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Speech by External Affairs Minister at the inauguration of the Afghanistan National Agricultural Sciences and Technology University (ANASTU) in Kandahar

February 15, 2014

Excellency President Hamid Karzai
Excellency Governor of Kandahar Province,
Gentlemen and Ladies

Kandahar is one of the oldest cities of the world.

It was the seat of power of Ahmad Shah Durrani the founder of modern Afghanistan.

Many in India believe that Kandahar is nothing but the ancient city of "Gandhara”, which figures prominently in our ancient epic the Mahabharata.

Indian Historians of the Mughal era have always spoken of Kandahar as the Western Gateway to the Great Mughal Empire in India.

Noor-jehan, the legendary wife of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, was born in Kandahar.

Kandahar is also one of the holiest sites in the Islamic world, housing the cloak of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) at Dargah Kerqa Sharif.

It is, therefore Excellency, both a great honor and a pleasure for me to be invited here today, in this ancient and historic city, for the inauguration of the Afghanistan National Agricultural Sciences and Technology University, which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised you in May 2011, India would support.

Excellency

For developing countries like ours, where the vast majority still remain dependent on land for subsistence and their livelihoods, the Agriculture sector has to play the role of a driver of economic growth and development. We cannot afford to continue with a subsistence level agriculture sector, or an agriculture sector that relies on traditional methods of cultivation. India’s experience has shown that the use of modern technology, high yielding variety of seeds, drip irrigation, modern processing and marketing transforms the agriculture sector into a "lucrative industry”; you only have to visit the state of Punjab or the grape fields of Maharashtra to see this. This magic of modern technology is almost always created in Universities like the one that Your Excellency has imagined in Kandahar, and which we are inaugurating today.

For India, a strong, prosperous and economically independent Afghanistan is a strategic priority and a key element of our Strategic Partnership agreement. We therefore see our participation in this Agriculture University project as an important activity of the India-Afghanistan strategic partnership. We will prioritize our assistance programs to favor agriculture and agricultural development activities. We already have 614 agricultural scholarships for Afghan students who are presently being trained at Indian agriculture institutes, many of whom I hope will one day return as professors to this University

Excellency, permit me while I am on the subject of Agriculture to talk about Afghanistan’s elections.

Like in India, today no one can predict the eventual election result in Afghanistan. Many of the Presidential tickets that will fight elections represent political and democratic alliances between groups that one could never imagine will one day become allies in an electoral battle!

These elections are a testament to the fact that democracy has taken firm roots in this country. It is also a testament to your extraordinary and brave leadership over the last 12 years, and the manner in which you have nurtured the plant of democracy in this country.

Excellency,

We have always differed from the many armchair "international experts” on Afghanistan, who say that that the main challenge for Afghanistan’s future is its heterogeneous character, its ancient tribal society, and it’s many different ethnicities. India is also ancient, and is also heterogeneous, and these have always been our strengths. We have never doubted that this has also made Afghanistan strong.

The main threat to Afghanistan’s security and its internal stability is terrorism and extremism that continues to target the people of Afghanistan. We too have been facing this threat for many years, and understand the importance in times like these of friends and strategic partners forging the closest of cooperation to defeat this evil scourge.

India is, and will always be with Afghanistan, in this battle against terrorism and extremism.

I wish to salute the brave men and women of the Afghan National Security Forces who despite the lack equipment and the shortage of resources continue to win the battle of terrorism. They have truly emerged as a national force, that unifies the whole of Afghanistan.

We are indebted to the efforts of these brave soldiers who continue to make great efforts protect Indian aid workers and our diplomatic premises in Kandahar and cities.

The ANSF has an important role to play in this year of political and security transition in Afghanistan. The international community must fulfill its pledges to ensure that the plans to rebuild the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police are fulfilled. India will continue to assist the ANSF in whatever manner is possible within our capacities. We have always said that a peaceful, prosperous and sovereign Afghanistan that is capable of defending itself is in India’s strategic interest.

Excellency,

We support your efforts to establish a genuine Afghan owned, Afghan led and Afghan controlled Reconciliation process in Afghanistan. To offer a chance to members of armed opposition groups willing to give up terror and abide by the Afghan Constitution, the possibility of participating as equal citizens in Afghanistan’s national life.

It is only the brave and the strong who can offer peace to adversaries. We support your brave efforts.

Excellency,

Afghanistan and Kandahar in particular has the potential of becoming an economic hub for the entire region. Kandahar city was once the hub of international cargo movements in mid 1950s and 1960s.

We continue to tell the international community that it is a grave mistake not to pay attention to the equally important process economic transition that must also take place in Afghanistan, along with the political and security transitions.

Afghanistan is a resource rich country. It has a unique geography that allows it to connect the markets of the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia and China. It has one of the most hard working and enterprising people. But one of the lessons we have learnt as a lead country of the "Trade Commerce and Investment CBM” in the Istanbul-Heart of Asia process is that for Afghanistan to fully exploit its economic potential, it must improve its connectivity with its neighbors.

Many of the roads and critical infrastructure that is required for Afghanistan to play the role of regional trading hub are already in place. We need today effective transit arrangements between Afghanistan and its neighbors to connect it with these large markets.

Excellency,

This University is just the beginning of a very important cooperation venture between our two countries. It is a great honor for me to have participated in its inauguration.

Thank you.

Keep me Updated

1 Comments
  • Anupam Varma Wrote

    February 16, 2014

    It is a good news. ANASTU will certainly play an important role in transforming Afghan agriculture.

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