Warning against the dangers of abandoning Afghanistan, India on Monday exhorted the international community to stay engaged for the long term to eliminate “sanctuaries of terror” and pitched for a Marshall Plan-like initiative to help rebuild the violence-torn country.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, who is representing India at the Bonn conference on the future of Afghanistan, also underlined New Delhi's enduring commitment to the rebuilding of that country for which it has already pledged $2 billion.

He warned against terror emanating from across the border — an all-too obvious reference to Pakistan that is suspected of fomenting instability with a view to gaining strategic depth in that country at India's expense.

“The international community needs to stay engaged in Afghanistan for the long term, for both its security and development,” said Mr. Krishna at the conference that is aimed at firming up a roadmap for Afghanistan's future beyond 2014 when international combat troops are expected to leave that country. Alluding to the rationale of the international involvement in Afghanistan, Mr. Krishna stressed that the root causes of intervention — the dangers of terrorism and radicalism — remain as potent as ever.

Delegates from over 100 countries and international organisations have gathered for the conference, hosted by Germany and chaired by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

With the theme “From Transition to Transformation”, the conference hopes to make progress on two aspects — renewing the international community's commitment to maintaining long-term stability and development of Afghanistan after the troop withdrawal, and to promote the political process of reconciliation between the Afghan government and the militants. Mr. Krishna pitched for a Marshall-like plan to rebuild Afghanistan, saying: “Afghanistan today faces at least four deficits: a security deficit, a governance deficit, a development deficit, and an investment deficit.”

“To address these deficits, Afghanistan needs time, development assistance, preferential access to world markets, foreign investment and a clear end-state and strategy to make sure that it does not once again plunge into lawlessness, civil war, and externally sponsored extremism and terrorism,” he said.

“Conceptually there is need for something like a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan, involving all the major stakeholders,” he stressed.

The Marshall Plan was devised by the U.S. to provide monetary support to Europe to help rebuild its economies after the end of World War II and to combat the spread of Soviet Communism.

In an oblique reference to Pakistan, Mr. Krishna said Afghanistan continued to “face a potent threat to its security from terrorism and insurgency being fuelled from outside its borders”.

Underlining India's willingness to contribute its share to rebuild Afghanistan, Mr. Krishna said New Delhi has already pledged $2 billion till 2014 and said it would continue to assist in multifarious ways.

Alluding to key initiatives by India, which include the setting up of an agricultural university and training Afghan students, he reiterated that Indian companies are “willing to invest up to $10 billion in mining, setting up a steel plant and related infrastructure in Afghanistan”.

An Indian consortium of seven companies led by Steel Authority of India has won the right to develop three iron ore blocks in the Hajigak deposits in central Afghanistan. “We need to offer a narrative of opportunity to counter the anxiety of withdrawal, uncertainty, instability and foreign interference,” said Mr. Krishna.

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