I am delighted to return to Afghanistan; Honoured to be among people who have set the standard of courage for our age; Privileged to see again the high tide of friendship in this vast ocean of love for India. This is yet another giant step in Afghanistan’s march to progress. And, it is a historic moment of emotion and pride in the relations between Afghanistan and India.
Thank you, Mr. President, for your invitation and for naming this dam as Afghanistan-India Friendship Dam. We are truly humbled by the generosity of the Afghan spirit. Rivers have been bearers of great civilisations of the world. In the flow of rivers runs the course of human progress. In the Holy Quran, river is central to the image of Paradise. In the ancient scriptures of India, rivers defined our nation and were celebrated as the giver of life. And, it is a wise Afghan proverb that says, Kabul be zar basha be barf ne: May Kabul be without gold rather than snow. For the snow feeds the rivers that sustain life and agriculture. So, today, we are not just launching a project that will irrigate land and light up homes. We are reviving a region, restoring hope, renewing life and redefining Afghanistan’s future. The dam is a generator not just of electricity but also of optimism and belief in the future of Afghanistan.
The project would not just irrigate the fields of six hundred and forty villages in Chiste, Obe, Pashtun Zarghun, Karokh, Gozara, Injil, Zindjan, Kohsan and Ghoryan . It would also bring light to over two hundred and fifty thousand homes in this area. Last December, in Kabul, I was moved by the honour of inaugurating the Afghan Parliament Building. It was a tribute to the epic struggle of the Afghan people to shape their future by vote and debate, not gun and violence.On this summer day, in Herat, we come together to honour and celebrate Afghan determination to build a future of prosperity.Afghans and Indians dreamt of this project in the nineteen seventies. The lost decades speak to us about the ravages of a long drawn war. It was a war not of Afghan making, but it was one that stole the future of an entire generation of Afghans. And, when a new dawn broke over Afghanistan in 2001, we resumed the project.
With resolve and patience, courage and belief, we have together overcome distance and hurdles, threats and violence.Today, the brave Afghan people are sending a message that the forces of destruction and death, denial and domination, shall not prevail. They will not come in the way of the dreams and aspirations of the Afghan people. The fields that produce the finest fruits and saffron shall once again come alive with the clear waters of the river. The homes that lived through dark nights of dread will now be lit by the power of hope. Men and women shall once again work the farms and ply their trade with the joy of hard work, in peace and security.The shoulders that were once weighed down in the shadow of guns would now bear ploughs to turn the land green. Children shall again believe in the possibility of a future of education and opportunity.
And, another young girl poet will not have to live a life of pain, denial and longing, or see a life of promise cut short. Herat has time and again seen sublime glory and tragic ruin. And, the city that once Jalaluddin Rumi held as the finest, will rise again. The city that was the gateway to the West, South and Central Asia,will once again be the hub that will unite the regions in a peaceful pursuit of prosperity. So, to the people and Government of Herat and the Government of Afghanistan, I express our deepest appreciation for your support, patience and understanding – and, above all, your belief in us.
This dam has not been built by bricks and mortar, but by the faith of our friendship and the valour of Afghans and Indians. And, at this moment of pride, we also stand in grief and gratitude for lives sacrificed so that Afghan people will have a future they so richly deserve and so deeply desire. The blood, sweat and tears of our people are mixed into this earth and have formed between us an eternal bond, written into the soil of this land. Bonds that remind us of ancient links between this region and India. For many, the Harirud River is one strand of our connected histories since the ancient Vedic times. Today, the world will see the Harirud River as an abiding emblem of our commitment to a shared future of progress. And, the Friendship Dam unites us in solidarity as Chishti Sharif joined us in spirit centuries ago.
For, it is from here that the Chishti Silsila or Chishti tradition of Sufism came to India. It’s glorious tradition and teachings resonate through the dargahs of Ajmer, Delhi and Fatehpur Sikri. It draws people from all faiths with its message of love, peace, compassion; of harmony among people of all beliefs; of respect for all of God’s creations; and service to humanity. Indians and Afghans know that these values, not extremism and violence, define Afghanistan – a nation brimming with the poetry of love and spiritual tradition of peace and harmony. And, these are the values that give the great Afghan people the patience and persistence to seek peace with their own who have chosen the path of violence and also with those who support them.
