Saturday, August 23, 2014

Statement by H.E.Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at the 17th SAARC Summit

بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

Your Excellency President Mohammad Nasheed,

Excellencies Heads of State and Government,

Distinguished Heads of Delegation,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be among you in the beautiful city of Addu. I thank our host, President Mohammed Nasheed, and the people of Maldives for the warm welcome and generous hospitality we have received. Indeed for us from Afghanistan from those mountains, this was a very new and beautiful experience.

I would also like to thank Mrs. Fathimah Dhiyana Saeed, the Secretary General of SAARC, for visiting Afghanistan this past summer, and for her dynamic leadership of our Organization. Last year we were all in Bhutan and we saw the splendid hospitality, just like in Maldives, given to us by the people of Bhutan. Mr. Prime Minister! You also visited us in Afghanistan. Thank you very much for that and for the very the able stewardship of SAARC that you and the people of Bhutan have done till today.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The SAARC Summits are important opportunities for us to reaffirm our commitment to cooperation, particularly in the face of the many challenges that confront our region today. Despite the monumental progress that some of us have made, many in South Asia remain mired in a vicious cycle of violence, poverty, deprivation and underdevelopment. Lack of education and employment opportunities provides fertile ground for intolerance and extremism. Climate change and natural disasters pose serious threats to our future.

At the same time, there are positive examples of goodwill and increased cooperation in the region that makes us hopeful for the future.  I applaud Pakistan’s recent decision to grant India the Most Favored Nation status in trade and economic cooperation, as well as the gesture by India to support Pakistan’s successful bid for a non-permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council.

These examples show that today the imperative for cooperation at the regional level is better recognized than the inhibitions we might have from a national security viewpoint.  I hope that such examples of goodwill and confidence building will become the norm rather than the exception in South Asia.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Last week in Istanbul, we took an important step toward strengthening regional cooperation.  Fourteen of Afghanistan’s near and extended neighbors came together to commit to a new vision of cooperation, including measures to improve confidence and trust in the ‘Heart of Asia’ region.

An important outcome of Istanbul was the recognition of Afghanistan’s role in promoting regional cooperation. Indeed, we are truly blessed to serve as the natural land-bridge in the middle of a vast region, which gives us the potential to connect the markets, resources, and peoples across South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East.

I hasten to say, however, that only a stable Afghanistan, surrounded by a stable and cooperative region, can genuinely serve as the land-bridge at the Heart of Asia.  History has shown that Afghanistan’s stability, and that of the region surrounding it, are deeply intertwined. This reciprocal relationship between the security and well-being of our country and that of the region lies at the heart of Afghanistan’s commitment to regional cooperation.

In this context, Afghanistan attaches great significance to our membership in SAARC.  I believe, within this regional community, a great deal of our interests is shared, as are indeed our challenges; and that cooperation is indispensable for the pursuit of our common interests and to address shared challenges.  SAARC can be a powerful engine to drive regional economic growth, cooperation and integration, as well as an effective forum for promoting understanding and security in our region.

In particular, we are keen to see SAARC member states work towards collective action against mutual threats such as terrorism and organized crime.  Today, my country bears the brunt of the terrorist threat, which remains the biggest source of suffering for the Afghan people. The violent manifestations of terrorism are not confined to Afghanistan.  Pakistan is also hugely affected as are others in our region, notably India.

Our collective action in fighting terrorism will require us to overcome the trust-deficit, which we must be prepared to do in the interest of achieving our common goal of regional security and prosperity.

Ladies and gentlemen

We in Afghanistan believe that economic integration and connectivity benefits regional security.  Multi-country energy projects such as the TAPI gas pipeline and the CASA 1000 electricity transfer can develop a shared stake in regional energy security.

We also believe that the South Asian Free Trade Agreement, if implemented as envisioned, can become a steppingstone toward a future South Asian Common Market, and towards making the vision of regional integration a reality.

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We are keen, of course, to see decisions and commitments by SAARC translated into tangible and meaningful benefits in a time-bound manner. In this context, we believe SAARC should build on the findings and recommendations of the recently held Consultative Meeting on Strengthening the SAARC and its Institutional Mechanisms.

