Dr. S. Jaishankar:
Thank you for convening this timely an important meeting on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, India has consistently supported a central role of the United Nations on its future. A multilateral platform is always more effective than small groups in building global consensus and encouraging united action.
We therefore believe that the UN Security Council resolution 2593 should guide the international community's approach in the coming days. Afghanistan is passing through a critical and challenging phase. There has been a sea change in its political, economic, social and security situation, and consequently, in its humanitarian needs. As an immediate neighbour, India's monitoring developments with understandable concern. Mr. Secretary General, the UNDP has recently assessed that there is an imminent threat of poverty levels rising from 72 to 97% in that country. This would have catastrophic consequences, not just in our collective fight against poverty, but also for regional stability. Even as we address that, it is important that the issue of travel and safe passage that can emerge as an obstacle to humanitarian assistance be immediately sorted out. Those who wish to travel into and out of Afghanistan should be granted such facilities without obstruction. The normalisation of regular commercial operations of Kabul airport would not only assist in that regard, but then become the basis for a regular flow of relief material. This would also accelerate activities that would complement domestic relief measures.
India's own approach to Afghanistan has always been guided by its historical friendship with its people. This will continue to be the case. For that reason, even in the past, we have contributed to the humanitarian requirements of that society. This included providing more than 1 million metric tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan over the past decade. Last year too we have assisted Afghanistan with 75,000 metric tonnes of wheat. India has also partnered World Food Programme for distribution of high protein biscuits over several years. This innovative scheme particularly supported vulnerable school going children of Afghanistan.
Mr. Secretary General, India's efforts and helping the Afghan people has been both direct and indirect way of contributed to the livelihood and larger framework as significantly as they have to direct material leads. Our friendship is reflected in Indian development projects that today exist in all the 34 provinces.
In all, we have invested more than US dollar 3 billion for the welfare of the people of Afghanistan. We have undertaken 500 projects in critical areas of power, water supply, road connectivity, healthcare, education, agriculture and capacity building.
Today, I wish to underline that in the face of a grave emerging situation India is willing to stand by the Afghan people, just as in the past. To ensure that this happened speedily and effectively, we believe that the international community must come together to create the best possible enabling environment. Among the challenges that the current situation poses is that of efficient logistics. It is therefore essential that humanitarian assistance providers are accorded unimpeded, unrestricted and direct access to Afghanistan. Once relief materials reach that country, the world will naturally expect a non-discriminatory distribution of humanitarian assistance across all sections of the Afghan society. Only the United Nations has the capacity to monitor such endeavours and reassure donors. As the picture becomes clear in respect of the legitimate concerns I am confident that the world will step forward and assist the Afghan people in their hour of need. I thank you.