India on Sunday pressed for collective efforts to ensure resurgent forces of terrorism and extremism do not find sanctuaries and safe havens in any name, form or manifestation.
Neighbours of Afghanistan have a particular responsibility in this regard, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said at the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference here. “There is also a need to neither differentiate between good and bad terrorists, nor to play one group against the other,” said Jaitley, who is representing an ailing External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Taliban, Haqqani Network, Al-Qaeda, Daesh, Lashkar-e- Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, etc. are all terror organisations and should be treated as such, he said.
“End to terrorism and extremism, and adherence to internationally-accepted redlines including renouncing of violence, severing ties with Al Qaeda and other terrorist outfits and commitment to democracy and human rights are essential for successful reconciliation and lasting peace in Afghanistan,” Jaitley said.
The theme for the Heart of Asia Process this year is Addressing Challenges, Achieving Prosperity’.
As Afghanistan faces the challenges related to its multiple transitions, focused and sustained support will be required from all friends of Afghanistan in the international community for overcoming these challenges and achieving durable peace and prosperity, he said. Jaitley noted that Afghanistan has faced gruesome violence for decades and in the last few months, terrorism there has grown in both intensity and scope.
“Terrorist groups have made concerted efforts to capture and hold territory. Taliban have tried to expand its influence to territories in North and North East along with South West where they traditionally were not so strong,” he said.
“These developments only underline the fact that these groups have changed neither their ideology nor objectives. The evil of terrorism, which threatens not merely one or two countries but our entire region, has made the current year the worst in a very long time,” the minister said.
For its part, India is happy to work with Afghanistan to strengthen its capabilities to fight terrorism and violence directed at it, he said.
A key focus during India’s co-chairmanship of the ‘Heart of Asia’ process has been to centre-stage the importance of connectivity for Afghanistan, Jaitley said, adding promoting it remains at the very core of India’s cooperation with that country and also in the region.
Afghanistan has the potential to be the land bridge between various parts of the vast and dynamic Eurasian landmass, he said, adding there are many promising projects like the TAPI gas pipeline, TAT railway line, CASA 1000 which will bring prosperity to Afghanistan besides bringing the Central Asian and South Asian regions closer together.
“For India, the issue of connectivity for Afghanistan is not a mere talking-point. We strongly believe that the lack of connectivity directly impacts the economic, security and political situation in Afghanistan,” he said.
The Finance Minister said a well-connected Afghanistan will be economically vibrant and prosperous and also politically stable. “It will be able to engage the energies of its youth and attract its talents back from the foreign lands”, he added. “Earlier this year, we achieved a milestone by signing the trilateral Transit and Transport Agreement among India, Iran and Afghanistan for provision of year-round and reliable connectivity to Afghanistan via Chahbahar in Iran,” he said.
“This endeavour will overcome the lack of direct overland access for Afghanistan through Indian markets. Afghanistan will further benefit from the zero duty available to Afghanistan s exports to India,” Jaitley said. He said benefits to Afghanistan will accrue if Afghan trucks could carry Indian products to markets in Afghanistan, Central Asia and beyond and indeed visa-versa.
Pak told to dismantle terror havens; LeT, JeM named
In clear reference to Pakistan, a conference of 40 nations on Sunday pitched for dismantling of safe havens for terror groups like LeT and JeM, amid a message by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the world community that "silence and inaction" would "only embolden terrorists and their masters".
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, whose country's proposal for a framework to effectively deal with terrorism could not be adopted by the conference, made a stinging attack on Pakistan, accusing it of launching an "undeclared war" against his country by providing support and safe sanctuaries to terror groups including Taliban.
Terror took the centre stage at the 'Heart of Asia' (HOA) conference here which was attended by Pakistan Prime Minister's Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz as also representatives of major powers, including the US and Russia and regional groupings.
While most of the countries pitched for strong action against terrorism, some said India and Pakistan should join hands in helping Afghanistan.
Hosted by India in the backdrop of several cross-border terror attacks emanating from Pakistan, the HOA adopted, after two-day deliberations, the Amritsar Declaration which pressed for dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in the region, as well as disrupting all financial, tactical and logistical support for terror networks.
"We remain concerned by the gravity of the security situation in Afghanistan in particular and the region and the high level of violence caused by the Taliban, terrorist groups including ISIL/ DAISH and its affiliates, the Haqqani Network, Al Qaida, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, East Turkistan Islamic Movement, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Jundullah and other foreign terrorist fighters," the Declaration said.
It is for the first time that LeT and JeM have been mentioned in a declaration of the HOA, whose main objective is to discuss efforts to reconstruct and stablise war-torn Afghanistan. mpost
Simplistic to blame a country, says Aziz; rakes up Indo-Pak ties
Under severe attack over terrorism emanating from Pakistan, its Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz on Sunday hit back saying it is "simplistic" to blame one country even as he raked up the issue of strain in Indo-Pak ties at the Heart of Asia (HoA) conference on Afghanistan.
Aziz asserted his attending the meet despite "escalation" along the LoC was testimony to Pakistan's "unflinching" commitment for lasting peace in Afghanistan and expressed unhappiness over cancellation of SAARC Summit in Islamabad in November, terming it as a setback to regional cooperation. He did not mention the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
Noting that Pakistan was aware about serious challenges being faced by Afghanistan, Aziz said, "The first and foremost in our view is continuing violence and acts of terrorism claiming scores of human lives. This needs to be addressed urgently and effectively through collective efforts.
"The security situation in Afghanistan is very complex. It is simplistic to blame only one country for the recent upsurge in violence. We need to have an objective and holistic view."
His strong response came after India and Afghanistan hit out at Pakistan for sponsoring and supporting terrorism and called for "resolute action" against terrorists as well as their masters. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani directly hit out at Pakistan for "launching an undeclared war" against his country and demanded an Asian or international regime to verify Pak-sponsor terror operations.