President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticized Pakistan on terrorism at the inauguration of the sixth Heart of Asia ministerial conference on Sunday in Amritsar, a city in Punjab state of India.
The theme of the conference is ‘enhanced cooperation for countering security threats and promoting connectivity in the Heart of Asia region’.
President Ghani delivered his speech at the opening of the conference, praised India for its ‘no strings attached’ help and attacked Pakistan for providing sanctuary to terrorists.
He stressed on the importance of the India-Iran Chahbahar port development project for Kabul’s regional connectivity plans.
At the same time, he said that Pakistan’s proposed $500 million in funds for reconstruction of Afghanistan was better served fighting terrorism.
“There is need for a fund to combat extremism. Pakistan has generously pledged 500 million dollars for reconstruction of Afghanistan. This fund, Mr. Aziz, could very well be used for containing extremism because without peace any amount of assistance will not meet the needs of our people,” Ghani said, directly addressing Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz who was in the conference.
He added, “Afghanistan suffered the highest number of casualties last year. This is unacceptable … Some still provide sanctuary and support or tolerate these [terrorist] networks. As Mr. Kakazada, one of the key figures in the Taliban movement recently said, if they did not have sanctuary in Pakistan, they would not last a month”.
“I don’t want a blame game, I want clarifications on what is being done to prevent the export of terror,” Ghani continued.
He emphasized the need to confront terrorism and called on Pakistan to “verify cross-frontier activities”.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi described terrorism “the biggest threat to Afghanistan’s peace and the region”, adding we must counter it.
“We must counter terrorists and their masters. We must demonstrate strong collective will to defeat terror network that cause bloodshed and spread fear,” PM Modi emphasized.
“Silence and inaction on terror in Afghanistan and the region will only embolden terrorists and masters and those fund them,” Indian PM added.
Modi said India is committed to ‘durable peace’ in Afghanistan, and announced plans to connect India and Afghanistan via an air transport corridor, as well as discussed the possibility of trilateral cooperation over Iran’s Chahbahar port.
“India-Afghanistan-Iran cooperation on the Chahbahar port will help Afghanistan to connect its economy to the rest of the world,” Modi said.
The ‘Heart of Asia’ initiative was launched in 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey for encouraging economic and security cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours for dealing with the common problems of terrorism, extremism and poverty
Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates are part of the Heart of Asia initiative.
Six key areas in which the 14 countries have been pursuing confidence-building measures since the 2013 Almaty meeting are disaster management, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, trade and investment, regional infrastructure, and education.
The process is supported by 17 other, predominantly Western, countries, and 12 international organisations which are also sending senior representatives.
By: Hesamuddin Hesam