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Unofficial Translation of Remarks Delivered by President Ghani Inauguration of the New Parliament Building

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In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate.

Your Excellency Prime Minister Modi, Your Excellency Dr. Abdullah, Mr. [Vice President] Danish, Mr. [ex-President] Karzai, Chief Justice, honorable members of the parliament, members of the cabinet, Jihadi leaders, members of our security and defense institutions, sisters and brothers, Asalam-u-Alaikum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatu!

Mr. Prime Minister! You are not a stranger to Afghanistan. For us, strangers are those who do not know us, have no interest in us, and do not feel our pain. You are an old friend of Afghanistan. On behalf of the people of Afghanistan, let me express my profound gratitude for your continued and personal interest in Afghanistan.

The friendship between Afghanistan and India will endure regardless of who the President [of Afghanistan] might be [in the future]. This friendship is based on mutual interests and respect between our two governments, as well as deep and broad relations between our two peoples.Our interest and our understanding of each other is nothing new. Are there any other two countries that are bound by three-to-four thousand-years of common history? A history that has lasted this long will definitely last thousands [of years] more. The Edicts of Ashoka were erected and inscribed in Kandahar. Along this journey, Sher Shah Suri a son of Bihar, represented true Afghan thinking; he laid in five years a foundation that kept the road of cooperation open for hundreds of years. Buddhist worshipers came [to Afghanistan] and built [the Buddhas in] Bamyan. Others also headed out and took Sufism from Chishti Sharif [in Herat] to Agra.

Our travel and communications have always been two ways. We always had trust in each other. Unfortunately, the 19th century was a century in which we were separated by colonial designs. At the same time, it was the first British defeat in Afghanistan that led to the biggest freedom movement to be established in India circa 1857. The second British defeat [in Afghanistan] catalyzed even stronger waves of freedom in India.

What we proved together is that we will never bow to force. Indians have always remained close to our hearts, unlike those who came with ill-intentions and found that Afghanistan had become their graveyard.

Today, there are numerous symbols of cooperation between India and Afghanistan. Afghan boys and girls revere Sachin Tendulkar and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Our cricket teams are giving new spirit to our ancient culture.

Let me also say that my generation has been inspired by great Indian personalities like Abul Kalam Azad, Gandhi, and Nehru. But, the most remarkable success of India has not only been gifting us global thinkers but also in making democracy endure.

I think that India is among the very few countries whose military generals did not choose to enter politics. This is a big pride for a great nation like India. Today, I want to say a special thank you to you Mr. Prime Minister, because this beautiful hall signifies something very big: the world’s biggest democracy gives Afghanistan’s democracy a gift.

Our Senate speaker just mentioned something while thanking Mr. Prime Minister and I would like to repeat it: this parliament is the house of a nation. People from every corner of our country come [here] to talk about the future of this land. The speaker of our [Lower] House, Mr. Ebrahimi also said that this is the hall where the rule of law is discussed at every debate. Members of the Parliament, whether a senator or a representative, will remember that this is an assistance from India to the people of Afghanistan. I therefore would like to thank the great nation of India and its government. We are grateful to you!

At the same time, let me highlight that today also marks the birthday of India’s major Atal (hero) – Atal Bihari Vajpayee. I know that you will be heading to his birthday celebration from here. Let me ask you on behalf of myself, President Karzai and everyone here to wish him a “happy birthday” for us. Tell him he will remain in our hearts and this big hall will always remember him.

India’s assistance to Afghanistan has been selfless and broad. It will take forever to count [the instances of assistance], I will therefore only name a few big examples: we tried for a year to produce our own electricity, but with little success. Thanks to Indian help, the Afghan-Indian friendship dam in Chishti Sharif in Herat will start generating 42 MW of power next year. All the villages along the transmission line from the dam to the city of Herat will benefit from the electricity. The people in those five districts will experience light in their homes, factories, shops, and that light will remind them of this friendship.

Today, Kabul receives its electricity from its neighboring countries, but let me remind our people that India has helped build substations along the Hindukush Mountains from which we will benefit further. Let me once again thank you on behalf of Kabul’s residents and of the entire country.

Today, India is taking another big step for the security of Afghanistan: three Mi-25 helicopters, as part of government-to-government assistance, are being handed over to Afghanistan. India has proven that they are not simply talking about security in Afghanistan; practical steps [like the helicopters] prove that it is a [true] partner to [the Afghan] State and not a partner with anti-state actors.

