and prosperous environment in the Heart of Asia region depends on how sincerely we strive to do so. If we fail to fulfill our shared responsibilities today, our region will be certain to become a hotbed of international terrorist groups, shattering the secure future we all desire. That is why now is the time to reconsider the “zer0-sum” approaches and join hands in the fight against all forms and manifestations of terrorism.
Ladies and Gentlemen
We know from the recent terrorist attack in Kabul, which killed over 60 and injured more than 300 innocent Afghans, that unless these acts of aggression through sponsorship of terrorism end, our peace efforts would not deliver results.
Despite the daily acts of terrorism that kill and maim scores of our innocent civilians, Afghanistan has repeatedly demonstrated our willingness to engage in peace talks, in order to end years of violence brutally imposed on our society.
The objective of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) was to bring the Taliban groups to the negotiating table. Since that may not be possible at this stage, we expect members of the QCG to take all necessary actions against those groups deemed irreconcilable, as agreed in the QCG Roadmap. At the same time, Afghanistan will explore all available multilateral and regional channels to deal with the existing security challenges.
Thus, I reiterate the relevance of the Heart of Asia Process as an important regional platform for dialogue and cooperation to discuss and adopt collective measures to address the challenges that confront all of us. We are currently evaluating the effectiveness of the CMBs and their related implementation mechanisms for enhanced political support, in order to gain the results we all seek. Foremost, today, the Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) should enable us to build the necessary consensus for establishing a regional mechanism to counter terrorism and violent extremism, in line with the objectives of our own national counter-terrorism plans.
Afghanistan greatly values our relations with the countries of the Heart of Asia region. We spare no effort to do our part in fostering greater regional economic cooperation. Through an expansion of intra-regional trade among countries in Central, South, and Southwest Asia—as well as the concurrent construction of critical transport and energy infrastructure in Afghanistan— economic growth, employment, and public revenue opportunities in both Afghanistan and our neighboring countries can substantially increase.
In this regard, we have embarked on developing a cluster approach to forge closer ties with our neighboring countries and beyond to ensure shared prosperity throughout the region. We continue to improve our infrastructure and legal framework for smooth flow of goods and services, while connecting the countries of Central Asia to major ports.
In this connection, I am delighted to note that Afghanistan, India, and Iran will soon sign the recently concluded Chabahar Agreement. This is a major step forward in further expanding regional connectivity for increased trade, commerce, and investment.
Moreover, multi-country projects—such as the Five Nations Railway; the Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan Railway; the TAPI gas pipeline; CASA-1000; and TAP—will develop a shared stake in regional security and prosperity.
The groundbreaking ceremony of the TAPI project took place in Ashgabat last December, while we will soon witness the stone-laying of the CASA-1000 project on May 12 in Tajikistan. Indeed, there is nothing more important than the implementation of these projects, as solid measures of confidence and trust building in our region of immense natural and human endowments.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Before I conclude, once again, I would like to renew our sincere gratitude for your strong support for the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process. I look forward to your substantive deliberations on the agenda items before us and your collaboration for a successful meeting.