Statement by H.E. Salahuddin Rabbani Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at the First India-Central Asia Dialogue

Statement by H.E. Salahuddin Rabbani Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at the First India-Central Asia Dialogue
Statement by H.E. Salahuddin Rabbani Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at the First India-Central Asia Dialogue

 Samarkand – Uzbekistan

January 13, 2018

بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

H.E. Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov,

H.E. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj,

Excellencies,

Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to be a part of the First India-Central Asia Dialogue in the beautiful and historic City of Samarkand.

I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to my dear friends—Foreign Minister Kamilov and External Affairs Minister Swaraj—for the very thoughtful invitation for us to be with you today.

Today’s meeting is very timely and relevant to our collective efforts towards increased stability and prosperity in our wider region.

Afghanistan, India, and Central Asia have shared intertwined cultural and civilizational ties since time immemorial.

This underpins our growing common interests and objectives in further deepening connectivity, which helps expand and promote regional economic cooperation and people-to-people contacts through education, tourism, and cultural exchange.

As we highlighted in the recent Geneva Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan, our regional partners have a critical role to play in supporting the peace process and sustainable development of Afghanistan.

Doing so will in turn help advance many shared interests in our greater neighborhood.

The Geneva Conference participants also pointed out Afghanistan’s central role as a hub for regional trade, transit and transport; and appreciated the ongoing commitment of Afghanistan and our regional partners, including under RECCA, Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process, SCO, SAARC, ECO, as well as other regional cooperation platforms.

I strongly believe that the India-Central Asia Dialogue can significantly contribute to the work of these existing frameworks—helping us further deepen regional cooperation including that between Central Asia and South Asia.

Hence, I would like to take this opportunity to thank India and Uzbekistan as two of our important neighbors for undertaking this initiative.

I also wish to thank India and all of our Central Asian partners for their active engagement under RECCA and Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process.

In this connection, my special thanks go to the Government of Uzbekistan for expressing their willingness to host the 8th Ministerial Meeting of RECCA in Tashkent in the second half of this year.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Afghanistan has historically played a crucial role along the Silk Road and other major trade routes.

Our vision for regional cooperation is to restore Afghanistan’s historical status as a land bridge and a point of convergence among the surrounding regions.

In doing so, we aim at supporting the sustainable development and stability of our wider region.

We have pursued this vision under RECCA and the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process, as well as through our active engagement in other major regional cooperation frameworks.

Given our geographical location, Afghanistan can help unlock the enormous economic opportunities that exist in the region.

Afghanistan can provide the most cost-effective transit routes, serving as a hub for energy supplies including from Central Asia to the energy markets of South Asia.

This is well illustrated by two mega regional energy projects: TAPI Gas Pipeline between Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, and CASA 1000 Electricity Transmission Line between the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan—which have witnessed very promising progress recently.

My country also provides the most efficient and shortest route between China and Iran, which is demonstrated by the Five-Nation Railway among China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to extend our gratitude to the Government of Uzbekistan for its exemplary commitment in support of Mazar-e Sharif–Herat railway, which remains an important segment of this mega regional project.

Afghanistan also plays an important role in the Eurasian connectivity.

A prominent example in this regard is the Lapis Lazuli Route Agreement, which I had the privilege to sign with my counterparts and other high-level officials from the contracting parties on the sidelines of RECCA VII in November 2017 in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

The first shipment via this important route—which commenced from Herat on 13 December 2018— reached Turkey successfully on 29 December 2018, after passing through Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia,

The Chabahar Corridor is also playing an important role in connectivity between South Asia and Central Asia.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the government of India for their commitment and excellent efforts along with Afghanistan and Iran in continuing to develop this important corridor.

Furthermore, the work on other major transport and transit corridors—including between Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, as well as between Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan—is underway.

Another important area with promising progress is air connectivity.

 Various air cargo corridors have so far been operationalized with India, Kazakhstan, Turkey, China, EU, Russia, UAE, and Saudi Arabia, and over 6052 tons of Afghan products have so far been transported through these air corridors.

Once fully implemented, these projects will significantly contribute to multi-faceted economic growth in Afghanistan and the wider region.

Integrating the region through these projects will have a spiraling impact on regional trade and commerce, strengthen people-to-people contacts in the region, and help achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Moreover, besides abundant natural resources, there are regionally important sectors like agriculture, transportation and logistics, energy and mining, as well as services that offer promising opportunities for greater regional cooperation in the wider region.

However, unlocking this enormous economic potential requires:

First: more intensive collective efforts to address the infrastructure gaps, including through public-private partnerships; and

Second: more integrated efforts to address various forms of trade and transit barriers.  

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Bilateral development cooperation remains crucial in achieving economic growth and development for our countries.

Over the past 17 years, both India and all Central Asian partners have remained actively involved in the post-conflict reconstruction and recovery of Afghanistan, for which we are grateful.  

In the midpoint of the Transformation Decade, as Afghanistan moves increasingly towards self-reliance, there is need for longer-term partnership and greater coherence and alignment of development cooperation, including by regional partners, in support of the national priorities in Afghanistan.

Our National Priority Programs (NPPs), as presented to the recent Geneva Conference on Afghanistan, provide new opportunities for the expansion of bilateral cooperation.

As we stated in the Geneva Conference, a more integrated approach to our multifaceted relations with our regional partners is required, so that the current bilateral cooperation mechanisms are more effectively utilized for the better alignment of development partnership.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In order to maintain and consolidate Afghanistan’s achievements in the area of development cooperation and connectivity, it is essential for our peace efforts to deliver positive results.

To that end, we once again emphasize the importance of the leadership and ownership of the peace efforts by the Government and people of Afghanistan.

We call on all regional and international stakeholders to support the implementation of the recommendations which President Ghani made at the recent Geneva Conference, based on our comprehensive peace strategy.  

Doing so will further build and bolster international consensus in support of a genuine, just and lasting peace in Afghanistan.

 Ladies and Gentlemen,

In conclusion, I would like to reaffirm our commitment to participating actively in all regional cooperation efforts.

Meantime, the region must do its part by doubling and tripling our collective efforts to address both the common challenges that confront us, and the inter-state differences that impede our shared progress in maintaining security and spreading prosperity across the region.

Thank you.

 

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