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International community must continue military, economic support: Karzai
Ramananda Sengupta in New Delhi | November 18, 2006 13:44 IST
Last Updated: November 18, 2006 14:03 IST
Afghan President Hamid Karzai made a fervent appeal to international forces in Afghanistan to stay the course, because the "job is not over".
Inaugurating the Second Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan at New Delhi's Vigyan Bhavan on Saturday, Karzai, dressed in the traditional green cloak or chapan and his Afghan cap, spoke about Afghanistan's "re-emergence" as a peaceful country, but stressed that it would be difficult to keep it that way unless the international community continued its military and economic support.
The two-day conference in New Delhi, aimed at evaluating the progress made since the first conference in Kabul last year, was jointly inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Karzai, and attended by hundreds of delegates from 19 nations and 10 international organisations.
The two leaders were flanked by their foreign ministers, India's Pranab Mukherjee and Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta of Afghanistan.
In his opening remarks, Mukherjee lauded Karzai's commitment to integrating Afghanistan with the region, and said that this would positively impact the physical security of the neighborhood.
He also sought efforts to promote greater mobility of goods and services across the region. This, combined with trade facilitation, greater ties in transport, energy, tapping pipelines and capacity building would also ease the political and economic tensions in the region in an incremental manner, he said.
Karzai, who spoke after him, thanked Dr Singh for "pushing the initiative" on Afghan reconstruction, and noted that the people of the region shared not just common geography and cultural ties, but also a young population "eager to learn and prosper".
In the five years since the Taliban had been ousted, much had been achieved, he said.
He had visited several nations, including China, Pakistan, India, Tajikstan and the UAE, to build bridges. Afghanistan was now a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, and he was sure it could contribute towards the regional cooperation movement.
The country was rapidly building its road infrastructure network in order to connect Central Asia with the ports of Bandar Abbas in Iran and Gwadar in Pakistan, he said, pledging, "We will spare no effort to restore Afghanistan as a land bridge" in the region.
He then went on to list several problems, like poverty, red tape and corruption which needed to be dealt with in order to speed up progress.
But the greatest threat, he said, was the "menace of extremism and terrorism, which threatens people's lives and their livelihood".
An unstable Afghanistan, he said, would jeopardise the region. He urged the foreign forces "pondering their continuation" in his country to stay on, since the "job is not over. Security is not safeguarded."
Any hesitation and uncertainty shown by the nations whose forces operate in Afghanistan would only strengthen the extremists, he said.
"We must forge a solid and unwavering alliance and embrace the new reality of an interdependent world. We must recommit ourselves to a secure and prosperous Afghanistan, and make our common vision a reality," Karzai said.
In his address, Dr Singh said under Karzai's "wise and enlightened" leadership, Afghanistan's progress had been truly remarkable, and hoped that the conference would reaffirm the international community's commitment to Afghanistan.
India, he said, would play a leading role in this effort, because peace and prosperity in Afghanistan was good not just for Afghanistan but for the region.
Afghanistan was at the crossroads of Central Asia, China and the Indian subcontinent, and a gateway to the west. The country in turn, would gain considerably from its admission to SAARC last year, Dr Singh said.
However, the nation faced several challenges, he said, and expressed India's concern over the increasing terrorist activities in south and south-eastern Afghanistan. "Dealing with this challenge is our collective responsibility," he said.
Noting that Afghanistan was a landlocked nation with difficult terrain, Dr Singh said it was imperative that transport, trade and the cross-border movement of trade and services take place in order to enhance a sense of security.
Dr Singh then mentioned India's contribution towards the reconstruction of Afghanistan, and pledged to respond positively to the needs of the Afghan people.
Noting India's high GDP growth of "8 to 10 per cent" he said this vision of prosperity would have a positive impact on the neighborhood, and vice versa.
"We have a vision to bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan through collaborative efforts, because the outcome affects us all," Dr Singh concluded.