‘Threat of cross-border terrorism is Afghanistan’s greatest challenge’

Almaty (Kazakhstan), April 26 (IANS) India said Friday it wants to see Afghanistan as a “possible driver of economic growth in the region” and warned that the “greatest challenge” posed to Afghanistan is the “persistent threat of terrorism that emanates from beyond its borders”, a clear reference to the Taliban and other extremists operating from Pakistan.

Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, addressing the Heart of Asia ministerial conference on the Istanbul Process in the Kazakh capital, said India has taken a number of initiatives to help in the economic empowerment of Afghanistan as the 2014 drawdown of international forces nears.

“India does not see Afghanistan as a zone of competitive influence and wants it to be an area of opportunity for regional cooperation,” he said.

But while striving for realization of this vision, India “does not have any illusion that the we can ignore political and security issues that stand in the way. We have no doubt that the greatest challenge posed to the vision of Afghanistan is the persistent threat of terrorism that emanates from beyond its borders.

“Other countries of the region, especially India, are not immune to this threat. An honest commitment to the principles enshrined in this declaration today will have to begin with an acknowledgment of the rising dangers posed by these forces of extremism and terrorism to the future of Afghanistan and the wider world as Afghanistan approaches critical transitions,” Khurshid said without naming any country though the allusion to Pakistan was not lost on his audience.

Khurshid said India’s vision of the Heart of Asia process “is one of trade, transit, energy and communication routes criss-crossing and knitting the entire region from Turkey to India and other countries of South Asia, and between Eurasia and the Arabian Sea, with Afghanistan at its heart”.

But India does not see Afghanistan as merely a “bridge” or a “roundabout” connecting these regions “contributing only as a transit route, but as a possible driver of economic growth in the region with development of its human resources; its natural endowment including minerals and hydrocarbon resources.”

The Istanbul Process is on regional security and cooperation for a secure and stable Afghanistan. The meeting is the third ministerial-level meeting and is being participated by 14 countries in the neighbourhood and 16 others.

The participating countries include Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan.

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