General Assembly Security Council

Mr. President,

Thank you for organizing this debate on Afghanistan and for choosing the subject ‘Building regional partnership in Afghanistan and Central Asia as a model for the “security-development nexus”’. 

2. We also thank the Secretary General for sharing his views on a subject so closely linked to the stability of our region.

Mr. President,

3. Afghanistan is the true heart of Asia and a linchpin to the regional economy. As pointed out by several other speakers before us, security and development are closely linked and this linkage must drive the policies and actions of all stakeholders at a conceptual and operational level. 

4. In case of Afghanistan, however, this linkage is skewed in one direction only – the impact of the deteriorating security environment on development. That the security situation weighs adversely on Afghanistan is reflected in the latest World Bank Development update. From 2003 to 2012, Afghanistan recorded a 9.6% annual economic growth rate. Last year, this was 2.6%, which is better than the 2.2% recorded in 2016, which in turn was better than the lower growth rate in 2014-15. Next year, the projections are for growth to edge up to 3.2%, assuming the security situation holds.

5. Many of us who are engaged in development and infrastructure projects in Afghanistan are acutely aware of the disproportionate amount of resources that are diverted to protecting the projects and infrastructure which is created, rather than building more projects in the country. While we commonly see attacks on dams, schools, parliament buildings and electric power centers, what is most debilitating for the development of the country are the attacks on its people.  The attacks on the young in Afghan schools, women in Afghan hospitals and the hopeful in Afghan mosques are all a stark reminder of how the very spirit of Afghanistan’s future is being systematically threatened and scarred by those who believe that violence is the only way to achieve their goals.

Mr. President,

6. The people of Central and South Asia have been connected through centuries. We have shared commonalities of art and culture; ideas and knowledge; as well as language and traditions. These connections, while now tarnished by decades of war and instability in the region, remain resilient even in the face of the forces of decay and division. Today, they are in need of rejuvenation and reconnection. To reconnect and revive the commonalities of the region, we need to confront these forces of decay and destruction. 

7. It is our belief that the starting point of our journey to realize the full spectrum of connectivity between Central & South Asia, as articulated by our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi - from culture to commerce; from traditions to technology; from investments to IT; from services to strategy; and from people to politics -  is Afghanistan. 

8. In line with our vision of a connected region, we established in 2017 air corridors between India and Afghanistan to overfly the obstacles imposed by geography and mind sets which hurt the welfare of the Afghan people. We have also cooperated with Iran and Afghanistan to facilitate the flow of goods between our countries through the Chabahar port. This also opens opportunities for surface connectivity between India & the Central Asian region.

9. Recent visits to India by President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, in the past three months, have provided impetus to the wide-ranging 'New Development Partnership' that both our countries launched in September 2017. This covers diverse areas, including education, health, agriculture, infrastructure, renewable energy, drinking water supply and human resource development. Our people-to-people contacts extend from colleges and cricket fields to trade and investment.

Mr. President,

10. For thousands of years, Afghanistan was situated at the heart of Asia. The cities of Kabul, Balkh, Herat, Kandahar, and Bamyan constituted some of the key way stations on the cross roads of history through which trade, culture, religions, syncretic philosophies, and technologies freely flowed to reach every corner of Eurasia. We, therefore, support the Afghan government and people’s desire, as expressed by President Ghani, to regain their country’s former status as the “centre of the Asian crossroads.” Afghanistan has always been at the heart of networks: a roundabout, a place of meetings, civilizations, religions, cultures and, of course, armies and traders as well as pilgrims, and hopefully, will once again, become the true heart of our region’s prosperity.

Mr. President,

11. It is our vision that Afghanistan regains its place and we remain committed to work closely with our regional and international partners to bring peace, security, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan. It is with this in mind that our Prime Minister, during his visit to Afghanistan on 24 December 2015 to inaugurate the Parliament building, stopped over in Lahore, Pakistan. Unfortunately, these visits were followed by a heinous and barbaric terrorist attack on the Pathankot airbase on 1 January 2016, perpetrated and planned by the very same mindsets which attack the spirit of Afghanistan every day. These mind sets differentiate between good and bad terrorists. These mindsets refuse to see reason in peace. They are mindsets that are reluctant to join hands in moving the region forward to build a shared future for our people and our youth. These mindsets, Mr. President, need to change. 

12. We honour the supreme sacrifices made by the Afghan Defence and Security Forces for the cause of humanity and in their efforts at fighting terrorism emanating from beyond Afghanistan’s borders. Terrorism and externally induced instability pose the gravest threat to Afghanistan’s peace, stability and prosperity. And the growing arc of terrorist violence endangers our entire region.

Mr. President,

13. There is a common Afghan saying that roughly translates as “If water is muddied downstream, don’t waste your time filtering it; better to go upstream and clean it”.

14. As such, support for voices of peace in Afghanistan alone is not enough. We must focus on addressing the challenges posed by cross border terrorism emanating from safe havens and sanctuaries to our region and especially to Afghanistan. If we do so, the decay, which has been inflicted on Afghanistan, can be made reversible. 

Mr. President,

15. This Council has returned after a successful visit to Afghanistan. It was a visit during which, in the many interactions you have had with a cross-section of Afghan interlocutors, Council members must certainly have come across the common Afghan saying: 

Aqelmand ra eshara kafee ast

A sign is enough for the wise to understand.

16. We hope that this Council will act with wisdom to promote the vision of a shared and connected future for the people of the region by addressing the security conundrum that Afghanistan faces.

I thank you Mr. President.