Excellencies,

Next month, we will convene the International Conference on Afghanistan in Bonn where, together with our friends and partners from the international community, we will take stock of the last ten years of hard work in Afghanistan.  Hosted by Afghanistan’s great friend, Germany, the Bonn Conference will help us to better define our long-term engagement with the international community as we consolidate our historic achievements and redouble our efforts to overcome existing challenges.

In Bonn, we will share our vision for a new paradigm of cooperation between Afghanistan and the international community, and also our regional partners and neighbours.

In this context, Afghanistan recently signed a strategic partnership agreement with the Republic of India, which covers cooperation between the two countries in economic, social, cultural, and security areas.  Presently, we are also engaged in talks with the United States of America on finalizing a long-term strategic partnership agreement.  This agreement, when conclude, will, I hope promote Afghanistan’s vision of security and development, and as such contribute to security and economic growth in the region as a whole.

I wish to reassure our neighbors and all our fellow SAARC countries that none of the partnerships we forge now or in the future shall pose a threat to our neighbors or to the region.  I also wish to emphasize that Afghanistan’s goal in seeking partnerships with countries outside the region is totally consistent with the goal of building close cooperation with our regional partners and neighbors.

Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen,

As we meet today, new horizons of cooperation and partnership at the regional level are opening up, yet we as members of SAARC are at a cross-roads.  Our inability to translate pledges to concrete actions holds us back from realizing our region’s unparalleled potential in virtually all areas.

We need to redouble our determination to eliminate terrorism and extremism, build networks of commerce and trade, and assure the free flow of energy, capital and people. The experiences of other regions – namely Europe and Southeast Asia – demonstrate that political constraints need not be barriers to development and economic cooperation.

The stakes are high, the benefits are clear and the decision is ours to make. I say let us go forward with determination and bold action to realize the vast potential of the SAARC to create an enabling environment for our youth today, and to ensure security and prosperity for our future generations.

Thank you for your attention.

Statement by His Excellency Hamid Karzai President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Istanbul Conference for Afghanistan:Security & Cooperation at the Heart of Asia

Istanbul

2 November 2011

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Excellency President Abdullah Gul,

Excellencies Foreign Ministers,

Distinguished guests,

Thank you my brother, President Abdullah Gul, for hosting this conference and, as always, for the legendary hospitality provided to us here in Istanbul. This great city is not just the cradle of many civilisations, but also today a venue of unparalleled quality for promoting international cooperation.

As we meet, the effect of last week’s earthquake in the city of Van and the tragic loss of life it inflicted is on our minds. I take this

opportunity to express, once again, my heartfelt condolences to you, Mr President, and to my brothers and sisters in Turkey for the unfortunate losses.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today, together with common friends and supporters from outside this region, we gather for the first time in a unique format – the Heart of Asia – which assembles all the major countries of the wider region surrounding Afghanistan, from China to Turkey, from Russia to India, and others in between. Indeed, apart from being yet another example of Turkey’s much valued leadership in strengthening regional cooperation, today’s meeting is also a significant milestone in Afghanistan’s long quest for regional harmony and cooperation.

The region has always been a crucial factor in Afghanistan’s vision for building a stable, prosperous and democratic future. Ten years ago, with help from the international community, we undertook to rebuild Afghanistan from the ruins of war, and laid the foundations of a free, pluralistic and democratic society – a society that is ruled by law and underpinned by just and enduring institutions. In this effort, we have achieved enormous progress, which is greater by comparison than any other period in our country’s history. Nonetheless, the most fervent desire of the Afghan people – which is to live in peace and security – has not yet been achieved.

Terrorist networks, by far the biggest threat to our security, continue to enjoy sanctuaries outside our borders from where they conduct their merciless campaign of bloodshed and destruction. Therefore, until we see a more concerted effort across the region to confront terrorism, particularly with a view to addressing the source and roots of the scourge, peace in Afghanistan will remain illusive.

Ladies and gentlemen,

2011 is a crucial year for Afghanistan as we expect to turn the corner on some of our greatest national priorities, including the Peace Process and the Transition of security responsibilities from the international forces to Afghan authority.

