India seeks regional framework, opposes meddling in AfghanistanNovember 2nd, 2011 - 10:47 pm ICT by IANS
Istanbul, Nov 2 (IANS) Stressing on an Afghan-led peace process, India Wednesday called for a regional framework for stabilising Afghanistan and ruled out competition - an allusion to Pakistan - even as it opposed external interference in affairs of that country.
Referring to cross-border terrorist networks, Afghanistan pitched for a bigger role for India in the region for “desirable reasons”, with President Hamid Karzai stressing that peace will remain elusive unless regional cooperation is assured.
“India supports the aims and objectives of this conference: to bring regional countries together on an inclusive platform to address the common challenges facing the region, and working towards cooperative confidence-building measures and solutions,” India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said at an international conference on Afghanistan here.
He observed that in the last decade, the role of regional countries in bringing stability to Afghanistan “has not been given adequate importance”.
Opposing external interference, Krishna stressed the need to tackle safe havens and sanctuaries for terror as he said security, good governance and development are critical for Afghanistan’s future.
Karzai also warned of terrorist networks which he stressed “are by far the major threat to Afghanistan’s security”.
“They continue to have sanctuaries outside of our border from where they conduct their merciless campaign of destruction,” he said.
The conference brought together all of Afghanistan’s extended neighbours to fashion a collective approach for a successful transition of the violence-hit country in the wake of planned withdrawal of all coalition troops by 2014.
Among the countries participating in the conference, hosted by Turkey, are Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iran, China, the US, the UAE, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
“Afghanistan’s regional neighbours and friends can work with the wider international community to provide Afghanistan a helping hand to assist it in the transition and beyond,” said Krishna.
“Afghanistan needs our assistance to build its capacity to tackle the critical challenges of terrorism, including suicide terrorism, the religious extremism that fuels it, and the drug trafficking that sustains it,” he said.
Outlining India’s perspective on “Sscurity and cooperation in the heart of Asia” as the conference is themed, Krishna said India believed in a strong, independent, sovereign, stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan at peace with itself and its neighbours.
He stressed that reconciliation on the basis of the Afghan constitution should be “an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-driven process.”
Amid widely-touted scenarios of a proxy war and rivalry between India and Pakistan in Afghanistan, Krishna underlined that India’s “partnership does not look at Afghanistan and the region in competitive terms”, but is “based on a vision of regional economic cooperation spanning all the countries in the vast theatre radiating out from the heart of Asia.”
This cooperation, he added, would be founded on trade and transit routes, railways and highways, energy pipelines and electricity networks, economic projects and cross-investments.
“Today our investments in Afghanistan require a framework of regional collaboration for their success,” Krishna said.
Pakistan is said to be opposed to a regional mechanism as it may include India, whose growing involvement in Afghanistan is resented by ita military-ISI establishment.
However, in a surprise move, Islamabad has struck a conciliatory tone, saying it welcomed New Delhi’s role in Afghanistan.
“All countries that can help promote peace in Afghanistan, including India, are welcome and Pakistan has no problem with any country,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was quoted as saying Tuesday.
Krishna highlighted India’s contribution to Afghanistan’s rebuilding for which it has pledged $2 billion in development and humanitarian assistance.
He also told the conference about a bilateral Strategic Partnership Agreement that entails, among other things, a formal commitment by New Delhi to train the Afghan National Security Forces.
Speaking at the conference, Karzai said: “Cooperation with India will be a turning point in the long journey towards achieving substantive, meaningful and rewarding cooperation for all in the region.”
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