A Plenary Speech on Reinvigorating Regional Cooperation at the 9th World Peace Forum
Beijing，4 July 2021
Allow me to extend my deepest gratitude to the organizers of this crucial forum, which serves as a platform for us to contemplate on Post-pandemic International Security cooperation and how to preserve and strengthen multilateralism. In this context, I am pleased to offer my perspective on addressing the common challenges we face today Reinvigorating Regional Cooperation.
May I also congratulate the Communist Party of China (CPC) on the 100th anniversary of its establishment. China has achieved an extraordinary economic and technological progress alongside enormous success in eradicating poverty at home and advancing prosperity around the world. It was all possible under the leadership of CPC.
Robert Kaplan, in his thought-provoking book,The Revenge of Geography, refers to Afghanistan as“breathtakingly strategic.” Afghanistan’s ability to effectively interact with powers near and afar can deeply influence integration, stability and prosperity in the broader region. Allama Iqbal Lahori, the great poet and philosopher, rightly called Afghanistan the heart of Asia and said that Afghanistan’s prosperity would bring prosperity and its decay would bring decay to Asia.
Afghanistan, by virtue of its location as a land-bridge between South Asia, Central and West Asia, has been the focus of attention of various great powers, at least for the last three centuries. Being a neighbor with China, South Asia, West Asia, Central Asia and Russia has made Afghanistan an important pillar of regional stability.
Afghanistan is now at a crucial stage with the departure of US and NATO forces while peace our greatest national priority, still remains elusive. Just very recently, there was a horrendous attack on schoolgirls in Afghanistan, claimed by Daesh or ISIS. More than 80 young girls were brutally killed. This is just one example of the extreme pain and tragedy that the Afghan people are suffering on a daily basis. We do not know why Daesh would come and kill Afghan children going to school. What is the enmity of Daesh with our people, with our schoolgirls? For what purpose and to what end?
We believe that we Afghans are the victim of a sinister design that may sooner or later extend beyond our borders and engulf our broader neighborhood. We hope, regional powers including our neighbors will recognize these dangerous trends and work with the people of Afghanistan to achieve peace and stability as soon as possible.
Peace in Afghanistan will have huge impact on regional stability, economic development and integration.
Three years ago, the United States launched a peace process for Afghanistan which was wholeheartedly welcomed by our people, with the hope and expectation that our desire for peace will be fulfilled soon. But unfortunately during this time, while peace has remained distant, violence and insecurity worsened and the toll on the Afghan people has become even more heavier. For peace in Afghanistan, and in view of the need for strategic stability in our region, closer cooperation with Afghanistan is imperative. It is time that major global powers who are also in our neighborhood began to pay more focused attention to the evolving situation in Afghanistan. We emphasize, that the fulltime participation of China and Russia within the framework of Troika plus with United States and Pakistan will contribute greatly to the speedy arrival of peace in Afghanistan and ensure long-term stability in the broader region. We also hope that Iran and India will join this process because they can be influential in shaping a future of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.
In the 19th century the geopolitical context between powers was best described as a“Tournament of Shadows” by the then Russian Foreign Minister Count Nesselrode. In this“Tournament of Shadows” or the“Great Game,” which were played based on a zero-sum game, our location worked to our disadvantage. Afghanistan does not want to be the ground for competition and rivalry for global ambitions. Instead, we want to be the center of cooperation and collaboration. We want Afghanistan’s strategic location to serve as its greatest asset, as an anchor of stability and connectivity in our neighborhood and for links in Eurasia, China and west and south Asia. And that is only possible in a multilateral system where the rights of all nations are respected and common ground for shared prosperity is sought.
Afghanistan is bounded by shared history and civilization with all the great countries represented in our larger region and our common future of security and prosperity depends upon living in peace and harmony. That is why in the past two decades, Afghanistan has been an active advocate of regional cooperation and integration. We are a member of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and we currently have an observer status within Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). We hope that Afghanistan will soon join SCO as a full member. SCO is not only an important regional organization but it has significant influence globally. Its further growth and development will have positive impact for all our countries. We, in Afghanistan wish to see more trade, investment and economic cooperation within the region. Afghanistan needs to be fully integrated into the regional economy, as this will create an enabling environment for positive economic interdependence between the countries of the region and increase stakes for peace and stability. We firmly believe that regional connectivity, economic integration and initiative such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the most important connectivity project, and are among the fundamental determinants of long-term regional security and shared prosperity.
I call on our good neighbor China to proactively engage in bringing peace to Afghanistan and by extension stability and further integration to the region. We are grateful to China for being a staunch supporter of regional cooperation. China’s active engagement in bilateral, and multilateral processes in support of peace in Afghanistan and also facilitating intra-Afghan talks to achieve a credible political settlement will be a guarantor of genuine stability in Afghanistan and the broader region.
Hamid Karzai is former President of Afghanistan.