Afghans have pursued this path, despite the strength of their belief that they can defend their freedom like no other people on this earth. And, it is on the foundation of these values that Afghans and Indians seek each other, not because they harbour designs against another. Khwaja Moiunuddin Chishti, the first of the Chishti saints in India, said that human beings must have the affection of the sun, the generosity of the river and the hospitality of the earth. He not only had the magnificent landscape of his ancestral land in mind, he could also be describing the Afghan people.So, when I came to Kabul in December, in the warmth of your welcome, I saw the kindness of your heart. In your clear eyes, I saw the deep well of affection for India. In your smiles, I saw the joy of this relationship. In the firmness of your embrace, I felt the trust in our friendship. And, in those memorable hours, India witnessed once again the grace of your people, the beauty of this land and the friendship of a nation. Today, I return with the gratitude and admiration of 1.25 billion people. And, a renewed pledge for our partnership.
Together, our partnership has built schools, health centres and irrigation facilities for rural communities. It has empowered women with skills and the youth with the education to shoulder the responsibility for Afghanistan’s future. We have joined hands to build roads that bridge the distances of your country, from Zaranj to Delaram, and transmission lines that bring power to your homes. Now, India’s investment in the port at Chahbahar in Iran will give Afghanistan a new route to the world and a new path to prosperity.
And, to implement that vision,just last month, President Ghani joined President Rouhani of Iran and me in witnessing the signing of the Chahbahar Trade and Transit Agreement between Afghanistan, Iran and India.
The fruits of our friendship are not confined to Kabul, Kandahar , Mazar and Herat. They will never be. Our cooperation will extend to every part of Afghanistan. Our partnership will benefit every section of Afghan society. Because across its difficult geography, and across its diversity, and beyond the identities as Pushtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras, Afghanistan must live and prosper as one. For, divisions among Afghan people will only help those who seek to dominate the nation from outside. As we work together, we draw strength and confidence from your deep commitment to protect our partnership from the designs of others.
When our people are under attack, the brave Afghans guard us as their own. They put themselves in the line of fire so that their Indian friends are safe. This is the nobility of your heart and the strength of your friendship. I have seen this from the moment I assumed office as Prime Minister. For on that day, when terrorists launched a massive attack on our Consulate in this city of Herat, the heroic efforts of Afghan soldiers, and of our personnel, saved many lives and prevented a big tragedy.
Mr. President, Friends,
Afghanistan’s success is a deeply held hope and desire of every Indian. It comes from the love and admiration for Afghans in our hearts. We want to see your democracy strike deep roots; your people unite; and, your economy prosper. We want to see your art, culture and poetry thrive. And, we want to see your cricketers join the ranks of test players and also seek glory in IPL.
But, it also comes from the recognition that when Afghanistan succeeds, the world will be safer and more beautiful. When the values that define Afghans prevail, terrorism and extremism will be in retreat.
Because we know that extremism and terrorism cannot stop at your border or end at the boundaries of our region.
So, in the spreading unrest of our times, the world cannot forget the brave struggle that the Afghan people are waging – for themselves and our world. India will not forget or turn away.
As I said then, and I will say it again, your friendship is our honour; your dreams are our duty. India’s capacity may be limited, but our commitment is without limits. Our resources may be modest, but our will is boundless. For others, their commitments may have a sunset clause, but our relationship is timeless. We face barriers of geography and politics, but we define our path from the clarity of our purpose. We see resistance and suspicion of others, but our resolve is strong and your faith and trust guides us forward.
Where some doubt your future, we are certain that no force or power can deny the Afghan people the destiny they have chosen, however long and hard the journey may be. So, on international platforms and in regional forums, we will speak in one voice for the Afghan right to a peaceful, prosperous, united, inclusive and democratic nation. And, in the fields, villages and cities of Afghanistan, we will work together for that future.
And, whatever happens, in a bright or a dark moment, we will always experience, as Herat’s great Sufi Poet, Hakim Jami, would say, the freshness and happiness of the gentle breeze of friendship.
Thank you for this honour, this affection and this friendship.