Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Statement by H.E. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations Day of Vesak Celebrations

 

Excellencies, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Let me offer my congratulations as we prepare to celebrate the Day of Vesak, the Day of the full moon. This joyous occasion, celebrated by millions on our continent and throughout the world, is a sacred day to commemorate the life, enlightenment and death of Buddha.

 

We come from different nations, speak various languages, and respect diverse customs yet, what unites us regardless of our differences is our past, our history and our tradition. Our millennia-old connection is one of a shared culture that extends from the Indian Ocean, to the valleys of the Hindu Kush, from Arab lands and to edge of Eastern Asia. Our commonalities serve as a channel of communication and connection that binds together the great historical regions of our continent.

 

The beauty and life we celebrate today recalls the major world religions. We are reminded that, these faiths have sought spiritual purity in the calm and contemplative majesty of the region. Afghanistan, in the very heart of Asia, has been a meeting place of many civilizations and great cultural traditions.

 

The Afghan city of Bamiyan, for more than 1500 years, coveted the greatest religious monuments of all mankind, Solsol and Shamama, two gigantic Buddha statues. These statues defined the historical city of Bamiyan, as the thriving center of religion, philosophy, and art. Located in the middle of the Silk Road, Bamiyan was the crossroads of cultural exchange between the East and West. Afghanistan’s history of mutual understanding of followers of other faiths allowed various cultures to coexist in harmony with great respect for one another.

 

Juxtaposing the city of Bamiyan’s historical glory, the Taliban, in 2001, tried to obliterate these revered statues with an absolute blindness for the importance of cultural heritage. Their act of destruction is a cultural crime, an act of fanaticism, bigotry, and hatred that shocked the consciousness of humanity. The Government of Afghanistan in collaboration with the international community, particularly UNESCO, is currently working to restore these symbols of shared priceless world history.

 

Today in an official ceremony, the city of Bamiyan assumed it’s historical role as the First South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation’s Cultural Capital of 2015. The ceremony welcomed high level members from Afghanistan and all over the world. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs broadcasted that over the course of the next year, several SAARC states will organize various cultural events in Bamiyan including, seminars, exhibitions, and musical performances. This reinvigorates the idea of Bamiyan as the center of the Silk Road. It once again serves the realization of our desire to turn Afghanistan into the Asian roundabout where goods, ideas, and people can flow freely in all directions.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Today Hindu and Sikh minorities in Afghanistan, who have made incredible contributions to the prosperity and progress of our country, celebrate Day of Vesak, as we do here at the UN. Afghan Hindus and Sikhs, who suffered the consequences of decades of war, violence and extremism along with millions of other Afghans, are now working together with all parts of the nations to rebuild and strengthen our country. I am here today to congratulate, all those in our country and the rest of the world, on this jovial celebration.

 

Today in New York at the United Nations, we come together with our friends, and representatives of countries from all over the world, who are here to take part in these wonderful festivities. As we do so, I would like to highlight how much this celebration today demonstrates the spirit of collaboration that unites all of our countries, at the United Nations and in the world.

 

Thank you.

 

Statement by H.E. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations High Level General Assembly Thematic Debate in Support of the Process Towards the 2016 Special Session of the General Assembly on the World Drug Problem

Thank you very much. It is a great honor to speak at this High-Level General Assembly Thematic Debate and to speak alongside such distinguished panelists.

 

It is difficult to overstate the threat of drugs in Afghanistan. Fueled by almost 40 years of instability, war, conflict and violence, the drug problem is only exacerbated today by the interrelated challenges of terrorism, armed activities, criminality, insecurity, corruption, and poverty. The scourge of illicit drugs in Afghanistan impoverishes thousands of farmers who become indebted to drug traffickers, moneylenders and criminals. It ruins lives and livelihoods of more than 1.5 million young men and women who become addicts and destroys the communities around them. Unless we eradicate the cultivation, production, trafficking and consumption of illicit drugs in our country, our hard-fought efforts for the consolidation of peace, security and development will be in vain.

 

In 2003, Afghanistan established its counter-narcotics strategy, which aimed to stop cultivation and production, disrupt the drug trade by targeting traffickers and their backers, strengthen rural livelihoods and reduce the demand for illicit drugs. It was embedded in the framework of our national development strategy and related to efforts to strengthen governance and rule of law. Afghanistan benefited in this endeavor from the strong support of the United States, the United Kingdom, UNODC and other international partners.

 

We have achieved major successes since the strategy was established 12 years ago. The Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics and the Ministry of Interior have established alternative livelihood programmes focusing on areas as diverse as cotton and saffron farming, handicrafts, land stabilization and watershed development. Law enforcement authorities are conducting ever-increasing numbers of operations with larger amounts of drugs seized and high-value targets arrested, prosecuted and convicted. The number of provinces engaged in drug production has declined dramatically.

