At India-Central Asia Dialogue, Indian External Affairs Minister Emphasises on Building Connectivity to Boost Trade & Development in Afghanistan

Acting Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani said at the India-Central Asia Dialogue in Uzbekistan on Sunday that Afghanistan serves as a hub for energy supplies including from Central Asia to the energy markets of South Asia.

Rabbani participated in the dialogue as a special invitee for the session dedicated to connectivity issues in the region. Foreign ministers of Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan and the First Deputy Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan were also present in the dialogue, according to Indian Express.

With Afghanistan’s presence, the participants of the Dialogue will also deliberate on developing viable connectivity options between India and Afghanistan,
and Central Asia to further facilitate trade and economic activity in the region.

Rabbani said at the meeting that “Afghanistan can provide the most cost-effective transit routes, serving as a hub for energy supplies including from Central Asia to the energy markets of South Asia.”

“The work on other major transport and transit corridors—including between Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, as well as between Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan—is underway,”he added.

According to Rabbani, India and all Central Asian partners have remained actively involved in the post-conflict reconstruction and recovery of Afghanistan in the last 17 years.

“We once again emphasize the importance of the leadership and ownership of the peace efforts by the Government and people of Afghanistan,” he said.

The dialogue is being held in Samarkand city of Uzbekistan, and is co-chaired by Sushma Swaraj and Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov.

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said at the opening ceremony of the event “India supports the people and the Government of Afghanistan in their efforts to build a united, sovereign, democratic, peaceful, stable, prosperous and inclusive nation. India supports all efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan which are inclusive and Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled”.

“These efforts should preserve the gains of the last 18 years. The violence and terror imposed on Afghan people should end. It should strengthen unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country,” she said.

“While geographically Afghanistan and Central Asia are landlocked, there are several ways in which India, Afghanistan and the Central Asian countries can join hands to work on promoting connectivity in the region so that trade and commerce may flow between us and our people to people exchanges may prosper”, Swaraj said.

“We have already sent a very substantial quantity of wheat to Afghanistan using the Chabahar port. Last month, the Indian company opened its office and took over operations at the Shaheed Behesti port at Chabahar,” she added.

Swaraj assured that “We are looking at developing the Chabahar-Zahedan railway link which would bring us close to the Zaranj-Delaram road link which India has already built in Afghanistan”.

Swaraj also announced that Iran will hold Chabahar Day International Conference on 26 February at the Chabahar port to introduce to the invited delegations the capacities of the port.

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