Stressing that the time has come for both India and Pakistan to display ‘maturity’, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday said that the world was waiting for a change in relations between the hostile neighbours.
“It is time that we display the maturity and self-confidence to do business with each other and strengthen regional trade and cooperation. The entire world is waiting and rooting for a change. Let us not disappoint them,” Swaraj said while addressing the Heart of Asia Summit here.
She asserted that India was prepared to move ahead their cooperation at a pace which Pakistan is comfortable with, while resolving to aid Afghanistan ‘through more effective transit arrangements’.
Talking about the growing terrorism in Afghanistan, Swaraj said that terrorism has grown in ‘both intensity and scope’ in the war-struck nation.
“Afghanistan is threatened most by terrorism and not tribal or ethnic rivalries. In the last few months, terrorism in Afghanistan has grown in both intensity and scope. Terrorists have made concerted efforts to capture and hold territory, reminding us that they have not changed,” she said.
Saluting the Afghan people and their national security forces for countering terrorism with courage and resilience, Swaraj called for global support of the international community to defend Afghanistan’s security.
“It is also the collective duty of all of us to ensure that the forces of terrorism and extremism do not find sanctuaries and safe havens in any name, form or manifestation. We, in Afghanistan’s proximity, have a particular responsibility in this regard. An end to terrorism and extremism, and adherence to internationally accepted redlines are essential for reconciliation and lasting peace in Afghanistan,” she added.
Calling for improved trade relations between Indian and Afghanistan, Swaraj said that it would boost the bilateral relations between the two nations
“India’s vision of this process is one of interlinked trade, transit, energy and communication routes, with Afghanistan as an important hub. The ‘Heart’ of Asia cannot function if arteries are clogged. Nothing can benefit Afghanistan more immediately than full and direct overland access to India’s markets to enable it to take advantage of the zero duty regime available to its exports to India,” Swaraj said.
“Similarly, if Afghan trucks could carry Indian products to markets in Afghanistan and Central Asia, that would be the best way to make trucking from Afghanistan cost-effective and viable, and bestow benefits to the whole region,” she added.
Swaraj also announced that India is willing to receive Afghan trucks on its territory at Attari and create necessary facilities for Afghan products there. She added that India has also shown its willingness to join the Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement.
Welcoming the leaders present at the Summit to India next year for the sixth edition of the Heart of Asia Istanbul Process, Swaraj said it was an honour to host the event.
“The honour to host the sixth Ministerial of the Heart of Asia Istanbul Process in 2016 in India will help us highlight the age-old message of that great artery connecting peoples and lands. I look forward to welcoming you all in India next year,” she said.
Post the opening address at the Summit, Swaraj met Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and is slated to hold bilateral talks with him and his adviser Sartaj Aziz later in the day.