 

Despite these achievements, last year Afghanistan saw an increase in the consumption and production of illicit drugs, concentrate mainly in four south-west provinces with high security challenges. The increase coincides with the completion of the transition process, the end of the international combat mission and the assumption of full responsibility of Afghan national security forces. As Afghanistan arrives at a new beginning, the Taliban and other armed opposition groups have renewed their brutal campaigns to disrupt the stability and security of the country. The nexus of terrorism and criminality, funded by the narcotics industry, has emboldened extremists to strengthen their violent campaigns. Now groups like ISIS are aiming to control the counter-narcotics market in order to gain a foothold in Afghanistan and to finance their borderless, brutal campaigns.

 

The government of Afghanistan has prioritized its counter-narcotics efforts as a crosscutting element of its reform agenda. From his first days in office, President Ashraf Ghani pledged to implement strict effective counter-narcotics measures that will increase the costs of operating in the sector, with a particular focus on poppy-eradication and financial tracking. In addition, the government of Afghanistan will complement enforcement with programs that provide licit alternatives for rural livelihoods. The President’s commitment to fighting corruption and strengthening rule of law are essential to these efforts.

 

Our counter narcotics efforts are not limited to addressing production, cultivation and trafficking inside Afghanistan. Regional and international cooperation are essential to the fight against narcotics, particularly at a time when narco-trafficking is more pernicious, sophisticated and widespread than ever before. To this end, the government of Afghanistan’s emphasis on regional cooperation and connectivity is paramount to Afghanistan’s, the region’s and the international community’s efforts to mitigate the interrelated challenges of terrorism, criminality, extremism and illicit drugs.

 

Finally, eliminating the threat of drugs requires genuine, comprehensive global and regional strategies to implement both drug-supply reduction, and crucially, drug-demand measures. We will only be successful if we focus on all three ends of the drug industry: production, trafficking and consumption. With the continued support of the international community on this issue, I firmly believe that we can continue to work constructively together to make tangible gains that make Afghanistan, the region and the world safer, more peaceful and more prosperous.

 

Thank you.

 

Remarks by President Ashraf Ghani in the Indian Council of World Affairs

 

New Delhi, India

April 29, 2015

 

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate

Mr. Vice-President Ansari, Ambassador Bhatia, distinguished audience, ladies and gentlemen!

It is a pleasure to be with you tonight. I apologize in advance for being much briefer than I intended to, because you cannot make the President of India wait.

First of all, my deepest sympathies to the people of Nepal. I have had the pleasure of walking the mountains of Nepal repeatedly, and having been a privileged observer during their remarkable process of democracy, all our hearts go to them. Himalayas are joint together among, tragically the earthquake has not been confined to Nepal, I have just learned that we have lost over 50 people in the province of Badakhshan to a recent earthquake.

I begin with ecology because the change in the climate forces us to think thorough continentally. Natural disasters do not respect political boundaries. Yet the states of the region continuously fail to take account of the need that … the imperative that we must cooperate to deal with these phenomena. And I am heartened by Prime Minister Modi’s assurance that we will all mobilize to tackle this very important issue.

In the next 20 years, I go straight to the proposition, in the next 20 years Asia is very likely to be transformed from a geographical notion to a continental economy. This is profound implications for the way subsequent centuries are going to be formed and shaped. But two trends compete, because ambassador Bhatia asked me to highlight both, challenges and the opportunities.

First, on the challenge side, the challenges that we are dealing with a new ecology of terror. Terror is becoming a system. Morally, it is reprehensible; sociologically it must be comprehended as a system. And what are some of the key characteristics of this new ecology? It is morphing very rapidly. If Al-Qaeda, with all respects to Microsoft, was Windows 01, Daesh is Windows 05.

Second, it is being imbedded within the criminal economy and an unprecedented amount of finance is being made available to this new ecology.

Three, it is becoming very brutal and focused on brutality in order to all the population.

Four, it is becoming networked in a very rapid rate. And fifth, it kills for the sake of killing and overwhelming.

Within this ecology of terror, Afghanistan both from a perspective of narrative and from prospective of operation is seen as a single theatre. Today, due to a series of convergent phenomena, various groups threatening stability in Asia are converging on our territory. They have been pushed over to our soil, because they thought that there was a weak spot.

We are the battle front. We, today in Afghanistan, are fighting on behalf of every one of our neighbors from India to Russia. This fundamental challenge asks the state system to respond coherently together organically. But, what we know about bureaucracies is that they are slow to grasp, slower to act and slower to coordinate.

The main threat, therefore, is not from the phenomena the ecology of terror, the main threat is from lack of coordination by and between states, so that we can have a coordinated response to a state system where weaknesses within the state system are the opportunities on which the ecology of terror thrives. This, I hope, more than anything else makes one phenomena clear – there is no advantage to competition between and among states when it comes to the ecology of terror. Any states sponsorship of these networks or their accommodation threatens the system as such. And that is the challenge that we must deal with, because the system that we have inherited, you can date it any way and whichever way but take for convenience post 1945, is now under attack. Unless this resilience in coordination is injected into the system, we will all suffer.

