Modi sees Pakistan as bridge to Afghanistan

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday that he saw Pakistan as a potential bridge between South Asia and Afghanistan.

Addressing Afghan deputies in the new parliament building he inaugurated in Kabul before an announced meeting with Prime

Minister Nawaz Sharif in Lahore, he said: “We know that Afghanistan’s success will require the cooperation and support of each of its neighbours. And all of us in the region — India, Pakistan, Iran and others — must unite, in trust and cooperation, behind this common purpose and in recognition of our common destiny.”

He saw Afghanistan becoming a haven of peace and a hub for the flow of ideas, commerce, energy and investment in the region when “we will all prosper together”.

The Press Trust of India quoted Mr Modi as saying efforts were under way to improve Afghanistan’s connectivity by land and sea, including through Chahbahar in Iran.

“That is why I hope that Pakistan will become a bridge between South Asia and Afghanistan and beyond,” he said. “I hope that the day will come soon when energy from Central Asia will power prosperity in our region; when a Kabuliwala can once again come across easily to win Indian hearts; when we in India can relish the wonderful fruits of Afghanistan; when Afghans do not have to pay an enormous price to buy their favourite products from India.”

Mr Modi told the Afghan parliament that every youth in Afghanistan should see a future in which IT stood for information technology, not international terrorism.

He said Afghanistan would succeed only when terrorism no longer flowed across the border and when nurseries and sanctuaries of terrorism were shut.

Declaring that India was in Afghanistan to contribute, not to compete, to lay the foundations of future and not light the flame of conflict, Mr Modi said terrorism and violence could not be the instrument to shape the future of the strife-torn country or dictate the choices its people make.

“There are some who do not want us to be here. There are some who did not want us to be here. There were those who saw sinister designs in our presence here. There are others who were uneasy at the strength of our partnership. Some even tried to discourage us.

“You never doubted the sincerity of our commitment and the strength of our friendship. And you have seen the fruits of our partnership. You have judged us by what you see, not what others tell you, including about the mysterious Indian consulates.”

The Indian prime minister said Afghans had the wisdom to seek peace with neighbours, but also the courage to defend their freedom. “And Afghans of all persuasions must have the right to seek peace among themselves.”

“You can be Pashtuns, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Hazaras. You can be Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. But you are proud Afghans who can come together as one nation and one people. You may have fought in the name of religion; or for the cause of identity. But it is now time for Afghans to come together in peace,” he said.

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