The Peace Process, until recently led by Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, who is tragically no longer among us, has been a sincere effort, underpinned by our commitment to make the political process in the country more inclusive. As such, all Taliban and other militant leaders can join the Peace Process provided that they give up violence, break ties with Al Qaida, and return to peaceful lives under the Afghan Constitution. However, as recent setbacks have indicated, the Peace Process will not succeed unless we are able to get the top leadership of the Taliban, based in Pakistan, to join it.

Our hope is that, with help from our brothers in Pakistan, we will manage to wean away the Taliban leadership from some of the long-established networks of support they enjoy outside Afghanistan and integrate them into the Peace Process.

Another crucial national priority set in motion this year is the Transition Process, which will see the complete transfer of security responsibility from international forces to Afghans by the end of 2014. The first phase of Transition took place in July, and I expect to announce the second phase in the near future. With the implementation of the second phase, nearly fifty percent of Afghanistan’s population will come under the security umbrella provided by Afghanistan’s own national security institutions. Once completed, Transition will signify the achievement of the most important strategic goal shared by Afghans and our international partners, namely the emergence of a sovereign Afghanistan that is self-reliant, and is the peaceful home for all Afghans.

Transition, of course, is not limited to security. For Afghanistan to become truly self-reliant we will need a comprehensive economic transition, which will take a much longer time than the transition of security. Economic transition will require the continuation of the steadfast support of our international partners far beyond 2014.

In this context, we in Afghanistan look forward to a major international conference on Afghanistan, to be held in Bonn, Germany, next month. Marking the 10th anniversary of the Bonn Process of 2001, the Conference will be an opportunity to take stock of the major achievements that Afghanistan has realised over the past decade in partnership with the international community.

At the Bonn Conference, we will share our vision for the next ten years – it will be a vision of consolidating Afghanistan as a stable and democratic country with a prospering economy. And we will seek a commitment from our friends in the international community to continue to support us as we work towards that vision. We will call for a new paradigm of cooperation between Afghanistan and the international community – one that recognizes the sovereignty of Afghanistan and the centrality of the Afghan state as paramount.

Ladies and gentlemen,

With a view to the future, Afghanistan seeks to build greater confidence and stronger ties with the region.

True to our belief that Afghanistan can only develop and remain stable in a regional environment that is conducive to stability and growth, we will work to foster constructive engagement across the region and play our role in regional economic integration.

Last month, Afghanistan signed an agreement on strategic partnership with the Republic of India. This truly historic agreement will take the age-old relationship between the two countries to an even higher level in the interest of both nations as well as the region. The time-tested friendship and solidarity between Afghanistan and the Republic of Turkey is another source of confidence and support for my country. Indeed, our ever deepening friendship with India and Turkey is a model for how we seek to shape our future relationship with some of our key regional partners that are not only tied to us by cultural and historical bonds but are also extending an enormously constructive hand to the Afghan people today.

Pakistan and Iran are our two immediate neighbours with whom we have very deep cultural and demographic affinities. Both nations have hosted millions of Afghan refugees in their midst for over three decades – an act of generosity and benevolence we Afghans will never forget. Over the past ten years, our country’s relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran have deepened and expanded for which I am grateful to the Iranian leadership.

Our relationship with Pakistan too has evolved considerably and enormously. I have often called Pakistan and Afghanistan as conjoined twins. The mutual dependence of both countries in terms of security, as well as social and economic development, bears out this analogy. Yesterday, thanks to President Gul’s hospitality, I had fruitful discussions with my brother President Asif Ali Zardari about the vital importance of the profoundly close relations that Afghanistan and Pakistan need to have.

We are also looking to China and Russia as two major countries of the region and as major partners in the stability and development of Afghanistan as well as the whole region. China and Russia, as well as India and Turkey, have enormous sway at the global level and, as such, can be very influential in shaping a peaceful, friendly and economically prospering region. In addition, our relations with our immediate and near neighbours to the north – Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan – have grown strongly in the last few years where the potential for further expansion, in the interest of the region as a whole, is even greater.

We in Afghanistan attach great importance to the Middle East and are proud of our relations, in particular, with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt – three countries that are represented here today.

Our relations with the Middle East are not just anchored in religious and historical affinities, but also in our gratitude for the solidarity these countries have shown to Afghanistan over the years. In particular, I wish to recognize the personal commitment of Khadem ul Haramein Al Sharifein, His Majesty King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, to Afghanistan’s search for peace and security. I wish to reiterate the desire of the Afghan people to have His Majesty’s continued and much appreciated guidance and support.

