Remarks at the Tashkent Conference on «Central and South Asia: Regional connectivity. Challenges and Opportunities», 15-16 July 2021

“The international community must facilitate a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan to encourage connectivity between Central Asia and South Asia”

     - Arvind Gupta, Director, VIF


I would like to thank the organisers for inviting me to this important conference on «Central and South Asia: Regional connectivity Challenges and Opportunities»

Being an initiative of the President of Uzbekistan, the conference is extremely significant. It comes at a time when the region is once again witnessing certain adverse trends which impact regional security.

Connectivity between South Asia and Central Asia

Historically, the South Asian and Central Asian regions have enjoyed long periods of comprehensive exchangesinvolving people, ideas, religions, goods and wealth. As a result, our cultures have influenced each other over the millennia.

Unfortunately, for the last few decades, this connectivity has been disrupted badly. Its restoration will bring peace and prosperity to the people of the region.


At least two generations of Afghans have seen nothing but violence, strife and instability. Terrorism and extremism have taken root in the region, threatening regional peace and stability. The resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan is essential to restore connectivity between the two regions.

Sadly, the situation in Afghanistan is a cause of serious concern. As the US and NATO troops withdraw from the country, the violence has seen a sharp rise. There are reports of severe fighting between the Afghan National Security Forces and the Taliban.

There have been a large number of civilian casualties. Many people have been internally displaced. An atmosphere of fear and uncertainty has been created.

The country is in danger of sliding into an internal war. This must be stopped at all costs.

There is a clear and present danger to regional security.

Unfortunately, the promises of the Doha Agreement between the US and Taliban have not been materialised. The political settlement through an intra-Afghan settlement remains elusive. The Taliban never declared a ceasefire. The recent offer of a ceasefire, reported in the media, seems to be a bargaining chip. Conducive conditions for successful negotiations were not created.

Regional countries are particularly vulnerable to the rising tide of violence. There is a danger that instability in Afghanistan might spill over to regional countries. As in the past, the country might once again become a safe haven for radical terrorist groups endangering global security as well. The gains of the last 20 years – democracy, women's rights, peace, commerce – might be jeopardised.

As the violence escalates, the chances of a genuine, effective negotiating process are not too bright right now. In the absence of a political initiative, the region would become more unstable.

The Role of the International Community

The international community must take urgent note of the situation and come up with credible measures to stop the slide of the country into violent chaos.

The UN Security Council cannot be a mute spectator of the deteriorating situation.

Narrow regional agendas must give way to the common objective for peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan.

The international community must commit to an independent, sovereign, united and democratic Afghanistan and ensure to preserve the economic, social and democratic progress in the country.

The UNSC must give a call for an immediate ceasefire so that horrific violence and death toll can be reduced.

The Afghan National Security Forces must be strengthened to meet the security challenges that the country is facing.

The Afghan government must be provided with the necessary resources to fight terrorism and extremism.

The international community must facilitate a broad-based dialogue among the Afghans to work out a political settlement.


India has been an ardent champion of forging comprehensive connectivity in the region. It has invested substantially in ports, roads, air freight corridors, and transmission lines, apart from social infrastructure in the region.

It has been a part of several landmark connectivity initiatives like the International North-South Transport Corridor, Chabahar Port and Ashgabat Agreement.

The Indian External Affairs Minister, speaking at the UNSC Debate on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan on 22 June 2021, called for ‘double peace” in Afghanistan – peace within the country and peace outside.

Hecalled for an end to “cross border terrorism”, the dismantling of the “terrorist safe havens and sanctuaries, and, disruption of “terrorist supply chains”.

He said that the territory of Afghanistan should not be used by “terrorist groups to threaten or attack any other country”. And, “Those providing material and financial support to terrorist entities must be held accountable.”

He expressed India’s support for “a leading role for the United Nations”.

India has expressed its readiness to work with regional partners to ensure regional peace and stability.


The writing is on the wall. The dream of establishing connectivity between Central Asia and South Asia will remain unfulfilled if the region plunges into another bout of instability, terrorism, extremism and violence.

The time to act is now. Else, it will be too late.

Given the stature and significance of the initiative of the President of Uzbekistan, I am confident that this conference will provide the necessary momentum to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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