Sending a strong message to Pakistan, India and Afghanistan on Monday pledged their commitment to jointly fight to end terrorism as the visiting Afghan Foreign Minister minced no words in equating Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad terror groups with Taliban, Al Qaeda and Islamic State in Afghanistan.
The two countries called for an end to all forms of support and state sponsorship of terrorism after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani held the second Strategic Partnership Council meeting here.
“Both sides expressed grave concern at the incidents of terror and violence in Afghanistan resulting in loss of innocent lives,” a joint statement said.
Noting that terrorism presented the greatest threat to peace, stability and progress of the region and beyond, the two sides called for dismantling safe havens and sanctuaries to terrorists against Afghanistan.
After the talks with Rabbani, Sushma Swaraj addressed a joint media conference and said India and Afghanistan remained “united in overcoming the challenges posed by cross-border terrorism and safe havens and sanctuaries to both our countries”.
Rabbani emphasised that India and Afghanistan had suffered from terrorism and violent extremism that has threatened the region’s stability.
“Together they are killing our people on Afghanistan and destroying infrastructure,” Rabbani said.
The visiting Minister said “Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad have been launching attacks against India and indiscriminately killing civilians of this country”.
The Pakistan-based groups active in Jammu and Kashmir were “engaged in similar activities along with Taliban, Al Qaeda and Daesh in Afghanistan”, he said.
The two countries also agreed to strengthen security cooperation with New Delhi extending further assistance for the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces in fighting “the scourge of terrorism, organised crime, trafficking of narcotics and money laundering”, according to the joint statement.
“The Indian side reiterated its support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process. It was agreed that concrete, meaningful and verifiable steps for immediate cessation of violence were essential for the success of regional and international efforts to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan.”
The joint statement and Rabbani’s assertion assume significance as US President Donald Trump’s insistence of upholding the importance of India’s role in war-torn Afghanistan’s reconstruction and leaders of the BRICS nations naming the Lashkar and Jaish as terror threats in their summit-level meeting in China earlier this month.
The two countries also signed a host of agreements in development sectors, including in health, agriculture and education.
Sushma Swaraj said India honoured the supreme sacrifices by Afghan Defence and Security Forces for the cause of entire humanity.
“We are indebted to them for ensuring safety of Indians working in Afghanistan,” she said.
She said India would begin implementation of the new 500 scholarships programme for next of kin of the martyrs of Afghan National Defence and Security Forces from the academic year 2018.
“Today, building upon our economic and development cooperation, we jointly agreed to embark on a New Development Partnership in keeping with the priorities of Afghanistan..
“One hundred sixteen new High Impact Development Projects would be jointly implemented that would bring socio-economic and infrastructure development, especially in the suburban and rural communities in 31 provinces of Afghanistan.”
Sushma Swaraj said India would assist in building the Shahtoot dam in the Kabul river basin and drinking water supply project for Kabul, low cost housing for returning refugees, water supply network for Charikar city, and a polyclinic in Mazar-e-Sharif among others.
“Focus will continue on building governance and democratic institutions; human resource capacity and skill development, including in the areas of education, health, agriculture, energy, administration, application of remote sensing in resource management and space technology in governance,” she stated.
Stating that both sides discussed measures for enhancing trade and investment cooperation, Sushma Swaraj said that India has liberalised its visa regime, especially for Afghan businessmen.
She also referred to the Afghanistan-India air freight corridor launched in June this year and said that this would provide direct access for Afghan farmers to the Indian markets.
“We are expediting the development of Chabahar Port in trilateral cooperation with Iran.
“We will begin supply of wheat to Afghanistan in coming weeks through Chabahar port,” she said.
India and Afghanistan also signed a Motors Vehicle Agreement with Sushma Swaraj hoping “that it would pave the way for overland transit”.