Bonn: Warning against abandoning Afghanistan, India Monday exhorted the the international community to stay engaged for the long-term to eliminate sanctuaries of terror and outlined its enduring commitment to the reconstruction of the violence-torn country.
Addressing the Bonn conference on the future of Afghanistan that opened here Monday, Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna also pitched for a Marshall Plan-like initiative to rebuild the country as western troops gear up to withdraw by 2014.
"The international community needs to stay engaged in Afghanistan for the long term, for both its security and development," Krishna said.
Alluding to the rationale of international involvement in Afghanistan, Krishna stressed that the root causes of intervention -- the dangers of terrorism and radicalism -- remain as potent as ever.
"Today, we have to ask ourselves if that job is done, whether we have succeeded in eliminating terrorism, and the safe havens and sanctuaries from where it is emanating, right from its source," he said.
"We have to ask whether, if we withdraw our holding hand, Afghanistan will be able to withstand the forces of (radicalism), extremism and violence, and stand on its own feet," he said.
Delegates from over 100 countries and international organisations have gathered for the conference to draw up a roadmap for Afghanistan`s future beyond 2014 when international combat troops are expected to leave the country.
With the theme "From Transition to Transformation", the conference hopes to make progress on two aspects -- renewing the international community`s commitment to maintaining the long-term stability and development of Afghanistan after the troop withdrawal, and to promote the political process of reconciliation between the Afghan government and the insurgents.
Developing on the Marshall Plan-like initiative, Krishna said:
"Afghanistan today faces at least four deficits: a security deficit, a governance deficit, a development deficit, and an investment deficit."
"All four of these deficits will require enormous assistance for a long time" if they are to be adequately addressed, he said.
"To address these deficits, Afghanistan needs time, development assistance, preferential access to world markets, foreign investment and a clear end-state and strategy to make sure that it does not once again plunge into lawlessness, civil war, and externally sponsored extremism and terrorism"" he said.
"Conceptually there is need for something like a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan, involving all the major stakeholders," Krishna stressed.
In an oblique reference to Pakistan, Krishna said Afghanistan continued to "face a potent threat to its security from terrorism and insurgency being fuelled from outside its borders".
"The international community must ensure that as it reduces its military commitment to Afghanistan, it increases rather than decreases its economic commitment to the security and rebuilding of Afghanistan so that it does not once again slide back to the dark ages of the 1990s," he added.
Underlining India`s willingness to contribute its share to rebuild Afghanistan, Krishna said New Delhi has already pledged $2 billion for the development of that country till 2014 and will continue to assist in multifarious ways.
"We offer our growing market to Afghanistan`s products. In early November, India announced the virtual elimination of sensitive lists affecting exports of all least developed SAARC countries to India," he said.
Alluding to key initiatives by India that include the setting up of an agriculture university and training of Afghan students, Krishna reiterated that Indian companies are "willing to invest up to $10 billion in mining, setting up a steel plant and related infrastructure in Afghanistan".
An Indian consortium of seven companies led by state-owned Steel Authority of India has won the right to develop three iron ore blocks in the Hajigak deposits in central Afghanistan.