NEW DELHI, INDIA - Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told an international conference held in the northern Indian city of Amritsar that the Taliban insurgency in his country would not survive without support from Pakistan and called for the setting up of a fund to combat extremism.
Referring to an upsurge of violence in his country by militant groups, the Afghan leader said, "Some still provide sanctuary in support or tolerate these networks. As Mr. (Mullah Rahmatullah) Kakazada, one of the key figures in the Taliban movement recently said if they did not have sanctuary in Pakistan, they would not last a month."
Afghanistan's ties with Pakistan have come under strain as it grapples with increased militant attacks. Pointing out that his country had suffered the highest number of civilian casualties and military related deaths last year, Ghani said this "was unacceptable."
In his remarks at the conference, Pakistan's top foreign ministry official, Sartaj Aziz, said the security situation in Afghanistan is complex and it is "simplistic" to blame one country for the recent upsurge in violence. Aziz called for "an objective and holistic view."
The "Heart of Asia Conference" is an initiative launched in 2011 for encouraging economic and security cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbors. Delegates from over 20 countries including Pakistan's top foreign policy official, Sartaj Aziz, attended the conference.
Terror took center stage at the meet as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also underlined his concerns about support that terrorism derives in the region.
Modi did not directly name Pakistan, but called for resolute action to fight "not just against forces of terrorism, but also against those who support, shelter, train and finance them." He said terrorist violence endangers not just Afghanistan but the entire region.
India also blames Pakistan for supporting terror groups that conduct violent attacks in the country. Pakistan denies the charges, and points out that it is also a victim of terror attacks.
Afghan leader Ghani proposed an Asian and international regime, "whatever is acceptable, particularly to our neighbor Pakistan to verify cross frontier activities." He also called for a fund to combat extremism.
Referring to a $500 million pledge from Pakistan for development in his country, the Afghan President said the money could instead be used to fight terror.
"This fund Mr. Aziz could be very well used for containing extremism because without peace any amount of assistance will not meet the needs of our people," Ghani said.
A resolution adopted at the end of the conference acknowledged that terrorism derives support in the region and stated: "We demand an immediate end to terrorism as well as support to it, including financing of terrorism," the resolution said.
On the sidelines of the conference, India and Afghanistan decided to take steps to set up air cargo link to boost Kabul's connectivity with key markets.
It will help increase trade from the landlocked trade that is restricted due to political hostilities between India and Pakistan. At the moment Kabul can send a limited goods overland through Pakistan into India, but imports from India are not allowed along this route.