Islamabad : External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj expressed trust and assured cohesive dealings going forward with countries in the likes of Pakistan and Afghanistan during her tour to Pakistan’s Heart of Asia entourage. While addressing the ‘Heart of Asia’ summit at Islamabad, she today said that India is ‘willing to join hands with Pakistan and Afghanistan for trade and commerce. In her words — It’s time we display maturity and self-confidence to do business with each other and strengthen regional trade and co-operation. The entire world is rooting and waiting for a change. Let’s not disappoint them. India is prepared to move our cooperation at a pace which Pakistan is comfortable with. But today let us at least resolve to help Afghanistan — in the best traditions of good neighborliness. India is ready to receive Afghanistan trucks at Attari border.
Presenting a clear picture of India’s standpoint, Swaraj said that India’s vision of ‘Heart of Asia’ is one of interlinked trade, transit, energy and communication routes, with Afghanistan as an important hub. She asked the international community to ensure that the forces of terrorism and extremism do not find sanctuaries and safe havens in ‘any name, form or manifestation’, adding, the ‘heart of Asia’ cannot function if arteries are clogged and noted that India’s vision for the war-torn country was one of interlinked trade, transit, energy and communication routes, with Afghanistan as an important hub.
Swaraj, who was accompanied by foreign secretary S Jaishankar, India’s high commissioner to Pakistan TCA Raghavan and envoy to Afghanistan Amar Sinha, spoke candidly about terrorism and said, terrorism in that country (Afghanistan) has grown in both intensity and scope in the last few months and that India was ready to work with the Afghan government to strengthen its defensive capability. She said — Terrorists have made concerted efforts to capture and hold territory, reminding us that they have not changed. We salute the Afghan National Security Forces and the Afghan people for countering the forces of terrorism and extremism with courage and resilience. They need the continued support of the international community to defend Afghanistan’s unity and security. For its part, India is ready to work with Afghanistan to strengthen its defensive capability.
Swaraj reiterated that it was the collective duty of ‘all of us to ensure that the forces of terrorism and extremism do not find sanctuaries and safe havens in any name, form or manifestation. We, in Afghanistan’s proximity, have a particular responsibility in this regard.’
Earlier in the day, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani jointly inaugurated the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference attended by foreign ministers of several countries, including external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj. Pakistan Leader, Sharif, in his inaugural address, said, ‘Afghanistan is the heart of Asia and if there is trouble in the heart, the entire region will be turbulent.’ He categorically stated that peace was vital for development and extended full support for the elected government of Afghanistan, saying it was the ‘only representative of the Afghan people’. He too called for collective approach to curtail the menace of extremism and terrorism. He said — Working for the achievement of a peaceful neighborhood is a cardinal principal of Pakistan’s foreign policy. We firmly believe that peace is vital for development, and development is vital for durable peace.
Afghanistan Leader Ghani spoke at length about prospects and challenges his country faced. He said Afghanistan had come a long way in building close ties with all its neighbors. But, he added, security was a threat. However, he promised that ‘2016 will be better’.
The theme of the conference is centered around participating countries’ desire for promoting regional development, increasing economic linkages, improving quality of life for their people and meeting security challenges.