Sushma Swaraj proposes trade with Afghanistan via Attari border

09 Dec 2015


External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said on Wednesday that India is "willing to join hands with Pakistan and Afghanistan for trade and commerce even as she called on Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to revive the stalled dialogue process to improve ties.

"It's time we display maturity and self-confidence to do business with each other and strengthen regional trade and co-operation. The entire world is rooting and waiting for a change. Let's not disappoint them," Sushma Swaraj while addressing the "Heart of Asia" summit in Islamabad.

She added that on "our part, India is prepared to move our cooperation at a pace which Pakistan is comfortable with. But today let us at least resolve to help Afghanistan - in the best traditions of good neighbourliness".

"India is ready to receive Afghanistan trucks at Attari border," she said.

"India's vision of 'Heart of Asia' is one of interlinked trade, transit, energy and communication routes, with Afghanistan as an important hub," Swaraj added.

She also asked the international community to ensure that the forces of terrorism and extremism do not find sanctuaries and safe havens in "any name, form or manifestation".

Swaraj said the "heart of Asia" cannot function if arteries are clogged and noted that India's vision for the war-torn country was one of interlinked trade, transit, energy and communication routes, with Afghanistan as an important hub.

Swaraj, who was accompanied by foreign secretary S Jaishankar, India's high commissioner to Pakistan TCA Raghavan and envoy to Afghanistan Amar Sinha, said terrorism in that country has grown in both intensity and scope in the last few months and that India was ready to work with the Afghan government to strengthen its defensive capability.

"Terrorists have made concerted efforts to capture and hold territory, reminding us that they have not changed. We salute the Afghan National Security Forces and the Afghan people for countering the forces of terrorism and extremism with courage and resilience.

"They need the continued support of the international community to defend Afghanistan's unity and security. For its part, India is ready to work with Afghanistan to strengthen its defensive capability," she said.

Swaraj said it was the collective duty of "all of us to ensure that the forces of terrorism and extremism do not find sanctuaries and safe havens in any name, form or manifestation.

"We, in Afghanistan's proximity, have a particular responsibility in this regard," she said.

Earlier, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani jointly inaugurated the "Heart of Asia" conference attended by foreign ministers of several countries, including external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj.

Sharif, in his inaugural address, said, "Afghanistan is the heart of Asia and if there is trouble in the heart, the entire region will be turbulent."

He said peace was vital for development and extended full support for the elected government of Afghanistan, saying it was the "only representative of the Afghan people".

Sharif also called for collective approach to combat the menace of extremism and terrorism.

"Working for the achievement of a peaceful neighbourhood is a cardinal principal of Pakistan's foreign policy. We firmly believe that peace is vital for development, and development is vital for durable peace." he said.

The Pakistan Prime Minister welcomed the delegates and promised full support to all efforts for increasing peace in the region with the emphasis on stabilising Afghanistan.

Ghani spoke at length about prospects and challenges his country faced. He said Afghanistan has come a long way in building close ties with his all its neighbours.

He highlighted that security was a threat but promised that "2016 will be better".

The theme of the conference, Sharif said, "reflects our desire for promoting regional development, increasing economic linkages, improving quality of life for our peoples and meeting security challenges."

"The enemies of Afghanistan are the enemies of Pakistan and the (Pakistan) government will continue to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process that remains the most viable option to promote stability and end violence," he said.

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