The second aspect is the opportunity. So, let me highlight some of the key opportunities in terms of Afghanistan because the public perception, the metaphors are about the threat, that is why I have to  knowledge it out-front. Our first advantage in the next 25 years is our location. Until 18th century, our location was a key advantage, we were roundabout. A roundabout as (inaudible) best described it, is a place where all ideas, people and goods come to and go out of. We were an open space, we were a space that 500 year ago linked west Bengal to Nishnonivegrad no cash was required, one of the most sophisticated systems of bills of exchange were developed, a system of arbitration of disputes, a caravan trading system, a transport network, in other words, there was an economy both, symbolic and real.

This ecology was disrupted by the rise of European imperialism.  A space that was a roundabout was turned into a marginal space. We became the theatre of Kipling. So while India got reoriented to western economy, China got etc. Afghanistan got marginalized. In the next 25 years, our location is the key connector. All roads between Central Asia and South Asia, have to lead through Afghanistan. We are also the connector to East Asia and to West Asia. But this means that the potential, in order to realize the potential, we must think of infrastructure very differently.

It is not the old minority trade based system that would move the continental economy; it is a cluster of infrastructure, rail, road, pipelines, power, fiber optics and air. This cluster needs to be developed coherently in order to deliver the advantage. And development of that cluster, again just give you a slight indication, in the next 25 years globally there would be about $65 billion, the very system from $45 to $65 trillion of investment are required in infrastructure. About 60 percent of this is likely to take place in Asia.

We need to evolve very different instruments to realize this potential. But this potential would be transformative. If we were to realize this, well, the obvious question becomes, is the specialty that is required for this available? There, there are two answers. One, of course, South Asia remains the lease economic integrated region on earth. And unless South Asia grasps this opportunity within the next ten years, part of it will integrate much more to East Asia, part of it would integrate to Central Asia, and part of it would integrate to West Asia.

But the other part is for the continental economy and for the advantages of Afghanistan to develop, and that is not need to be contiguous develop. Why is that? Because our second advantage is our mineral resources. In the next 15 years, we will become the largest producer of copper in the world, the largest producer of iron in the world, one of the largest players in the gold market globally, and we have 14 of the 17 rare earth material. Our marble resources are enough to last the region 400 years, our construction material. 33% of Afghanistan’s natural resources have been mapped, the estimated worth is from $1 to $3 trillion.

With India’s and China’s transformation, this natural wealth awaits to become part of a continental framework. If you look into development of this natural wealth from a national prospective, you see limitations. When you see it from a regional prospective, you see immense potential and opportunity.

The problem with natural wealth, of course, is that it is a curse attached to it. If we are to avoid the curse of natural wealth, our first priority must therefore be our location. Our second priority, again, we have the head-waters for practically every single one of our neighbors. We only use 10% of our available water today with 1960s technology. The land under cultivation in Afghanistan is exactly about half of what it was in 1978. And, again, we are in the midst of 3 billion people. Water and cooperative arrangement regarding water is going to be the key to responding to changing global ecology, and to creating new regimes of sharing inefficiency, so we would actually put water and land second and then third being our natural wealth.

Our fourth advantage, we are a country of the poor people with enormously rich individuals. We have money, but we do not have capital. And the difference is, money does not become productive. In order for money to work and to become an agent of transformation, it has to become capital. And thereby, again, comes the immense experience of the region. India’s creativity in terms of financial instrument, in terms of the range of funds, and the enormous power of the Indian diaspora to transform money into wealth is one of the key issues.

Our fifth advantage is our entrepreneurship. The Silk Route and millennia of connectivity has given us remarkable capacity to work. With energy and thrive, we, Afghans are tough, we don’t accept hierarchy, because of that we thrive on networks. But the type of hierarchy that the market brings actually is a much more disciplined process.

So, if we have these advantages, what is it that prevents us, and what is it that we need in order to contribute both, to the rebirth of the Asian continental economy and to gain.

First, I use the word “rebirth” because for millennia there was a continental system. India’s textile exports to the west are part of every child’s story. But the amount of textiles that Northern India where we are sitting and today’s Pakistan exported to Central Asia and to Russia, is through scholarships determines was larger than the South India exported to Europe. These ranges become important.

As part of this, the fundamental challenge then shift to being conceptual. Why conceptual? Because, model of building economies are based on national boundaries. If we are going to realize Afghanistan’s immense potential, we must think regionally. Regionally because the experience of the region each single country enables us to cut time by a phenomenal extent. Take just one example, the amount of investment that India has made in technology, cost of research in development. If we wanted to start with a national model, that would require us 50 years to catch up. But thinking this to a comparative cooperative framework, allows us to master time much more quickly and to be able to bring this about.

When you put the two issues together, the challenge of the ecology of terror and the opportunity of a roundabout, I hope that we can shift political understanding.

So, what is it that we view ourselves as? Certainly, not as a battle field for proxy wars. Certainly, not as a space to become tested over. Certainly, not a buffer to be dominated. What we offer is a model of cooperation, a platform where all of us can come together. Where a transformative capacity and the imagination is translated into building solid institutions where all of us will be able to live in comfort and dignity.

Delhi, you can begin with having breakfast in Delhi, lunch in Peshawar and dinner in Kabul. I hope that what is immensely possible, can become actually achievable. And the day, when I will drive after retirement from Kabul to Delhi, I look forward to dedicating my life to creating this possibility of cooperation.

Thank you,