India on Tuesday said it will continue to work on connectivity projects in Afghanistan as New Delhi backed a US-proposed and UN-convened initiative to achieve a political settlement to the war-torn country.
Addressing the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process meeting in Tajikistan capital Dushanbe, foreign minister S Jaishankar said durable peace in Afghanistan requires a “genuine double peace”, which he elaborated as “peace within Afghanistan and peace around Afghanistan”.
“It requires harmonizing the interests of all, both within and around that country,” the minister said at the meeting that was also attended by Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
India views Pakistan as the main backer of the Taliban and forces opposed by Kabul and New Delhi. Since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001, India has pledged and undertaken relief and rehabilitation projects worth $3 billion in a bid to shore up goodwill for New Delhi, which was once viewed as on the side of invading Soviet troops.
The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process is a regional initiative of 15 countries, including China, Russia, Iran and Central Asian states, to ensure regional security, economic and political cooperation centred on Afghanistan. The first conference was hosted by Turkey in November 2011.
“As the lead country on trade, commerce and investment CBMs under the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process, India will continue to work on improving Afghanistan’s connectivity with the outside world,” Jaishankar said.
“Projects like the Chabahar port in Iran and the dedicated air freight corridor between the cities of India and Afghanistan are part of our efforts. I am glad to note the keen interest of our friends from Central Asia to be a part of these initiatives,” he said. The aim of the two initiatives is to increase trade between Afghanistan and other countries, leaving it less dependent on Pakistan.
India’s backing for the UN-backed process came against the backdrop of New Delhi being kept out of other processes such as a recent meeting convened by Russia.