I wish to emphasize that our regional vision, and our keen interest in deepening our relationship with regional partners, is in no way contradictory to our enduring partnerships with countries outside the region. We attach enormous importance to the Strategic Partnership we are currently negotiating with the United States and other partners, including the UK and the European Union, which we hope will guarantee Afghanistan’s security and stability, as well as assist our future economic development. Let me be very clear on this point: neither our Strategic Partnership with the United States, nor any other partnerships we will forge in the future, shall be a threat to our neighbours or any other country. We will never enter into any partnership that may pose a risk to our neighbours or jeopardise Afghanistan’s role as a peaceful, friendly and constructive member of the regional community.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our today’s meeting in Istanbul is, indeed, a momentous regional gathering, which promises new horizons for regional cooperation, and where the real pull factor is the plethora of common challenges and opportunities. We all know well that the region we share has captured the world’s imagination for both desirable and undesirable reasons.

On the one hand, ours is a region that is blessed with unrivalled resources. Together, we are the custodians of a glorious heritage that underpins human advancement in the intellectual, spiritual, artistic and scientific realms. Today, the powerhouses of this region, notably China, India, Russia and Turkey, are driving the global economy. The future of an interconnected, just and more equitable world depends on the future of this region.

On the other hand, some of these opportunities may never be taken, nor much of our potential ever realized, unless we succeed in overcoming the enormous obstacles we face to legitimate interaction and co-operation. Terrorism is a menacing threat that does not just affect Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also other countries in our region, notably India, Turkey, China and Russia. The narcotics trade threatens the wellbeing of our nations.

As the frontline in the fight against terrorism and the global narcotics trade, Afghanistan has served as a bulwark to the common security of the region. Despite our enormous sacrifices, we are determined to continue to play this role.

To confront the common threats that endanger our security and peace, and to realize the potentials of regional economic cooperation that is so crucial for our common future, the region must come together in cooperation and solidarity to a degree that it has not yet achieved. We must boldly address the political differences that divide the region, and remove the deficit of trust and confidence that exists among some of us. Today, in Istanbul, we are coming together to subscribe to a new vision of regional cooperation, and agree to work together towards creating an atmosphere of true friendship and cooperation across the whole region.

For this vision of regional cooperation to succeed, the role of a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan is indispensable. Afghanistan can facilitate movement of goods and people across Asia. We can serve as a corridor of transit and trade. Today, I wish to invite Afghanistan’s fellow regional countries to see Afghanistan as an opportunity, and as a catalyst for advancing regional integration.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In calling our region the Heart of Asia, this Conference takes cue from one of the Muslim world’s most renowned poets and philosophers, Mohammad Iqbal Lahori, who said: “Asia is a body of water and soil, where the Afghan nation is the heart; its prosperity brings prosperity to Asia, and its decay brings decay to Asia”. The literal sense of Iqbal’s poem is as true as the wisdom in his analogy, and today it is borne out by history.

Thank you.

Transcript of the Lecture by H.E Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan At the Observer Research Foundation New Delhi

October 05, 2011

بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

Ladies and gentlemen, my dear friend, Excellency, Minister of External Affairs, Mr Krishna, Mr Rasgotra, Mr Bhasin, Mr Joshi, honourable Ministers, Parliamentarians, Ambassadors, and again ladies and gentlemen!

It is a very particular honour for me to have been considered to speak today before this distinguished audience and to be only the third speaker if I understood it correctly, at the Observer Research Foundation.  Looking at the audience indeed is a very distinguished body of opinion making.

Well, Mr Rasgotra referred to Afghanistan and India as two countries or peoples linked to one another from the dawn of history of mankind.  Indeed it is a history of that nature and one that has captured the imagination of people around the world as well with many ups and downs and sufferings and tragedies and happy stories in between.

I am not going to go way back into the past today.  I will begin from 1977-78 or more precisely 1979 with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the consequences that invasion brought not only to Afghanistan but to the wider region.  A brief description of Afghanistan at that time will lead us to where we are today.

