New Delhi, India
April 29, 2015
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate
Mr. Vice-President Ansari, Ambassador Bhatia, distinguished audience, ladies and gentlemen!
It is a pleasure to be with you tonight. I apologize in advance for being much briefer than I intended to, because you cannot make the President of India wait.
First of all, my deepest sympathies to the people of Nepal. I have had the pleasure of walking the mountains of Nepal repeatedly, and having been a privileged observer during their remarkable process of democracy, all our hearts go to them. Himalayas are joint together among, tragically the earthquake has not been confined to Nepal, I have just learned that we have lost over 50 people in the province of Badakhshan to a recent earthquake.
I begin with ecology because the change in the climate forces us to think thorough continentally. Natural disasters do not respect political boundaries. Yet the states of the region continuously fail to take account of the need that … the imperative that we must cooperate to deal with these phenomena. And I am heartened by Prime Minister Modi’s assurance that we will all mobilize to tackle this very important issue.
In the next 20 years, I go straight to the proposition, in the next 20 years Asia is very likely to be transformed from a geographical notion to a continental economy. This is profound implications for the way subsequent centuries are going to be formed and shaped. But two trends compete, because ambassador Bhatia asked me to highlight both, challenges and the opportunities.
First, on the challenge side, the challenges that we are dealing with a new ecology of terror. Terror is becoming a system. Morally, it is reprehensible; sociologically it must be comprehended as a system. And what are some of the key characteristics of this new ecology? It is morphing very rapidly. If Al-Qaeda, with all respects to Microsoft, was Windows 01, Daesh is Windows 05.
Second, it is being imbedded within the criminal economy and an unprecedented amount of finance is being made available to this new ecology.
Three, it is becoming very brutal and focused on brutality in order to all the population.
Four, it is becoming networked in a very rapid rate. And fifth, it kills for the sake of killing and overwhelming.
Within this ecology of terror, Afghanistan both from a perspective of narrative and from prospective of operation is seen as a single theatre. Today, due to a series of convergent phenomena, various groups threatening stability in Asia are converging on our territory. They have been pushed over to our soil, because they thought that there was a weak spot.
We are the battle front. We, today in Afghanistan, are fighting on behalf of every one of our neighbors from India to Russia. This fundamental challenge asks the state system to respond coherently together organically. But, what we know about bureaucracies is that they are slow to grasp, slower to act and slower to coordinate.
The main threat, therefore, is not from the phenomena the ecology of terror, the main threat is from lack of coordination by and between states, so that we can have a coordinated response to a state system where weaknesses within the state system are the opportunities on which the ecology of terror thrives. This, I hope, more than anything else makes one phenomena clear – there is no advantage to competition between and among states when it comes to the ecology of terror. Any states sponsorship of these networks or their accommodation threatens the system as such. And that is the challenge that we must deal with, because the system that we have inherited, you can date it any way and whichever way but take for convenience post 1945, is now under attack. Unless this resilience in coordination is injected into the system, we will all suffer.
The second aspect is the opportunity. So, let me highlight some of the key opportunities in terms of Afghanistan because the public perception, the metaphors are about the threat, that is why I have to knowledge it out-front. Our first advantage in the next 25 years is our location. Until 18th century, our location was a key advantage, we were roundabout. A roundabout as (inaudible) best described it, is a place where all ideas, people and goods come to and go out of. We were an open space, we were a space that 500 year ago linked west Bengal to Nishnonivegrad no cash was required, one of the most sophisticated systems of bills of exchange were developed, a system of arbitration of disputes, a caravan trading system, a transport network, in other words, there was an economy both, symbolic and real.
This ecology was disrupted by the rise of European imperialism. A space that was a roundabout was turned into a marginal space. We became the theatre of Kipling. So while India got reoriented to western economy, China got etc. Afghanistan got marginalized. In the next 25 years, our location is the key connector. All roads between Central Asia and South Asia, have to lead through Afghanistan. We are also the connector to East Asia and to West Asia. But this means that the potential, in order to realize the potential, we must think of infrastructure very differently.
