Jan 17, 2014, 2:16 PM
News Code: 2625811
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India strongly supports Afghan-led peace process

New Delhi, Jan 17, IRNA -- Strongly backing the Afghan-led peace process, India Friday called for a cautious approach to bring peace to Afghanistan, saying execution of any initiative with "inadequate preparation" could be "dangerous" for the war-ravaged country.

Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh said India supports the efforts being made to begin an "Afghan-owned and Afghan-led" peace process and hoped that it will help in reconciliation among various groups.

"We must all support this Afghan-led process. While doing so we must remember that any initiative to assist Afghanistan undertaken with inadequate preparation and not wholly executed is far more dangerous than no initiative at all," Singh said, articulating India's position on the peace process.

The Foreign Secretary was speaking at a meeting of senior officials representing the Istanbul Process.

Singh lauded the efforts of President Hamid Karzai for holding Presidential elections in April and observed that the polls face threats from the extremist groups.

"We think that all the building blocks for an election that will unite the whole of Afghanistan are already in place. The main threat to this election process is the continued efforts by extremist groups to undermine security and deny the Afghan citizens the right to freely exercise his or her franchise," she said.

Singh said there was "never any justification" for terrorism and India strongly believes that it was only thorough international cooperation that the evil scourge of terror will be defeated.

"Afghan President Hamid Karzai has made great efforts to ensure that required legislation for an independent Election Commission and an independent Election Complaints Commission

have been put in place in time for these elections," she said.

Noting that economic growth was key for Afghanistan's development, she said India held a meeting of leading businessmen recently to encourage them to do business in the country.

The Foreign Secretary said "consistent and clear message" received from the business community was about lack of connectivity of Afghanistan to major markets in the region.

"While they all see the potential of Afghanistan as a major economic hub for energy, raw material and trade, connectivity to the major markets of the region remains a major impediment "The time has come to seriously discuss the issue of transit arrangements for Afghanistan that can be provided by Afghanistan's neighbours," Singh said.

The Foreign Secretary highlighted India's initiative to develop the Chabahar port in Iran which could act as a major transit point to Afghanistan.

Chabahar port is strategically crucial as it gives access route to Afghanistan. The port, which is surrounded by a free trade zone, is vital for transit facility from India to Afghanistan.

"India, Iran and Afghanistan are already discussing the possibilities of cooperation centred on future development of the Chabahar port in Iran and we hope to see other such projects fructify in near future," she said.

Singh said India was committed to work with the like-minded countries to ensure overall development of Afghanistan.

"India is committed to working together with all like minded countries to ensure that the narrative of hope and progress is acknowledge and given all the importance that it deserves," she said.

The Foreign Secretary also underlined the need for focusing on implementing various confidence building measures in Afghanistan "It is important to shift gear from planning stage to implementation stage."

Afghanistan's Deputy Foreign Minister Ershad Ahmadi said there has been an "increasing awareness and momentum" to deal with various challenges facing his country.

Chinese Ambassador Luo Zhaouhui said "leading countries" of the region must play a key role in ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan. He also mentioned about China's push for setting up an Asean Infrastructure Bank to fund major infrastructure projects. He said it could help Afghanistan also.