Asserting that peace is essential to development and terrorism is anathema to development, Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar hit out at Pakistan for becoming an obstacle in the path of trade relations between India and Afghanistan.
Speaking at the Regional Integration and Prosperity at Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, Akbar stated that the scale of terrorism and violence unleashed against Afghanistan is of a magnitude that does not allow easy project implementation, efficient delivery of assistance or the rapid inflow of investments into an economy that has huge resources and obvious potential.
Talking about Afghanistan’s exports that have traditionally found their most lucrative market in India, up to Calcutta at the other end of the Grand Trunk Road, the Union Minister mentioned that Afghanistan is much loved and respected India.
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He further said that India has offered a special facility at its border at Attari for Afghan products coming to India via Pakistan, but unfortunately this access has been blocked for political reasons by Pakistan.
“Nations cannot become walls aborting a trade and culture that is as old as written history, and as powerful as the lore etched in common memory. But, we will continue to work with Afghanistan for assured and reliable access for Afghanistan’s products to India’s markets through land, sea and air,” Akbar said.
Asserting that the full utilization of Afghanistan’s transit rights as a member of WTO will enable greater prosperity, he added that those who deny transit hurt Afghanistan’s economy, with negative resonance for the larger region.
Emphasising that India’s commitment to Afghanistan is abiding, as is its desire to work with the people and Government, Akbar further said that India has dedicated its efforts and resources into bilateral cooperation with Afghanistan, with improvements of internal capabilities and provision of year-round regional connectivity.
“We have already completed significant development projects including scientific water management through dams and infrastructure projects like highways, worth over US$ 2 billion. We have recently committed to US$ 1 billion more. This is the essence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “neighbourhood first” policy,” he said.
“An exciting and innovative future is taking shape through the recent trilateral India-Iran-Afghanistan agreement in Tehran in May 2016, which makes Chahbahar into a hub for immense economic opportunity. These steps reflect India’s sharp focus on strengthening Afghanistan’s economy with greater vibrancy,” Akbar added.