February 24, 2018
Your Excellency President Ashraf Ghani,
Your Excellency President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov,
Your Excellency Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi,
Your Excellency Governor Rahimi, Ministers, Members of Parliament,
Members of the Provincial Council,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Some names are redolent with the romance of history: Herat is history and much more. It has been a flowing confluence of ideas, mysticism, poetry, scholarship, folklore, trade. It has been a nursery of intellect and powerhouse of creativity; even as its location turned it into the heartland of geopolitics, the envy of empires and the cynosure of civilisations.
We are proud that our former Vice President Hamid Ansari was a direct descendant of the renowned 11th century Pir e Herat Khwaja Abdullah Ansari. The silsilas of Chisthis and Naqsbandi masters have built bridges of love, peace, compassion and service between Herat and India. It is their philosophy which guides the relationship between Afghanistan and India, symbolised so impressively in the India-Afghanistan Friendship Damknown, accurately, as Bandh-e-Doshi. We were honoured to build this for the welfare of the people of Afghanistan. For us, the Afghan is as important as Afghanistan.
We are all familiar with the adage that the world is a village. But we refrain from the parallel question: have we been successful in turning the village into the world? Surely that must be the central challenge before us.
TAPI is one means towards this transition, for gas can bring life, warmth and a rebirth to the lives of all ordinary people. Turkmenistan is blessed with bounty; we in South Asia have the market. What could be greater cause for harmony? The only obstacle to human welfare is so often, alas, human invidiousness. Let us resolve to eliminate the sources of sabotage and violence that could interfere with our common commitment.
Today, members of government – an admittedly privileged class – have crossed borders with ease. Why cannot we enable trade, traffic and tourism to cross borders with equal ease? Why do we create walls cemented with that impervious obstacle called obstinacy?
Two thousand years ago our ancestors had the imagination, spirit and technological capability to build a highway that was justifiably called “Grand”; a road that spanned the breadth of a subcontinent from Kabul to Calcutta; a bridge of culture, commerce and so many forms of connectivity. In the 21stcentury, we should be searching for Europe through Ashgabat and Singapore through Yangon. But instead of integral expansion, we have let the worst instincts of our nature produce disintegration.
Our generation has paid for the mistakes of our fathers.Shall our children now pay the price for history’s tragedies? At least in India, we await the moment when our Asia becomes a family of nations, inspired by synergy and impelled by opportunity towards a shared prosperity.
TAPI is a brilliant instance of what is possible when vision finds a lodestar. Where there is a will, goes the proverb, there is a way; this highway can become a defining line on the emerging economic and connectivity map of the 21stcentury. In a splendid variation, TAPI will not merely carry gas but also fibre optics and power. With similar dexterity, we must build the financial infrastructure, and share, like good partners, both the reward and the risk. Rights bring their obligations.
Afghanistan has rightly been described as the heart of Asia. How often have we watched negative forces conspire – or indeed aspire – to break the heart? But Afghanistan’s resilience is a wonder of the world. The indomitable courage of its people, the spirit of its youth, and the strength of its dreams are a source of collective pride. Afghanistan will benefit immensely from TAPI – and in H.E President GurbangulyBerimuhamedov, Afghanistan has found a friend who is truly a champion of peace. Our common mission must be cooperation in the cause of the people: for security and prosperity. One is not possible without the other. This is the refrain of every mountain and every village, every home and every heart of Afghanistan.
We live in an age of sovereign states, not empires and kingdoms seeking hegemony under the thinly disguised camouflage catchword “influence”. Afghanistan is a proud and independent state, which is surrounded by land. But international law gives landlocked states rights, which cannot be denied. Afghanistan must have easy access across the geopolitical compass, since any blockage to the heart of Asia can only endanger the whole body.
TAPI is important for India as it completely integrates with our energy management goals. Our need for clean energy is huge and growing. At present, we are the fourth biggest importer of LNG, yet need much more gas from various sources. While the world’s average share of gas in the energy basket is 23.8%, India’s is still only 6.5%. This is set to increase substantially in coming years, and Turkmen gas through TAPI would be one of the important sources.
Any good idea can become vulnerable to bad intentions. Alas, a great concept only invites greater challenges. Large investments demand care and caution. Safety of the transnational pipeline and assured supply of gas is vital. TAPI will traverse through space and seasons of violence. We have full faith in Afghanistan’s commitment to secure transmission and in the courage of its security forces – but the responsibility must also be shared. Every partner must make a solemn commitment to act against terrorists who hurt the welfare of the people; and to deny terrorists sanctuary and safety. TAPI is a dove in a storm; we must protect it with all our will and capacity.
India is fully committed to fulfilling its part in this visionary project; it will honour its responsibilities and obligations. We believe TAPI is a win-win project, whose benefits will help us in our historic objective of poverty elimination and immediate improvement of quality of life.
Thank you, Excellencies, for being today on a single platform. We must pursue a common purpose. Both sense and common sense demand it.