Hindrance to growth: Manmohan
Dealing with challenge "collective responsibility"India has a vision for Afghanistan
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday expressed concern over the increasing terrorist violence in southern and southeastern Afghanistan. It not only undermined the security of the country but hindered the ongoing development effort as well, he said.
"Dealing with this challenge is a collective responsibility," he said welcoming delegates to the second regional economic cooperation on Afghanistan, being hosted by India, at Vigyan Bhavan here.
Dr. Singh hoped that the conference would reaffirm the international community's stake, responsibility and renewed commitment to the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan. "And I wish to assure you of India's commitment to play a leading role in this cooperative effort."
Pointing out that development of the transport sector in the landlocked country was vital for regional linkages, he said this was also essential for opening up the country's economy.
"Simultaneously, measures will need to be taken to facilitate trade and cross-border movement of goods and services, to minimise transaction costs and to harmonise regulations and practices. These measures will not only increase legitimate trade, which today is overshadowed by cross-border smuggling, but also enhance [a] sense of security."
India looked upon Afghanistan not only as a valued member of the South Asian fraternity but also as its gateway to the West.
As the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) moved forward to develop a free trade area and other shared economic activities, Afghanistan, as a member of SAARC, would stand to gain.
India was undergoing a process of transformation of its own and hoped to be able in the years ahead to sustain high growth rates of 8 to 10 per cent a year.
"Our vision of prosperity, however, is not limited to India but encompasses our region as a whole.
"We have a vision of bringing freedom, dignity and prosperity to the people of Afghanistan through a cooperative venture, which unites all countries in the region in a collaborative effort."
While the focus of the conference was Afghanistan, its outcome impacted the entire region, Dr. Singh said. "India as a close and friendly neighbour of Afghanistan has a particular interest in the success of this process. I am hopeful that the decisions of the conference will be directed at concrete issues that will provide templates for regional cooperation and help identify opportunities for the mutual benefit of all countries of our region."