Afghanistan is going through critical juncture in its history and the war-battered country requires the constructive support of its neighbours.
These views were expressed by Indian Foreign Secretary Smt Sujatha Singh at Senior Official’s Meeting (SOM), Istanbul Process (Heart of Asia) held in New Delhi the other day.
He told the gathering that the Istanbul/Heart of Asia process was an important component of the ongoing international efforts to assist Afghanistan in its political and economic reconstruction efforts.
What makes this platform unique was that it brings together countries in Afghanistan’s immediate and extended neighbourhood into a framework that enables them all to consult with each other on political questions pertaining to Afghanistan, he added.
“I am therefore hoping that in this SOM we will correct this, and have more detailed discussions on political and security questions which are of concern to Afghanistan and to all of us,” he remarked.
Referring to the landmark elections in Afghanistan, he said that preparations for the Afghan Presidential elections in April were underway, with President Karzai made great efforts to ensure that the required legislation for an Independent Election Commission (IEC) and an Independent Election Complaints Commission was put in place.
“The main threat to this election process is the continued efforts by extremist groups to undermine security and deny the Afghan citizen the right to freely exercise his/her franchise,” he warned.
He reiterated there was never any justification for terrorism and India strongly believed it was only through the closest of international cooperation that this evil scourge of terror would be defeated.
On the ongoing reconciliation process, he said it was a vital ingredient for a smooth political transition and the continued efforts being made by the Afghan authorities and the High Peace Council, to begin an Afghan owned, Afghan led process that would help reconcile and mainstream members of armed opposition groups.
“The Istanbul/Heart of Asia process is also about fostering economic cooperation amongst countries of the region centred around Afghanistan,” he said.
“We welcome the suggestion made by Afghanistan for a Funding mechanism that will support the coordination activities being undertaken by the Afghan Foreign Ministry for the Istanbul process. Let us look at this suggestion seriously so that we can finalize a concrete proposal in time for the Ministerial meeting that will take place later this year in China,” he added.
He said let us also use this meeting to develop or identify other initiatives that could be submitted for the consideration of Ministers at their meeting in China.
As the lead country of the Trade, Commerce and Investment opportunities CBM (TCIM) under the Istanbul process, he said: “I am happy to report that India recently organized a “Doing Business with Afghanistan” conference and trade exhibition in New Delhi to interest businesses to invest and do business in Afghanistan. We benefited greatly from the briefings provided to us by several senior Afghan Ministers and Afghan officials on opportunities, the regulatory environment and incentives being provided by the Afghan government to attract international business.
He said Afghanistan achieved remarkable progress over the last 12 years, whether it was the fact that in a population of 30 million there were already 18 million mobile subscriber spread over the length and breadth of the country connecting it like never before.
“We need to work together to ensure that this narrative of hope and progress is acknowledged and given the importance that it deserves,” he concluded.