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Statement by H.E. President Hamid Karzai at the Asian-African Summit 2005
H.E. President Hamid Karzai


Honourable Co-Chairs President Yudhoyono and President Mbeki,
Honourable Heads of State and Government,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you President Yudhoyono and President Mbeki for your leadership in organizing this important conference. May I also express my gratitude to the people of Indonesia, for the very warm hospitality, particularly when they are still recovering from the tragic losses inflicted by the tsunami disaster. I take this opportunity to express on behalf of the Afghan people, once again, my heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the more than 200,000 tsunami victims in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and other countries in Asia and Africa.

Fifty years ago, Afghanistan was one of the 29 nations participating in the first Asian-African Conference in Bandung. Today, as we celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Asian-African Conference, we are delighted to have so many more friends to celebrate with.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The world has witnessed incredible developments over the last 50 years. The advances in technology, in science, and in our capacity to communicate with one another - and by extension, to know each other better, are remarkable. Yet, in the face of these advances, the spirit that infused the first Bandung Conference does not seem outdated, but rather, more pertinent than ever.

If our ability to help one another due to technology is greater, so is our ability to harm one another. If the era of global media has enabled us to hear better the cries of starving children, so has it magnified the wrong we do when we ignore those cries. If the internet and instant communications have brought us closer together, they have also highlighted our lack of understanding of each other.

I am delighted therefore to see that the ideals that permeated the first conference in 1955 are so amply present at this conference today. While the challenges that confronted our nations in 1955 - such as colonialism, the emergence of a bi-polar world, and the threat of nuclear confrontation - may be different from the ones that we must overcome today, our responses must remain driven by the same principles - the principles of sovereignty, of cooperation, of peace and of understanding. For in the end, it is not our challenges, but our responses, which will unite us.


Today’s conference focuses on a strategic partnership between Africa and Asia. And in that spirit of partnership, we must reflect not only on the achievements of the past fifty years, but also on the failures. And we must be prepared to ask ourselves tough questions. The history of our regions especially over the recent decade has not always been a happy one, and indeed, has been characterized by violent conflicts which have shocked the world not only by their numbers, but by their brutality. We must ask ourselves why these tragedies came to pass, and why we failed to stop them. Were we negligent at best or complicit at worst, pursuing narrow self-interests at the expense of others? Our efforts to combat poverty have not always been successful. We must ask ourselves how we can better empower our people economically. New threats - like extremism or AIDS - challenge the very fabric of our societies. We must ask ourselves what steps we can take to minimize the effects of these threats on our societies, and to assist those already suffering from them.

Thirty years ago, Afghanistan’s journey of development and democratization was violently disrupted by an invasion from a foreign empire. As we fought to repel the aggression of the former Soviet Union, much of the world stood with us, in solidarity and support, driven less by the desire to help Afghans than to destroy Communism. At the end of that conflict, a shattered Afghanistan was left open to anarchy, oppression and foreign interference which propelled the forces of terrorism into the country. The attacks of September 11, in a gruesome way, demonstrated the disastrous outcome of this long-neglected conflict.

What conclusions can be drawn from this experience? First, that the pursuit of narrow self-interest is often opposed to a nation’s broader interests, especially when it comes at the expense of other nations. Second, that creating or sustaining human misery in any country is a negative-sum game for the world - everyone suffers. And third, that neglecting conflict will only exacerbate the dangers to all, and make the solution more difficult, complex and expensive.

On the other hand, when the world’s attention and support returned to Afghanistan three years ago, a significant precedent was created for how to transform a nation suffering from interference and tyranny to one driven by confidence and hope. Afghanistan today is an asset to the region, fostering trade, encouraging stability, and bringing a new sense of commitment to regional cooperation. To cite but one example, in 2001, the value of trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan was annually US$ 50 million. Today, it stands at more than US$ 1 billion per year. I take this opportunity to thank all the nations that have helped Afghanistan over the last three years.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Some of us have made admirable progress over the last 50 years, and we are fortunate today to have many excellent role models among us. There is no intrinsic barrier in Africa or Asia which can prevent us from overcoming our challenges. There is no reason why we cannot achieve peace. There is no reason why we cannot achieve prosperity. And there is no reason why we cannot capitalize on our wealth of natural and human resources -in particular, the younger generations - to build a better life for all of our citizens.

Fifty years from now, I hope that the leaders of our nations will come together to celebrate not only the tremendous advances our world has made, but the successes each one of our countries has achieved. We must build a future where quality education and health care are not only privileges of the wealthy, but rights of all. Where our faiths rightly guide us to serve humanity, not to harm it. And where a concern for collective well-being has replaced narrow national interests. Today, by revitalizing the spirit of the Bandung Conference, we have the opportunity to lay the foundation for that future.

Thank you.


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