What can help expand our relations still further is Indian investment and India’s assistance in improving our human capital. Every Afghan student who has studied in India serves as a

goodwill ambassador for the two countries. Let me say a special thank you today not just for the helicopters, but also for the 500 scholarships that you provide to the families of martyred member of the Afghan [Security] Forces.

Afghanistan’s independence is no one’s gift to us. This is the result of the blood of our people. I pay a tremendous tribute here to our Afghan [Security] Forces for dismantling the evil designs of the enemy.This year was a difficult year. Our security and defense forces made numerous sacrifices, because we believe in the future of this land. Patriotism runs deep in Afghanistan. Our aspiration is to become the center for regional cooperation and the roundabout of Asia.

However, the problem we face today comes from an obsolete vision of the past where some thought we could be a battle ground for proxy wars or overshadowed by some other government. The independence of this country will be preserved as long as there is a single Afghan alive.Our cooperation will be based on full respect to our independence, the right of self-determination, full respect to our constitution and to the elected legitimate national unity government. We cannot compromise on these principles. Our security forces sacrifice their lives on a daily bases for these principles. And, the rights of women will in no way be compromised. Peace is the long- held aspiration of this nation; we all want peace, but we want a dignified, enduring and acceptable peace—that does not week death, but bring life.

We should all know that it is a war that we fight against terrorists, a war that we need to define well. One aspect of this war is fighting the regional terrorist movements who threaten not only Afghanistan but the region. We are grateful for the cooperation of our international partners and would also like to thank the Indian Prime Minister for his continued efforts in convincing the world leaders during the major international forums and sessions on the righteous position of Afghanistan.

Mr. Prime Minister, while you have always stressed that Afghans are ready to defend their land, there is still need for continued international security and economic cooperation in the interest of the region and the world. My heartfelt gratitude to you, for your trust and your confidence in the future of Afghanistan.

The majority of [the terrorists] fighting in Afghanistan are not Afghans, and we take pride in the fact that no Afghan has been or is exported as a terrorist to other countries. We want the export of terrorists to Afghanistan stopped. That must happen through an international framework where all sides acknowledge their common responsibilities. In the 21st century, where numerous avenues for cooperation exist, there should be no place for nurturing and training terrorists and suicide bombers. It is therefore a must for us to expand the regional cooperation in fighting against terrorism.

Let me make one point clear, there is no such thing as good and bad terrorists—they are all terrorists against whom we need a strong resolve. Afghans have shown that resolve and so have our partners.

I would like to highlight another important issue. Afghanistan aspires to become the roundabout of Asia. We are grateful to the Indian government for building the road in Nimrooz at the cost of the lives of Indian engineers. Today, Zaranj customs makes up our third source of national revenues. As we look for regional economic cooperation, the Chabahar project is another significant step.

Indian investment in Afghanistan can lead to welfare in India, Afghanistan and the region. In our discussion with Prime Minister Modi, we stressed on creating a broad-based investment framework based upon internationally adopted procedures so that it could serve as a practical mechanism for the prosperity of the Afghan people.

Since Prime Minister Modi recalled Sher Khan, I would also like to recall Tagore. I was in a remote village in Bengal as a World Bank staff with international passport. No one believed I was Afghan. Someone asked me if I was really an Afghan, and I said, “Yes, I am an Afghan”. He asked me whether I could speak Pashto, and I replied yes. Half an hour later, two men from Paktika province wearing turbans came and asked me in Pashto whether I could understand. I told them that I understood Pashto. They asked me whether I knew the villages and the tribes [in Paktika]. When I told them that I knew Sulaiman Kheil, they accepted that I was an Afghan.

Tagore, in his representation of true Afghan character in the story of Kabuliwala, gave us dignity, honor, and fidelity. In the story, Sher Khan had accidentally killed a man and the judge asked him what crime he had committed. His attorney said that he [Sher Khan] is innocent. Sher Khan, however, interjected, and said: “No! I am an Afghan and I will not lie.”

Excellency Prime Minister, our friendship is free of lies. This is a true friendship, one that comes from the heart. We are partners in bringing peace and stability in this region, a peace in which all sides could seek their interests. Afghanistan seeks enmity with no-one. We want friendship. We know who our friends are and we value them.

Thank you very much Mr. Prime Minister for visiting Afghanistan, and we thank you particularly for visiting this building—where we renew our friendship before the representatives of Afghan people and Afghanistan elders.

Long live Afghan–Indian friendship!