India pitches for Marshall Plan-like initiative for Afghanistan

December 5th, 2011 - 9:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Bonn, Dec 5 (IANS) Warning against the dangers of abandoning Afghanistan, India Monday exhorted the international community to stay engaged for the long term to eliminate “sanctuaries of terror” and pitched for a Marshall Plan-like initiative to help rebuild the violence-torn country.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, who is representing India at the Bonn conference on the future of Afghanistan, also underlined India’s enduring commitment to the rebuilding of that country for which it has already pledged $2 billion.

He warned against terror emanating from across the border - an all-too obvious reference to Pakistan that is suspected of fomenting instability with a view to gaining strategic depth in that country at India’s expense.

“The international community needs to stay engaged in Afghanistan for the long term, for both its security and development,” Krishna said at the conference that is aimed at firming up a roadmap for Afghanistan’s future beyond 2014 when international combat troops are expected to leave that country.

Alluding to the rationale of the international involvement in Afghanistan, Krishna stressed that the root causes of intervention — the dangers of terrorism and radicalism — remain as potent as ever.

“We have to ask whether, if we withdraw our holding hand, Afghanistan will be able to withstand the forces of (radicalism), extremism and violence, and stand on its own feet,” he said.

Delegates from over 100 countries and international organisations have gathered for the conference, hosted by Germany and chaired by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

With the theme “From Transition to Transformation”, the conference hopes to make progress on two aspects — renewing the international community’s commitment to maintaining long-term stability and development of Afghanistan after the troop withdrawal, and to promote the political process of reconciliation between the Afghan government and the insurgents.

Krishna pitched for a Marshall-like plan to rebuild Afghanistan, saying: “Afghanistan today faces at least four deficits: a security deficit, a governance deficit, a development deficit, and an investment deficit.”

“To address these deficits, Afghanistan needs time, development assistance, preferential access to world markets, foreign investment and a clear end-state and strategy to make sure that it does not once again plunge into lawlessness, civil war, and externally sponsored extremism and terrorism,” he said.

“Conceptually there is need for something like a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan, involving all the major stakeholders,” he stressed.

The Marshall Plan was devised by the US to provide monetary support to Europe to help rebuild its economies after the end of World War II and in order to combat the spread of Soviet communism.

In an oblique reference to Pakistan, Krishna said Afghanistan continued to “face a potent threat to its security from terrorism and insurgency being fuelled from outside its borders”.

“The international community must ensure that as it reduces its military commitment to Afghanistan, it increases rather than decreases its economic commitment to the security and rebuilding of Afghanistan so that it does not once again slide back to the dark ages of the 1990s,” he said.

Despite large-scale attendance, the conference was overshadowed by Pakistan deciding to stay away to protest against a cross-border NATO bombing on the country’s checkposts that left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead Nov 26.

Underlining India’s willingness to contribute its share to rebuild Afghanistan, Krishna said New Delhi has already pledged $2 billion for the development of that country till 2014 and said it will continue to assist in multifarious ways.

Alluding to key initiatives by India, which include the setting up of an agricultural university and training Afghan students, Krishna reiterated that Indian companies are “willing to invest up to $10 billion in mining, setting up a steel plant and related infrastructure in Afghanistan.”

An Indian consortium of seven companies led by state-owned Steel Authority of India has won the right to develop three iron ore blocks in the Hajigak deposits in central Afghanistan.

“We need to offer a narrative of opportunity to counter the anxiety of withdrawal, uncertainty, instability and foreign interference,” Krishna said.

In an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel, Karzai said: “Afghanistan will certainly need help for another 10 years — until around 2024.” “If we lose this fight (with Taliban), we are threatened with a return to a situation like that before September 11, 2001.”

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