An international conference on Sunday named Pakistan-based terrorist groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad as grave threats to peace in the region after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani unambiguously dubbed the neighbour as a terror sanctuary, sharing India’s concern over cross-border violence.
In a major diplomatic victory for India, the joint resolution adopted at the 6th ministerial ‘Heart of Asia conference – Istanbul Process on Afghanistan’ said among other terror groups propagating “high level of violence” were “the Taliban, Daesh (Islamic State) and its affiliates, the Haqqani Network, Al Qaida … Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan…”.
Also called the Amritsar Declaration, the resolution said participating countries and groupings were “concerned by the gravity of the security situation in the region” and demanded “an immediate end to all forms of terrorism, as well as all support to it, including financing”.
Earlier, Ghani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke in the presence of Islamabad’s top diplomat Sartaj Aziz at the start of the summit held in this Punjab city near India’s border with Pakistan.
While Ghani was unequivocal in asserting that Pakistan was the source of cross-border terror in his country, Modi didn’t name any nation but urged the world to act against “those who support, shelter, train and finance” terrorists.
Aziz appeared shocked with the Afghan President’s blunt remarks. Ghani said the Pakistan military was selective in fighting terrorists on its soil and sought to know what was being done to “prevent the export of terror”.
“The state-sponsored sanctuaries exist in Pakistan. As Mr. Kakazada, one of the key figures in the Taliban movement, recently said if they didn’t have sanctuary in Pakistan, they wouldn’t last a month,” he asserted.
Directly addressing Aziz, Pakistan’s de facto foreign policy chief, the President urged Islambad to fight militants rather than giving financial assistance to his country ravaged by decades of war and terrorism.
Ghani thanked Pakistan for its pledge to donate $500 million, but said: “This fund, Mr. Aziz, could very well be used for containing extremism because without peace any amount of assistance will not meet the needs of our people.”
“Afghanistan suffered the highest number of casualties last year. This is unacceptable. Some countries still provide sanctuary for terrorists.” Modi was not as blunt as his Afghan guest.
“We must demonstrate strong collective will to defeat terror networks. Support for peace alone is not enough. It must be backed by resolute action,” the Prime Minister said.
“Silence and inaction against terrorism in Afghanistan and our region will only embolden terrorists and their masters.”
Aziz rejected the allegations and said it was unfair to blame Pakistan for rising terrorist violence in the region. “It’s simplistic to blame only one country for the recent upsurge in violence. We need to have an objective and holistic view,” said the diplomat who advises Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on foreign policy issues.
The conference, attended by representatives of some 14 countries and international groupings — 45 in all — was to find ways to help Afghanistan in its political and economic transition.
The strong remarks against Pakistan and the mention of the terror outfits in the declaration came as India has mounted pressure on Islamabad, asking it end terrorism emanating from across the border.
It is seen as India’s victory in seeking to diplomatically isolate Pakistan, a neighbour accused of using terrorism as a foreign policy instrument for decades. Indian efforts to include names of the terrorist groups in the Goa Declaration of the October Brics summit had failed after China allegedly scuttled the move.
New Delhi alleges that the Lashkar and Jaish have been enjoying financial and logistical support from the Pakistan government and its agencies and were being used as tools to disrupt peace in India. Pakistan denies this.
Islamabad has been objecting to what it calls New Delhi’s interference in Afghanistan aimed to disrupt Pakistan’s western border regions. But Modi said Indian assistance to Afghanistan would continue as its commitment was “absolute and unwavering”. Ghani appreciated India’s unconditional support and said the expansion of the key Chabahar port between India, Iran and Afghanistan was very important for regional trade and connectivity.
He spoke about India’s assistance in the construction of Salma dam — officially called the Afghan-India Friendship Dam — that was inaugurated in June by Modi along with Ghani in Herat province.