Afghanistan was a poor, mostly illiterate, central South Asian country with deeply believing Muslim people with quite good minorities of Hindus and Sikhs and some Jews living in that country where the society was deeply believing Muslim, where the society at the same time was traditional and moderate, where the society lived as the tradition in that part of Afghanistan, and in parts of India is, in a panchayat type of system where there was an egalitarian culture where the Khans and the Lords and the Maliks were not much above the farmers and those that helped them or served them when they sat around the dinner table or dinner cloth as we call the Destarkhan, I am sure you call the same in India, and other occasions, where education was on the rise, where the society was beginning to be more affluent and more educated, where a civil service was taking shape, where governance was taking the modern shape as we have now experienced in the past two or three centuries in the rest of the world.  In this environment, the Soviet Union came to Afghanistan and with the invasion of the Soviet Union the Afghan people rose in resistance to that foreign occupation and to the imposition of communism as a way of life on the Afghan people.  The reaction to that was the jihad of the Afghan people, the resistance of the Afghan people as the French called it at that time and also equally an imposition in the name of the jihad of the Afghan people by other foreign forces of religious radicalism on the Afghan people.

So, Afghanistan was confronted by two opposing political trends, one using communism as a tool, the other using and promoting religious radicalism as a tool, one using that tool to defeat the so called non-communists and the other using the tool to defeat the so called communists.  In this tussle, Afghanistan suffered heavily.  In this war which was a war of liberation for the Afghan people but a war of purposes other than that for countries in the region and the West and the Soviet Union.

We all know the story till 2001 and beyond.  With the arrival of Taliban and with September 11 the West woke up or perhaps the right word would be, began to see their interests more present and eminently of danger to them in Afghanistan.  They came to Afghanistan and as we saw the West led by the United States of America and NATO succeeded in removing the Taliban and Al Qaeda and their foreign backers within a month and a half.  I was personally present there in Afghanistan at that time and a witness to what happened and that is of extreme importance to the audience today.  The Taliban and the Al Qaeda and their foreign backers in Afghanistan were not defeated because only of the arrival of the NATO and American forces, no.  They were defeated because of the deep desire of the Afghan people to free themselves, because of the deep desire of the Afghan people for liberation.

When the Taliban and Al Qaeda and their backers were removed from Afghanistan within a month and half it was when there was no American forces on our soil.  There were only perhaps 500 of them altogether and definitely not in the Southern parts of Afghanistan where the Al Qaeda and the Taliban had strong presence.  It was the community that rose against them, that pushed them away and they left.

Subsequent to that, from 2001, Afghanistan began to re-emerge as a country for all Afghans, while before that whoever was the government claimed total ownership of Afghanistan.  If it was the Communists they said all is ours, if it was the mujahideen parties who came they fought among themselves and brought ruin to themselves and to the country and the Taliban of course was totally exclusionists.  The Afghanistan of today is the Afghanistan in which all Afghans find their place.  It is a place for all Afghans.  So, that is the greatest achievement of the past decade of work.

In this decade we began not only to make Afghanistan once again the home for all Afghans but also to bring back to Afghanistan the repair of the destruction of the two previous decades.  Bring back a civil service, bring back an economic recovery, bring back the build up of the institutions, bring back democracy, bring a constitution and most important of all the return of women to the Afghan polity and work place and education.  I will come back to India in this connection later on but before I go further I would like to once again make a note of thanks to the people of India for having participated in every aspect of this rebuilding of this country.  In every aspect, from democracy, institution building, to education, to highways, to transmission lines for power generation, for electricity, to the thousands of scholarships to the very well spent, nearly 2 billion dollars of assistance in our country.  So, thank you very much and I will return to the subject later on.

This is what we achieved.  But this achievement of Afghanistan came in spite of all the obstacles and odds.  The war machinery against Afghanistan, terrorism, extremism did not stop, those who came from the rest of the world to help us, their financial contributions mattered greatly but also their presence in Afghanistan brought the unintended consequences of parallel structures, private security firms and all other activities that caused an impediment to the growth of the Afghan State.  So, Afghanistan has grown to where it is today where we have nearly 70000 students in our universities, nearly 7.5 million children in our schools, and a massively free press where you can’t imagine in India because India is too focused on its own as far as the media is concerned.  You don’t look beyond India.  When you look beyond India into the region the Afghan Press is perhaps as vibrant, if not as entrenched in culture of media freedom as India is but it is as vibrant and as abusive of the government as yours.  This is a significant achievement and we will continue with it and I will come to the vision part of it later on.

