On Peace and Security in Asia
Mr. Hamid Karzai Former President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Despite Asia’s vast potential, old civilization and remarkable histories, it is increasingly confronted with immense risks and challenges. From North Africa to East Asia, we are trapped by complicated problems of colonial legacy and challenged with circumstances hampering the progress and security of our nations. While we rejoice at our potential, rich historical heritage, and progress towards becoming the anchor of global security and prosperity, we are pained by a myriad of challenges, ranging from terrorism and extremism, to poverty and indeed climate change. To protect Asia from such perils and ensure the security of the global community at large, it is high time that we recommit to our fundamental values of peaceful coexistence, respect for each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, peaceful resolution of disputes, non-interference and sincere cooperation among states.
In today’s globalized world, multilateralism, shared interests and common destiny must guide our external relations. As such, I applaud China’s approach to regional and global affairs, particularly the notion of the new security concept, and the” One Belt One Road” Vision presented by President Xi Jinping to all of us. The novel concept of new Asian security calls for establishing a security cooperation architecture that is shared by all and is win-win for all. It broadens our view by promoting security strategies that are common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable. China’s leadership in advancing the security paradigm can greatly contribute to continental and global peace and prosperity. This approach can help our countries rise above narrow national interests and build a new regional and international security and economic order based on multilateralism, mutual respect, equity, dialogue and cooperation. In President Xi’s words, we cannot just have the security of one or some countries while leaving the rest insecure or seek our own absolute security at the expense of the security of others.
In full agreement with President Xi Jinping’s vision, we must all come to the realization that our security and prosperity are increasingly interdependent, requiring us to abandon the calculus of geopolitical zero-sum games. Afghanistan’s experience in the past 15 years has shown that we cannot tackle our security challenges without the effective participation of the region. It is therefore imperative to foster regional security arrangements whereby regional powers, such as China, India and Russia in particular, play a leading role in devising a system of regional security that would strengthen domestic capacities and mobilize regional resources in an integrated manner. It is equally important to build international partnerships that would advance a cooperative, common and inclusive security paradigm at the global level, enabling Asia and the West to respond effectively and jointly to the diverse security challenges.
While we build our indigenous and regional security capacities and use peaceful means to resolve internal and inter-state conflicts, we must also focus on uplifting our people economically. We must harness our shared potential for economic growth in the region. Enhanced effective cooperation in key fields such as trade, transit, transportation and energy can exponentially contribute to maintaining a virtuous cycle of peace and development. Rising economic powers in our region, of which fortunately we have many, but the biggest ones, China, India and Russia can again do more to support regional economic infrastructure. It is from this perspective that we in Afghanistan, and certainly I hope in this region, fully support President Xi Jinping’s proposal for the development of the Silk Road Economic Belt. The renewal and promotion of the Silk Road, of which Afghanistan is a part, of which also in this regional forum and the members present here, Iran, Pakistan and Kazakhstan and others are a part, will unleash unprecedented opportunities for regional cooperation and integration. The strategic concept of the “One Belt One Road” by China is a vision we must all share in the region and fully support. Its realization will undoubtedly have immense dividends for regional and global peace and prosperity. It is also essential to enhance interaction among the people of our countries to bring about greater understanding and affinity. This will surely benefit the smooth realization of our common vision for better security and more prosperity.
If we in this region ask ourselves and our youth, to take the example, say, of Afghanistan and China, how many Afghan young people would know more about China’s civilization, history and culture and how many would know more about the Western civilization, history and culture? Definitely, a rising young Afghan would know more today of the Western civilization and culture than they would know about China’s. Or similarly, take the example of a Chinese young man or woman. How much would they know about Afghanistan and how much would they know about the West. Therefore it is extremely important that we begin to enhance this people-to-people interaction in order for us to get to know one another better. In this regard, though, I am happy and glad to note that the ties of the Afghan people to the region have grown many-fold in the past 14 years, in particular, speaking about China, I am delighted to see a much expanded people-to-people relationship, especially in the exchange of trade and the travel of businessman and in particular, with thanks to China, the arrival of hundreds of Afghan students for education in China in many fields of life, for which we thank the people and government of China.
The emergence of new radical elements, such as the IS, is deeply concerning and has resulted in a virulent cycle of violence and destruction in the Middle East and also in our part of the world. While this threat does have implications for security in Afghanistan and the wider region, it is not a homegrown phenomenon, nor does it have the ability to find a lasting foothold in our country or in our closer region. However, it can seriously undermine regional security if not contained quickly and effectively. As for Afghanistan and our region, terrorism and radicalism continue to be a menacing threat undermining our security and prosperity. The spate in terrorist attacks and violence demonstrates the growing reach of the elaborate terrorist infrastructure that has gained ground in our region. There are also horrendous reminders of the imperative to consolidate our efforts for effective responses to this deadly menace and to forcefully condemn any entity that continues to harbor and use or support such elements. In Afghanistan, we also pursue at the same time very vigorously and seek peace and reconciliation with the Taliban. I hope that the countries in the region will fully support Afghanistan in its efforts to bring lasting peace and security. We are grateful though to China for working very hard with Afghanistan to reach our objective for peace and lasting stability through a peace process with the Taliban.
At the end, may I thank our host, the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, and the organizers, Beijing Municipal Government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for this important and timely gathering. May I also take this opportunity to thank the Chinese government and its people for standing firmly with Afghanistan all around our history and, in particular, in the past 14 years for supporting the Afghan people, for helping our reconstruction and for providing us with better economic opportunities and much improved and deepened relationship.