It is not the old minority trade based system that would move the continental economy; it is a cluster of infrastructure, rail, road, pipelines, power, fiber optics and air. This cluster needs to be developed coherently in order to deliver the advantage. And development of that cluster, again just give you a slight indication, in the next 25 years globally there would be about $65 billion, the very system from $45 to $65 trillion of investment are required in infrastructure. About 60 percent of this is likely to take place in Asia.
We need to evolve very different instruments to realize this potential. But this potential would be transformative. If we were to realize this, well, the obvious question becomes, is the specialty that is required for this available? There, there are two answers. One, of course, South Asia remains the lease economic integrated region on earth. And unless South Asia grasps this opportunity within the next ten years, part of it will integrate much more to East Asia, part of it would integrate to Central Asia, and part of it would integrate to West Asia.
But the other part is for the continental economy and for the advantages of Afghanistan to develop, and that is not need to be contiguous develop. Why is that? Because our second advantage is our mineral resources. In the next 15 years, we will become the largest producer of copper in the world, the largest producer of iron in the world, one of the largest players in the gold market globally, and we have 14 of the 17 rare earth material. Our marble resources are enough to last the region 400 years, our construction material. 33% of Afghanistan’s natural resources have been mapped, the estimated worth is from $1 to $3 trillion.
With India’s and China’s transformation, this natural wealth awaits to become part of a continental framework. If you look into development of this natural wealth from a national prospective, you see limitations. When you see it from a regional prospective, you see immense potential and opportunity.
The problem with natural wealth, of course, is that it is a curse attached to it. If we are to avoid the curse of natural wealth, our first priority must therefore be our location. Our second priority, again, we have the head-waters for practically every single one of our neighbors. We only use 10% of our available water today with 1960s technology. The land under cultivation in Afghanistan is exactly about half of what it was in 1978. And, again, we are in the midst of 3 billion people. Water and cooperative arrangement regarding water is going to be the key to responding to changing global ecology, and to creating new regimes of sharing inefficiency, so we would actually put water and land second and then third being our natural wealth.
Our fourth advantage, we are a country of the poor people with enormously rich individuals. We have money, but we do not have capital. And the difference is, money does not become productive. In order for money to work and to become an agent of transformation, it has to become capital. And thereby, again, comes the immense experience of the region. India’s creativity in terms of financial instrument, in terms of the range of funds, and the enormous power of the Indian diaspora to transform money into wealth is one of the key issues.
Our fifth advantage is our entrepreneurship. The Silk Route and millennia of connectivity has given us remarkable capacity to work. With energy and thrive, we, Afghans are tough, we don’t accept hierarchy, because of that we thrive on networks. But the type of hierarchy that the market brings actually is a much more disciplined process.
So, if we have these advantages, what is it that prevents us, and what is it that we need in order to contribute both, to the rebirth of the Asian continental economy and to gain.
First, I use the word “rebirth” because for millennia there was a continental system. India’s textile exports to the west are part of every child’s story. But the amount of textiles that Northern India where we are sitting and today’s Pakistan exported to Central Asia and to Russia, is through scholarships determines was larger than the South India exported to Europe. These ranges become important.
As part of this, the fundamental challenge then shift to being conceptual. Why conceptual? Because, model of building economies are based on national boundaries. If we are going to realize Afghanistan’s immense potential, we must think regionally. Regionally because the experience of the region each single country enables us to cut time by a phenomenal extent. Take just one example, the amount of investment that India has made in technology, cost of research in development. If we wanted to start with a national model, that would require us 50 years to catch up. But thinking this to a comparative cooperative framework, allows us to master time much more quickly and to be able to bring this about.
When you put the two issues together, the challenge of the ecology of terror and the opportunity of a roundabout, I hope that we can shift political understanding.
So, what is it that we view ourselves as? Certainly, not as a battle field for proxy wars. Certainly, not as a space to become tested over. Certainly, not a buffer to be dominated. What we offer is a model of cooperation, a platform where all of us can come together. Where a transformative capacity and the imagination is translated into building solid institutions where all of us will be able to live in comfort and dignity.
Delhi, you can begin with having breakfast in Delhi, lunch in Peshawar and dinner in Kabul. I hope that what is immensely possible, can become actually achievable. And the day, when I will drive after retirement from Kabul to Delhi, I look forward to dedicating my life to creating this possibility of cooperation.