In a veiled attack against Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said that Afghanistan will succeed only when terrorism no longer flows across the border and when nurseries and sanctuaries of terrorism are shut.
Declaring that India is in Afghanistan to contribute not to compete, to lay the foundations of future and not light the flame of conflict, Modi also said terror and violence cannot be the instrument to shape the future of the strife-torn country or dictate the choices its people make.
The Prime Minister was addressing the Afghan Parliament here after inaugurating its swanky new building that was built by India at a cost of 90 million USD in the presence of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. He also opened an ‘Atal block’ in the Parliament premises named after former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee whose 91st birthday fell today.
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In his nearly 40-minute address during which he was lustily cheered by the assembled audience on several occasions, Modi also made a veiled reference to Pakistan’s reservations about Indian involvement in Afghanistan, saying,” there are some who do not want us to be here.
“There are some who did not want us to be here. There were those who saw sinister designs in our presence here. There are others who were uneasy at the strength of our partnership. Some even tried to discourage us.”
“Afghanistan will succeed only when terrorism no longer flows across the border; when nurseries and sanctuaries of terrorism are shut; and, their patrons are no longer in business, he said, adding, “Terror and violence cannot be the instrument to shape Afghanistan’s future or dictate the choices Afghans make.”
Modi saluted people of Afghanistan for having faith in India and not judge it by others tell them, including about the mysterious Indian consulates, in anotehr veiled dig at Pakistan.
“You never doubted the sincerity of our commitment and the strength of our friendship. And, you have seen the fruits of our partnership,” he said, adding, “You have judged us by what you see, not what others tell you, including about the mysterious Indian consulates.” Pakistan has long alleged that India was fomenting trouble in its Balochistan province through Indian consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad.
“You know that India is here to contribute not to compete; to lay the foundations of future, not light the flame of conflict; to rebuild lives, not destroy a nation.”
Referring to the violence in Afghanistan for decades, Modi said, “Too much blood has flown down Kabul river. Too many tragedies have darkened the mountain slopes. Too many dreams have burnt in the fire of a senseless conflict.”
He also urged the world to support Afghanistan.
“We must support Afghanistan without time lines because the new clouds of extremism and terrorism are rising, even as the old ones continue to darken our skies; and, because Afghans are not only fighting for their future, but are standing up for all of us and a safer world,” he said.
The prime minister said it is time for all Afghans, everyone in the region and the rest of the world to come together.
“We know that Afghanistan’s success will require the cooperation and support of each of its neighbours. And, all of us in the region–India, Pakistan, Iran and others–must unite, in trust and cooperation, behind this common purpose and in recognition of our common destiny,” he said, adding,” When Afghanistan becomes a haven of peace and a hub for the flow of ideas, commerce, energy and investments in the region, we will all prosper together.”
Modi said efforts were underway to improve Afghanistan’s connectivity by land and sea, including through Chahbahar in Iran.
“That is why I hope that Pakistan will become a bridge between South Asia and Afghanistan and beyond,” he said, adding, “I hope that the day will come soon when energy from Central Asia will power prosperity in our region; when a Kabuliwala can once again come across easily to win Indian hearts; when we in India can relish the wonderful fruits of Afghanistan; when Afghans do not have to pay an enormous price to buy their favourite products from India.
Modi told the Parliament that every youth in Afghanistan should see a future in which IT stands for information technology, not international terrorism.
He saluted the people of Afghanistan, saying a country with an abiding faith in the tradition of Jirga has chosen the path of democracy. “And, it has done it against challenges that would have defeated a lesser people.”
“It is a tribute to the countless, nameless Afghans who laid down their lives and sacrificed their future.”
He also praised Afghans who have risked their lives to protect Indian interests.
“As we have stood with you in our efforts to rebuild your country, you have guarded and protected our people as your own. We have faced daily threats, but we feel secure in your midst.
“To every Afghan, who has risked or lost his life so that his Indian guest is safe, I convey the eternal gratefulness of India.
“To Indian diplomats, officers, engineers and doctors, who serve here with pride, to the families of our Indian martyrs, I express the gratitude of Indians and Afghans,” he said.
Modi said the new Parliament Complex is a small tribute to Afghanistan’s progress as a nation and a democracy and will stand as an enduring symbol of the ties of emotions and values, of affection and aspirations that bind us in a special relationship.
“And, the Atal Block unites us in spirit, because Atal means hero in Pashto and in Hindi it means to be firm. It captures the spirit of Afghanistan and of our friendship,” he said.
The institutions that India are establishing together are helping rebuild agriculture and mining in Afghanistan, and make advanced medical care available in Kabul.
“You have been at the crossroads of history. And, your history tells us that you will never let yourself become a theatre of competition; or serve the designs of others.
For you live by the creed extolled by poet Kushal Khan Khattak that Nation’s honor and nation’s fame on life they have a prior claim,” he said.
The prime minister said Afghans have the wisdom to seek peace with neighbours, but also the courage to defend their freedom. “And, Afghans of all persuasions must have the right to seek peace among themselves.”
“You can be Pushtoons, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Hazaras. You can be Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. But, you are proud Afghans who can come together as one nation and one people. You may have fought in the name of religion; or in the cause of identity. But, it is now time for Afghans to come together in peace,” he told the Parliamentarians.
Modi said those waging war from outside must seek a path to Parliament building and this hall.
“Those seeking territory through gun must seek power through ballot. Those who have destroyed homes must now rebuild their nation. For, this is your land and these are your people.
“And, it must be on your terms, on your genius, through your own process and your own spirit of brotherhood. Not driven by the calculations or ambitions of others,” he added.
Modi said that it was time for all Afghans, everyone in the region and the rest of the world to come together.
“The sacrifices must not go in vain. The flame of hope should not die. No girl that steps into the world should slip into darkness of denied opportunities. No son should face the choice of gun or refuge in a distant land,” he said.
“No mother should fear bringing a child into this world. No leader should lose a brother because he spoke for Afghan freedom to choose friends. No one kneeling in prayer in a mosque should be killed in the name of religion. No elder should look back on his youth wasted in conflict, and see the same future for his grandchild,” the Prime Minister said.
Modi said that every Afghan youth should see a future in which IT stands for information technology, not international terrorism.
“For, the promise and the opportunities of the 21st century belong to Afghan youth as much as anyone else in the world. For India, this is a deeply held commitment. Your suffering is our pain. Your dreams are our duty. Your strength is our belief. Your courage is our inspiration. Above all, your friendship is our honour,” he told Afghan lawmakers.
Modi said he was confident that hope will return to Afghan homes, laughter in schools, life on streets, prosperity in cities, unity in society and, peace in Afghanistan.
“And, at every step of your journey, India will be with you,” he added.