In this whole exercise for the rebuilding of Afghanistan, as I referred to in my remarks earlier, India as it was a contributor in the past, became even more of a significant contributor in the past 10 years.  It never said no to any of Afghanistan’s requests.  It fulfilled.  When I asked Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh for more scholarships, he said yes.  When I asked the Prime Minister Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee before him for roads, he said yes.  The two governments that I have seen since my presidency in Afghanistan have given us all that we wanted.

Yesterday, we signed a strategic partnership agreement.  It is nothing new by the way.  We have been engaged in strategic partnership cooperation for the last many years.  When you gave us 2000 scholarships, that is strategic.  That is extremely strategic when you train our youth in your universities.  When you built a brand new road from the South West of Afghanistan to the West of Afghanistan, the Zaranj-Delaram road, that brings a massive change to trade and transit and the livelihood of people that is strategic.  When you build the transmission lines from Northern Afghanistan to the capital of the country and beyond, that is strategic.  When you build the Parliament of the country, that is strategic.  When you give us 2.5 billion dollars, that is strategic.  So, yesterday we put in words and signed the strategic cooperation that we have had and this will now encompass security, capacity building, economic activity further in the mineral capacity building and exploration and in oil and gas and all other fields.  So, taking this occasion, thank you very much India for what you have done for us and surely the Afghans will not only not forget this but will remain grateful forever for what India has done for us today and for this very important step that we took to formalize this relationship yesterday.

As I mentioned earlier, Afghanistan’s rebuilding effort concentrated on all the aspects of our life.  I mentioned briefly the obstacles that we faced.  In order to give you a picture of these obstacles in a little more detail, and then to take a step further into the peace building efforts and to the transition, I would like to tell you that in the past 10 years as we were building schools the terrorists were coming and burning our schools.  As we were building the traditional society of Afghanistan bringing back life to the political culture of the country, the terrorists and those from outside were killing our leaders, national leaders to community leaders to local leaders.  As we were building mosques and Islamic institutions, our Ulema were being killed and maimed and muted.  As we were training teachers, our teachers were being killed and intimidated. As we were building health institutions, doctors were killed and clinics destroyed.  Hundreds of community leaders have been killed.  Thousands of police and soldiers have been killed.  Thousands of our civilians have lost life to various forms of violence.  Hundreds of schools were shut down or destroyed.  The roads that we built were damaged again by violence and terrorism. So, where Afghanistan stands today, a country where in 2001, in 2002 rather, where we had an income per capita of 150 dollars, today we stand at 600 dollars; where we had a GDP of 3 billion dollars, today we stand at perhaps close to 18 billion dollars, above 17 billion dollars; where we had a foreign reserve of a mere 180 to 200 million dollars, we stand nearly 6 billion dollars today; when we had no schools, in spite of the violence we have thousands of schools; where we have no advancement in any other part of the country or areas of development, Afghanistan stands good and solid; where Afghanistan was totally taken by Polio and Malaria, and mother and child mortality, Afghanistan has done magnificently well, in that Afghanistan has received the appreciation of the United Nations in this fight against polio and the mother and child mortality rates which have come down considerably.  But where Afghanistan has not succeeded is to bring security to its people.  Where Afghanistan has not succeeded is bring peace to its people.  Where the international community, NATO and the United States have failed in bringing peace and stability to the country.

What is the reason for that is the most important question for us all.  Because it is not only Afghanistan that suffers.  Afghanistan suffers a lot more but so does India in the hands of terrorism, so does Pakistan in the hands of terrorism.  Pakistan suffers more today than we do in Afghanistan, much more.  Just yesterday there were 13 people killed in Quetta in some form of sectarian killing.  In the beginning, from 2002 to 2005-06, I was highly vocal in condemning violent activities as we felt was coming from across the border into Afghanistan.  But when I saw that Pakistan too was beginning to suffer in a very serious way from extremism and radicalism and the consequences of that in terms of violence and the loss of life for the people of Pakistan, I began to change my attitude and my rhetoric.  Since then, from 2005-06, ladies and gentlemen, no government in Afghanistan, no government in Afghanistan, since the creation of Pakistan 64 years ago, has engaged as extensively and with strong focus and I and my government have done, by launching a peace process with the Taliban and by engaging directly and very sincerely and very brotherly with our brothers in Pakistan.  We have not unfortunately yet received the result that we wanted. What we wished has not yet been fulfilled.

