Amritsar: India on Sunday pressed for collective efforts to ensure resurgent forces of terrorism and extremism do not find sanctuaries and safe havens in any name, form or manifestation.
Neighbours of Afghanistan have a particular responsibility in this regard, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said at the 'Heart of Asia' conference here.
"There is also a need to neither differentiate between good and bad terrorists, nor to play one group against the other," said Jaitley, who is representing an ailing External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Taliban, Haqqani Network, Al-Qaeda, Daesh, Lashkar-e- Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, etc. are all terror organisations and should be treated as such, he said.
"End to terrorism and extremism, and adherence to internationally-accepted redlines including renouncing of violence, severing ties with Al Qaeda and other terrorist outfits and commitment to democracy and human rights are essential for successful reconciliation and lasting peace in Afghanistan," said.
The theme for the Heart of Asia Process this year is Addressing Challenges, Achieving Prosperity'.
As Afghanistan faces the challenges related to its multiple transitions, focused and sustained support will be required from all friends of Afghanistan in the international community for overcoming these challenges and achieving durable peace and prosperity, he said.
Jaitley noted that Afghanistan has faced gruesome violence for decades and in the last few months, terrorism there has grown in both intensity and scope.
"Terrorist groups have made concerted efforts to capture and hold territory. Taliban have tried to expand its influence to territories in North and North East along with South West where they traditionally were not so strong," he said.
"These developments only underline the fact that these groups have changed neither their ideology nor objectives. The evil of terrorism, which threatens not merely one or two countries but our entire region, has made the current year the worst in a very long time," the minister said.
For its part, India is happy to work with Afghanistan to strengthen its capabilities to fight terrorism and violence directed at it, he said.
A key focus during India's co-chairmanship of the 'Heart of Asia' process has been to centre-stage the importance of connectivity for Afghanistan, Jaitley said, adding promoting it remains at the very core of India's cooperation with that country and also in the region.
Afghanistan has the potential to be the land bridge between various parts of the vast and dynamic Eurasian landmass, he said, adding there are many promising projects like the TAPI gas pipeline, TAT railway line, CASA 1000 which will bring prosperity to Afghanistan besides bringing the Central Asian and South Asian regions closer together.
"For India, the issue of connectivity for Afghanistan is not a mere talking-point. We strongly believe that the lack of connectivity directly impacts the economic, security and political situation in Afghanistan," he said.
The Finance Minister said a well-connected Afghanistan will be economically vibrant and prosperous and also politically stable. "It will be able to engage the energies of its youth and attract its talents back from the foreign lands", he added.
"Earlier this year, we achieved a milestone by signing the trilateral Transit and Transport Agreement among India, Iran and Afghanistan for provision of year-round and reliable connectivity to Afghanistan via Chahbahar in Iran.
"This endeavour will overcome the lack of direct overland access for Afghanistan through Indian markets. Afghanistan will further benefit from the zero duty available to Afghanistan?s exports to India," Jaitley said.
He said benefits to Afghanistan will accrue if Afghan trucks could carry Indian products to markets in Afghanistan, Central Asia and beyond and indeed visa-versa.
"In this regard, India is willing to receive Afghan trucks on its territory, at Attari. We will be happy to create necessary facilities for Afghan products at Attari," he said.
To fully achieve these benefits it is essential that trade and transit agreements that Afghanistan enters into need to be fully inclusive, comprehensive and are most importantly fully activated, Jaitley said.
In the press conference, Jaitley said terrorism was at the "core" of the deliberations and that it took the centre-stage with tone being set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Stressing on the connectivity projects, he said India was considering a number of road and rail projects to establish direct link between the two countries.
Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Karzai termed the deliberations "extremely productive" and said his country was looking to enhance connectivity with India via land routes.
In the declaration, the HoA also commended the Afghan government for successfully pursuing peace talks with Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin Hekmatyar resulting in the "signature of a peace agreement that sets a good precedent for future peace talks with all other armed groups".
It also appreciated Iran and Pakistan for hosting millions of Afghan refugees for over three decades.
The HoA countries also urged all Afghan Taliban groups and other armed groups to enter into peace talks with the Afghanistan government.
"We acknowledge the crucial role of Afghanistan as a natural land bridge in promoting regional connectivity and economic integration in the Heart of Asia region, and we reiterate our strong support for Afghanistan's efforts to use its geographic location to enhance wider regional economic cooperation.
"We further stress that economic development will contribute to achieving lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region, and enhance regional economic integration.
"In this regard, we welcome the practical implementation of TAPI and completion of the first stage of the Asian International Railway Corridor between Imamnazar,
Turkmenistan, and Aqina, Afghanistan -- the initial stages of TAT linking Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan," the declaration read.
It also welcomed the MoU on jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road between the China and Afghanistan.
"All these will lay the foundations for a successful Seventh Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) planned for November 2017 in Ashgabat," it said. Next year, the Heart of Asia conference will be held in Azerbaijan....