President Ashraf Ghani’s Remarks at the Ceremony for Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between India and Afghanistan for Construction of Lalandar Dam in the Kabul River Basin

President Ashraf Ghani’s Remarks at the Ceremony for Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between India and Afghanistan for Construction of Lalandar Dam in the Kabul River Basin

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Mr. Prime Minister,

Excellencies, 

First Vice President of Afghanistan,

Second Vice President of Afghanistan,

Foreign Minister of Afghanistan,

Foreign Secretary of India,

Members of the Cabinet, 

All distinguished colleagues,

Mr. Prime Minister, it is a singular honor to be virtually with you on this auspicious occasion. Your attention to Afghanistan and your offer of gifts of life and livelihood to the people of Kabul and Afghanistan symbolizes the values of decency, democracy, humanity, mutual interest, mutual respect andmutual trust in our interdependent world. 

First of all, let me express the deepest sympathies of the Afghan people and government on the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on the lives and livelihoods of people of India. We are confident that with your stewardship, India would once again overcome this great adversity and be again an engine of growth of Asia and the world. 

Your decision to provide us with 500,000 doses of vaccine at this critical time when Indians themselves are looking for every single vaccine could not be a greater gift. These doses will be administered to our frontline health workers, our heroic Security forces and vulnerable people. We cherish this act of exceptional generosity. 

Shahtoot; How do Kabulis measure the relative value of gold and snow? By our proverb; may Kabul be without gold, but not without snow. With Shahtoot dam, Kabul snow and rain will be harnessed to quench the thirst of around two million citizens through provision of water security. Shahtoot will inject sufficient water into Kabul River to make it once again a hub of greenery, reforestation, entertainment and art and craft.    

With Shahtoot reservoir and solar pumps, we will be able to implement our vision of restoring Kabul to the natural beauty that captivated the imagination of Babur and generations of renowned poets across the millennia.

On behalf of the people of Kabul and Afghanistan, let me thank you and the great people of India for offering the gift of water flowing life to us in addition to the gift of the vaccines. 

Mr. Prime Minister, under your leadership, over three billion dollars contribution has been made to Afghanistan and its uniqueness is that 90 percent of this assistance is on-budget. It reflects our priorities; it provides the foundations of Afghanistan’s democratic stability and prosperity. 

You have come, India’s assistance is now iconically marked on our landscape from Salma Dam to the transmission lines to the Parliament of Afghanistan, a symbol of our democracy, to hundreds of projects that have dealt and changed the lives of people, but particularly in the area of human capital. 1000 scholarships per year, now 16,000 Afghans are studying in India. Each of these is linking hundreds of thousands and the ties that we have had across millennia, now are multiplied billion-fold. We thank you deeply. 

In addition, India has been a partner, a true partner in development. The air corridor, Mr. Prime Minister that you and I discussed in a meeting in Delhi, was translated within a year into something that has made the confidence of the Afghan private sector great. Now thanks to that initiative and your support, the air corridor is covering over fifty countries. 

The land corridor; Chabahar to Zaranj and on is again a symbol of great fortitude. Let me pay tribute to Indian engineers, Indian companies and Indian diplomats and civil servants who have spared no effort in making these great projects realized. 

Zaranj; when I was finance minister and we discussed the road from Zaranj to Delaram was a backwater. The entire population of it was less than 8000; today it is thriving city, it is thriving, and it is going from strength to strength. I cannot count each one of these but I just want to say that Tagore…we would like to thank Tagore again for having given the Indian people the image of Kabuliwala. And today on behalf of Kabuliwalas, I would like to say great thank you to you. 

Let me just turn to wider picture and the role of India in this particular context. Mr. Prime Minister, we are in an open moment of history, a moment of great opportunity, and simultaneously, unfortunately great threat and peril. The opportunity is that with the type of political imagination that you have displayed, South Asia can see the full potential of cooperation and advantage of connectivity, and Asia can be made once again after several hundred years, the most dynamic economic region of the world. 

A sovereign, united, democratic Afghanistan is essential to Asia’s prosperity, connectivity and stability. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart on behalf of the people of Afghanistan and my colleagues in the government for your principled support for the end state of a sovereign, democratic and united Afghanistan; an Afghanistan that would truly enjoy permanent peace, stability, democratic stability and be sovereign. Sovereignty means that we must have the right to form our partnerships and those partnerships as I indicated flow from values. 

Peace is the central desire of the Afghan people and there is consensus both nationally and within the state to seek peace, but that peace must be a peace that ends violence not becomes a preface and a chapter to another tragedy. The tragedies of the past must serve as lessons to us so we do not repeat history. And there lies the role of Indian diplomacy. 

I would like to thank Foreign Minister Jaishankar, Foreign Minister Atmar for their very close collaboration because this is the moment where regional consensus and international consensus on the need for guarantees for a stable and prosperous Afghanistan are essential. We must ask the world to ask all stakeholders to respect the rules of sovereignty and international relations, stop giving sanctuaries and stop interfering in the affairs of their neighbors. 

The peril, Mr. Prime Minister, lies and is misunderstanding this moment. Peace in Afghanistan is within grasp if parties and their backers and the Taliban embrace a true political solution. But Afghans will not submit to surrender and it must be understood that our heroic Security forces are not defeated and neither we lost our will or capacity for serving our people. 

Should, God forbids, Afghanistan be plunged into uncertainty, the consequences for the region and the world will be dire. The Afghan Defense and Security forces, the people of Afghanistan and the Government of Afghanistan are the first line of defense for democracy, for stability and for security. 

Here our submission with you is that terrorism must be seen as a full ecosystem, not isolated individuals or groups. This is a destructive force that threatens the future that you and I and all people of goodwill are trying to bring. We must contain this because our long history of millennia of connectivity between Afghanistan and India is one of dialogue, civilizational engagement, tolerance, networks that brings us together. 

The end state that we seek again Mr. Prime Minister  is to serve once again as a roundabout in Asia, as a gate to India that has been our title for centuries and as a platform for cooperation. Afghanistan seeks maximum number of friends and does not want to be part of the false quarrels. We stand for principle; we stand for decency; we stand for democracy and we stand for connectivity. 

Once again Mr. Prime Minister, on behalf of the people of Afghanistan, let me say thank you for these two great gifts. Thank you for believing in the future of Afghanistan. Thank you for your support for an Afghanistan that would be thriving and a hub with India’s great support and with your personal attention in a moment when we know every moment has taken to save lives and livelihoods, we greatly appreciate your presence here and take inauguration of this project as an omen for many more things that we will do in common. 

Thank you