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Address by Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy at Herat Security Dialogue 2020

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  • Amb. Sujan R. Chinoy
    November 12, 2020

    Address by Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy

    Director General, MP-IDSA

    Virtual Herat Security Dialogue (HSD-IX)

    Co-hosted by AISS, MP-IDSA and Hudson Institute

    November 12, 2020

    Your Excellency Mr. Amrullah Saleh, Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,

    Dr. Davood Moradian, Director General of the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies, Kabul,

    Dr. Aparna Pande, Director of Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia at the Hudson Institute, Washington

    Esteemed Participants,

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    I am grateful to the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS) for inviting my institute – the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, better known as IDSA, to join the 9th edition of the Herat Security Dialogue as a co-host for this Special Session, together with the Hudson Institute.

    The Herat Security Dialogue has devoted much effort to the task of addressing the long-standing conflict in Afghanistan and bringing peace, security and stability for the people of Afghanistan. I congratulate the organisers for their untiring commitment to this noble cause.

    Today, we have heard a thought-provoking Keynote Address delivered by His Excellency Mr. Amrullah Saleh, the Vice President of Afghanistan. He has given us much to reflect on regarding the intra-Afghan peace process and the future of Afghanistan.

    India has long been committed to peace and progress in Afghanistan. India understands the stakes in the Afghan peace process and its implications for the region. The External Affairs Minister of India Dr. S. Jaishankar had addressed the Doha meeting. An Indian delegation had physically participated in the event.

    Afghanistan is in the throes of a difficult transition. The last two decades have yielded mixed results. Democratic institutions are still nascent and must be preserved. I recall Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying in his speech on 25 December 2015 in Kabul, when addressing both houses of the Afghan Parliament, that the Parliament Complex, built by India, was a small tribute to Afghanistan’s progress as a nation and a democracy. He had also described it as an enduring symbol of the ties of emotions and values, of affection and aspirations that bind us in a special relationship.

    Over the past several years, there has been considerable progress in protecting the rights of women and minorities. This achievement too must be preserved. It will permit the Afghan nation to draw more fully upon the rich talent and potential of all its citizens.

    Improved connectivity, rising levels of education and greater accountability have created new stakes for the people of Afghanistan in the task of nation-building. They have learnt the hard way. They now cherish the advantages of a society founded on liberal values and respect for human rights. They yearn for the fullest preservation and celebration of their ancient civilisation and the cultural heritage of a pluralistic Afghan society. There is keen realisation today that in a fast-changing world, the Afghan nation will have to be both independent and competitive, and that this can be achieved only by attaching importance to education, skill development, healthcare and respect for peaceful political processes.

    Friends, the lofty goal of building an enduring architecture for peace and progress is no doubt vital for the people of Afghanistan. It is equally vital for others. An Afghanistan that is secure and at peace with itself is a factor for stability throughout the region. The people of Afghanistan have long cherished the hope of achieving peace through mutual accommodation of goals and aspirations. It augurs well that the regional and international community is ready to lend a helping hand in accordance with the priorities of the Afghan people.

    At a time when the peace process is at a critical juncture, we recognise the enormous contributions and sacrifices made by the Afghan people and the international community. The presence of US forces in Afghanistan over the last 18 years has been a factor for peace, security and stability. The US must review its withdrawal and plan it in a phased manner. An abrupt absence of US forces could lead to a deterioration in the security situation and threaten the progress of the past two decades.

    Violence has destroyed Afghan society and institutions. Violence in Afghanistan or on its borders contradicts the impulse for dialogue. Indeed, there has been a condemnable spike in violence since February. Whether it is Daesh or the Taliban that carry out heinous attacks, they are equally condemnable.

    The Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) have displayed great resolve and commitment in dealing with security challenges. The international community lauds the sacrifices of the ANDSF.

    The Taliban should eschew violence for the sake of national reconstruction. It must sever its links with all terrorist outfits which threaten regional and global peace and security. A peaceful Afghanistan has a greater chance of attracting much-needed foreign investment for economic development. A cease-fire would be the first step in this direction.

    In order to make the hard-won gains of democracy and development irreversible, the international community must continue to support the reconstruction process. Afghanistan needs US$ 5 billion in foreign aid annually to maintain stability. The upcoming donor conference to be co-hosted by Finland, Afghanistan, and the United Nations in Geneva on 23-24 November should be used as an opportunity to refocus attention on advancing realistic and sustainable reconstruction plans.

    India has reiterated its conviction at the maiden round of the intra-Afghan dialogue that the peace process must be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled. We have stated before our hope and expectation that it must ‘respect the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and preserve the progress made’ during the last two decades towards building a democratic Islamic Republic in Afghanistan. Equally, ‘the interests of minorities, women and vulnerable sections of society must be preserved and the issue of violence across the country and its neighbourhood has to be effectively addressed’.

    India believes that Afghanistan has a right to forge its own destiny and realise its fullest potential. Above all, the peace process brooks no external interference. India respects the will of the people of Afghanistan, whatever they choose for themselves.  

    India and Afghanistan have age-old ties. Our close bonds have stood the test of time. India has played an important role as a major development partner of Afghanistan, executing more than 400 projects across its 34 provinces. The Afghan-India Friendship Dam, the Stor Palace restoration, the Pul-e-Khumri power project and the Zaranj-Delaram road are enduring symbols of India’s strong commitment to Afghanistan’s reconstruction process.

    Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has taken proactive steps to reinvigorate the regional and global response to the COVID-19 pandemic through its initiatives in SAARC and the G20. India is ready to extend whatever help it can to the friendly people of Afghanistan. It is committed to provide assistance to help rebuild Afghanistan's infrastructure and institutions, promote education and manufacturing, and, explore natural resources. India is also willing to provide duty-free access to the Indian market for Afghanistan's exports.

    Friends, terrorism continues to afflict our region. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his recent address to the United Nations General Assembly, terrorism is one of the biggest challenges, not for any single country, but the entire world and humanity. That is why, as he put it, it is absolutely imperative that the world unites against terrorism. On its part, India has a policy of zero tolerance for terrorism. 

    We hope that Pakistan will one day realise the folly of using terrorism as an instrument of state policy. As Afghanistan enters a crucial phase in the intra-Afghan peace process, the people of Afghanistan must guard against the country’s territory being misused again by external forces. A repeat of history would be a great tragedy.     

    The road to peace will be long and arduous. It will require infinite patience, perseverance, political will and wise leadership to ensure a successful outcome. It does not help that the United Nations has been less effective in recent years by geo-strategic contestation. It is our cherished hope that a sovereign and independent Afghanistan will one day regain its historical importance as a regional hub for trade, energy and connectivity. It is our hope that Afghanistan’s economy will one day connect with markets and supply chains throughout the region, especially with India, without a veto by others in the region.    

    With these words, I once again thank you for inviting me to address you. I wish this year’s Herat Security Dialogue great success in its deliberations.

    Thank you.