In the peace process with the Taliban, a messenger who came in the name of peace killed Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, a suicide bomber.  He came to bring us a message of peace and he was killed.  Professor Rabbani was killed by the same messenger of peace.  Therefore, we have now decided to not talk to the Taliban because we don’t know their address, we don’t know where to find them and when we find them, we will talk to them.  Therefore, we have decided to talk to our brothers, our neighbours in Pakistan.  In all sincerity, desirous of results we will continue to work with our brothers in Pakistan.  In this relationship as we began years ago has unfortunately not given us the result that we want.  So, the peace process as it stands today will be focused more towards in relations between countries rather than in us seeking a dialogue with an organisation or a body of individuals that we cannot find.

In this quest of ours for security in Afghanistan, Afghanistan has not only engaged in the most brotherly terms, in the most friendly terms, the relations with our friends and brothers in Pakistan but also with Iran and also with our other neighbours, which we will continue to do.  In the same exercise in bringing stability and strength to Afghanistan, as we signed an agreement with India for strategic partnership, Afghanistan is also in negotiations with the United States of America.  Afghanistan has already signed one with NATO and Afghanistan is looking at an agreement with the European Union.  So, Afghanistan can provide for itself the means of stability and the means of capacity building by arrangements with the international community in the neighbourhood of Afghanistan and beyond the neighbourhood of Afghanistan.

In this connection, the most important development that is of relevance not only to Afghanistan but the region is the transfer of authority from the international community to the Afghan forces, particularly from NATO to the Afghan forces.  We began this transfer of authority last July, the first tranche of it in seven Afghan cities and provinces.  The next tranche is to begin in the month of October and I will be announcing it soon after my return to Kabul which will continue to be implemented towards the third tranche and the final by 2014 which we were trying to cut short and make it take place by 2013.  This means that by 2013 or maximum by 2014 Afghanistan will be entirely responsible for its own security.  Afghanistan will be entirely responsible for the protection of its borders.  Afghanistan will be entirely delivering services and all other governmental and state functions to its people.  Afghanistan would be looking after its affairs in short entirely on its own, in cooperation and collaboration with countries like India, Europe, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Russia, China, of course all our other neighbours.  This is a process that I hope India and all our other neighbours of ours will support and back as we move forward.

Transition and the implementation of transition of authority to Afghanistan will bring us rather in a dramatic way, head to head with what it is that we aspire for the region.  Can Afghanistan, can India, can Pakistan, especially these three countries, and our other neighbours continue life as it is today?  Can we feel threatened as we move to the future?  Can we live in the same environment of insecurity and fear as we do today?  I was earlier talking with His Excellency the Vice President Mr Ansari and I told him can you tell me how many children in India, in Delhi, know about flares that are fired from helicopters and planes as they pass by.  How many children in India or in the rest of the world would be playing the suicider game and the other person’s game who are trying to protect themselves.  How many children in the world would be knowing the name of Chinooks and Black Hawk helicopters? The children of Afghanistan know, and in Pakistan too.  How many children in the world, do we have any child in the world that will play like we saw recently in a video in Pakistan where one child becomes a suicide bomber and the others are the victims and they play this game.  This is a tragic scene, extremely abusive of humanity, extremely abusive of humanity where our four year old boys talk of suicide bombs.  I have heard my own son many times, when I come home, he says, daddy, did you hear the suicide bomber?  I try to change the subject but he would not give up, he will keep asking.  Is this the region that we want to live in?  Definitely not.  So, if we don’t want to live in a region filled with violence, anger, aggression, what is it that we should do?

