India, Afghanistan urge action against Pakistan-backed terror

Amritsar, Dec 4 (IANS) Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday unambiguously named Pakistan for supporting cross-border terror and shared Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s concern over the threat that has endangered “peace in the entire South Asian region”.

Ghani and Modi spoke in the presence of Islamabad’s top diplomat Sartaj Aziz, who appeared shocked with the Afghan President’s blunt remarks at the inaugural function of the 6th ministerial ‘Heart of Asia conference – Istanbul Process on Afghanistan’ held in this Punjab city near India’s border with Pakistan.

While Ghani was unequivocal in asserting that Pakistan was the source of cross-border terror in his country, Modi didn’t name any nation but urged the world to act against “those who support, shelter, train and finance” terrorists.

The Afghan President said the Pakistan military was selective in fighting terrorists and sought to know what was being done to “prevent the export of terror”.

“The state-sponsored sanctuaries exist in Pakistan. As Mr. Kakazada, one of the key figures in the Taliban movement, recently said if they didn’t have sanctuary in Pakistan, they wouldn’t last a month,” Ghani said.

He directly addressed Aziz, Pakistan’s de facto foreign policy chief, and said no amount of financial assistance can help stabilise the war-ravaged Afghanistan if “support to terrorists” continued from the neighbouring country.

Ghani thanked Pakistan for its pledge to donate $500 million for Afghan reconstruction but said: “This fund, Mr. Aziz, could very well be used for containing extremism because without peace any amount of assistance will not meet the needs of our people.”

“Afghanistan suffered the highest number of casualties last year. This is unacceptable. Some (countries) still provide sanctuary for terrorists.”

Modi was not as blunt as his Afghan guest. The Prime Minister, however, called for collective will to fight terrorists.

“We must demonstrate strong collective will to defeat terror networks. Support for peace alone is not enough. It must be backed by resolute action,” Modi said.

“Silence and inaction against terrorism in Afghanistan and our region will only embolden terrorists and their masters.”

The conference, attended by representatives of over two dozen countries and international groupings, was aimed at finding ways to help Afghanistan, battling decades of unending war, in its political and economic transition.

Modi emphasised that bilateral and regional commitments of assistance for Afghanistan’s development must continue and increase. He said India’s commitment to the country was “absolute and unwavering”.

Ghani earlier appreciated India’s unconditional support for the economic development of his country and said the expansion of the key Chabahar port between India, Iran and Afghanistan was very important for regional trade and connectivity.

He spoke about India’s assistance in the construction of Salma dam — officially called the Afghan-India Friendship Dam — that was inaugurated in June by Modi along with Ghani in Herat province.

The President said the Chabahar port development project “is very important for connectivity and commerce”.

India and Iran signed a bilateral agreement in May 2016 to refurbish the port on the Gulf of Oman that is expected to provide an alternative route for New Delhi-Kabul trade.

Thanking India for further assistance of $1 billion, the Aghan President said: “An air corridor will also be soon launched and will improve trade ties.

(Vishal Gulati can be reached at vishal.g@ians.in)

–IANS

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