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India slams Pak for blocking Indo-Afghan trade


New Delhi:: Hitting out at Pakistan for blocking Indo-Afghan trade via Attari border for “political reasons”, India today said nations cannot become “walls” aborting trade and culture that is as old as written history.

Asserting that the “fangs of terrorism” recognise no borders, Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar said, “peace is essential to development; terrorism is anathema to development.”

Addressing a meeting here on ‘Regional Integration and Prosperity’ at the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, Akbar said, “The scale of terrorism and violence unleashed against Afghanistan is of a magnitude that simply does not allow for easy project implementation, efficient delivery of assistance or the rapid inflow of investments into an economy that has huge resources and obvious potential”.

He stated that the international community “must ensure security” if it wants stability and economic development in Afghanistan. “We cannot underline ‘must’ often enough. We abandon this duty at our own risk.”

India has offered a special facility at the Attari border for Afghan products coming to India via Pakistan, he said at the meet also attended by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“Unfortunately, this access has been blocked for political reasons by Pakistan. Nations cannot become walls aborting a trade and culture that is as old as written history, and as powerful as the lore etched in common memory,” he said amid heightened Indo-Pak tensions.

Akbar said, however, India will continue to work with Afghanistan for assured and reliable access for Afghanistan’s products to India’s markets through land, sea and air.

“The full utilisation of Afghanistan’s transit rights as a member of WTO will enable greater prosperity. Those who deny transit hurt Afghanistan’s economy, with negative resonance for our larger region,” Akbar said in an apparent reference to Pakistan.

Talking about India’s support for increasing connectivity with Afghanistan, Akbar said, “An exciting and innovative future is taking shape through the recent trilateral India- Iran-Afghanistan agreement in Tehran in May 2016, which makes Chahbahar into a hub for immense economic opportunity”.

Asserting that New Delhi’s commitment to Afghanistan is abiding, he said it is India’s cherished desire to work with the people and government of “one of our closest friends” towards peace, stability and progress in Afghanistan and in the wider region.

India has dedicated its efforts and resources into bilateral cooperation with Afghanistan, with improvements of internal capabilities and provision of year-round regional connectivity, Akbar said.

“We have already completed significant development projects including scientific water management through dams and infrastructure projects like highways, worth over USD 2 billion. We have recently committed to USD 1 billion more.

This is the essence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘neighbourhood first’ policy,” Akbar said.

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