As I mentioned earlier, we have done our best, the best that is humanly possible with our neighbours and we will continue to do the best that is possible with our neighbours.  But this region with this massive potential of growth and it is being seen as we see it in India fortunately, this massive growth that you have, as we see it in China, has a great story of success visible to the whole world, and yet at the same time this region has the most negative trends affecting us as well.  On the one hand there is massive potential of progress and activity towards a better living and on the other hand there is so much violence, so much aggression, so much extremism coming to us.  If this trend continues as it is, years from today not only we will be faced with increased threat and less development but we will have as we do have today water shortages, shortages of space and land, shortages of vegetation and forests, and all other difficulties that will confront us in a very daring and challenging manner.  I don’t think, ladies and gentlemen, that we can afford as human societies by the standards of the so called sophisticated war seekers.  I don’t think we can afford to live as human societies in this environment of hatred and lack of trust.

For Afghanistan we have no option but to be the best of brothers and friends with our neighbours, to be a transit route, to be the hub of commercial activity for this region and to have freedom of movement.  For this region there is no way that we cannot copy the European model of living side by side in peace and prosperity.  Europeans have had bigger conflicts than we have had in the histories of our countries.  My vision for this region is one in which there are no borders or lax borders.  My vision for this region is where our youth’s energy is released and spent for the wellbeing of the future generations.  My vision for this region is of more prosperity and of peace.   My vision for this region is where the grand children will not be talking of suicide bombs, they will not know suicide bombs, and they will be talking of anything else.  That vision will not come unless we all recognize that we need bold, visionary steps and leadership.

In the past 10 years I have been witness to efforts by India and Pakistan, one that began by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the other that began by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mr Gilani.  I appreciate both the efforts.  As I talk to them Nawaz Sharif, Mr Vajpayee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mr Gilani, are as much desirous of peace as anyone of us in this room and beyond.  I hope the polity as a whole can get together and go beyond the established tendencies, and Afghanistan will spend no stone unturned, Afghanistan will not fall short of any measure that brings that.  So, Afghanistan’s grapes can reach you not on a plane, on an IL-76 or something like but in a truck from Kabul to Delhi, as delicious and fresh as they are in Kabul or in Kandahar or in Jalalabad.  So, we can have eventually the vision of Dr Manmohan Singh where we can have breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore, dinner in Kabul and perhaps the next breakfast in Tehran.  This is the vision that I have and this is surely the vision of the millions and millions of inhabitants that this region have.  I will continue to work in tremendous and honesty with our brothers in Pakistan.

The signing of the strategic partnership yesterday with India I must emphasise and reemphasise is not directed against any country, is not directed against any other entity.  This is for Afghanistan to benefit from the strength of India.  India fortunately has the strength to help us.  This is for Afghanistan to use the possibilities that India has and offers to make our life better, to educate our children, to train our police, to train our army, to train our physicians, to train our lab technicians.  The strategic partnership that we have is to support Afghanistan develop.  I am sure this partnership will benefit us.  My plea today is that we grow beyond the environment of lack of trust, if not hatred.

For me, the vision for the future is what this region has.  Ladies and gentlemen, if you look closer this region is in terms of its people more assembled, more united, more culturally together than any other region.  Do you have in Russia, a great German poet? No.  Do, we have in Italy, a great French poet? No.  But we have in India, Bedil, a great Persian poet, but we have in Pakistan Iqbal a great Persian and Urdu poet.  Do you have anywhere in the world where in a distance of thousands of kilometres someone like Tagore writing about the life of a merchant in the other country of that region?  No.  But Tagore has written Kabuliwalah.  Do you have in any other part of the world a singer like Lata Mangeshkarji who would listen to Mehdi Hassan or Mehdi Hassan who would listen to Bhimsen Joshi, or Kushal Khan Khattak who would speak of the beauty of India.  Our Ghalib would be read by all of us, from the shores of the Arabian sea to the other end of this continent.  Ask any Afghan, they will tell you about Shah Rukh Khan, ask any Afghan they will talk about Shammi Kapoorji, the late Shammi Kapoor.  Ask any Pakistani, they would love the Indian songs.  Ask any Indian, they would love Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.  This is the foundation that we have and this is the foundation upon which I hope with tremendous aspirations that we can build towards a future where we can be not only peaceful but very prosperous countries, prosperous people, where I can as a retired citizen of Afghanistan also be a retired citizen of South Asia.  That is my dream.

Thank you very much.