India, China begin first joint Afghan project


India, China begin first joint Afghan project

In a move to steer ahead with the "Wuhan spirit" that was reached during Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping's "informal" meeting, India and China have concretised the "India-China plus" initiative where both sides identified Afghanistan as the country where the two nations would forge a partnership.

Both sides decided to start by training ten Afghan diplomats in New Delhi and in Beijing. The first leg of the training began in Delhi on Monday with the Dean of FSI (Foreign Service Institute) reading out a written message by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

"The seeds for joint cooperation in Afghanistan were sown at the meeting between the Prime Minister of India and the President of China when they met in Wuhan in April 2018. Today, we see it blooming with the initiation of this training programme. This marks the beginning of what we visualize as a long term trilateral partnership for the benefit of Afghanistan," said the statement.

Chinese Ambassador Luo Zhaohui who was present at the event began by reading out a message from Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi who congratulated the young diplomats.

"China and India have been active supporters of Afghanistan's peace, and reconstruction process. This Joint Capacity Building Program is an essential part of the international efforts to assist Afghanistan and marks the start of China-India-Afghanistan cooperation. It is a testament to the joint aspiration and endeavor of China and India, both being major, responsible developing countries, to contribute to regional peace and stability", said the statement from Beijing.

The two sides envisage working on other projects in Afghanistan. China hinted at regional connectivity, including projects involving Pakistan that provide a "solid" foundation to future cooperation.

"We are talking a lot about the regional connectivity initiatives, such as International North-South Transport Corridor, India-Afghanistan-Iran transit and trade arrangement and China-Pakistan-Afghanistan cooperation. All of these have provided a solid foundation for the current and future cooperation between China and India in Afghanistan," said the Chinese envoy.

While Afghanistan and India have been on the same page when it comes to fight against terrorism and the issue of cross-border terrorism, China said that peace can only come about by ensuring stability in Afghanistan.

"China and India share a lot of common interests and similar stance on the Afghanistan issue. Both of us support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace reconciliation process. Both of us uphold that Afghanistan should realize peace, stability and prosperity. Both of us are against terrorism," said Ambassador Zhaohui.

India on its part said it was guided by the vision of 'Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas', and has embarked on an ambitious development partnership programme with a commitment of over US $3 billion.

"India is committed to partner with Afghanistan in its efforts to emerge as a united, peaceful, secure, stable, inclusive and economically vibrant nation. Development partnership, based on the priorities of the Government and the people of Afghanistan has been the cornerstone of our multifaceted bilateral cooperation," said the External Affairs Minister.

Both countries are looking at other areas to cooperate in Afghanistan. India's edge in agriculture and medical services combined with China's hybrid rice and poverty reduction.

Hoping to extend the bilateral cooperation to other countries, the Chinese envoy said, "China-India Plus cooperation should be extended from Afghanistan to other countries, such as Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Iran and Myanmar. We can also join hands under the mechanisms of SAARC, BIMSTEC and BCIM to promote regional peace, stability and prosperity."

The ten Afghan diplomats will train in the Foreign Service Institute, New Delhi for a period of 10 days and then will travel to Beijing for the second leg of their training where they will stay for another ten days. During the period of their training, they will have interactions with diplomats of both the countries and could also avail the opportunity to interact with media houses.

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