KABUL, June 10– The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an important platform for anti-terrorism cooperation and enhancing regional connectivity, Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has said.
Ghani gave the remarks in an exclusive interview ahead of his departure for China to attend the 18th SCO summit, which will be held Saturday through Sunday in China’s eastern coastal city of Qingdao.
“I look forward to the Qingdao summit. We hope to obtain support in two important ways, one is regional connectivity and the second is the common threat, which is terrorism,” he said, adding that countries involved in the SCO “need to move to enhance our cooperation.”
Afghanistan is an observer country of the SCO.
The president said improving the level of economic and trade cooperation within the regional bloc will be the focus of discussion during the Qingdao Summit.
“Our objective now is to turn Afghanistan into a land bridge between East Asia, Central Asia, West Asia and South Asia,” Ghani said, noting that his country stands along a shortcut connecting Central Asia with South Asia and West Asia, and that the country was once an important hub along the ancient Silk Road as well.
With regard to the “Shanghai Spirit,” which contains the guiding principles of the SCO, Ghani said it is a manifestation of the common will of SCO member states.
Adopted in 2001 when the SCO was founded, the Shanghai Spirit features mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respecting diverse civilizations and seeking common development.
On security cooperation within the SCO, Ghani said Afghanistan is fighting on the frontline in the war against terrorism. “We fight and die on behalf of our neighbors,” he said.
Urging consensus and common actions on combating terrorist networks, the president said Afghanistan, as an observer country of the SCO, should raise the level of cooperation with member countries to jointly safeguard regional security and fight terrorism.
Meanwhile, Ghani said giving support to Afghanistan will establish conditions prohibiting the spread of terrorism. “Supporting Afghanistan … is supporting your own future,” he said.
To facilitate peace and stability in Afghanistan, the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group was created in 2005 as a consultation mechanism between the organization and the country. China chaired the group’s meeting at the deputy foreign ministers level in Beijing on May 28, showing the SCO’s growing attention to the Afghanistan issue.
The president said he looks forward to “working in earnest” with regional partners in search for what he called “a new way of doing infrastructure,” which he expected to involve power transmission, railway construction, fiber-optic communication, as well as the building of gas and oil pipelines.
As for the prospect of Afghanistan-China cooperation under the SCO framework, Ghani said China as the world’s second largest economy is an engine of the Asian economy. He said he had visited multiple Chinese provinces and was deeply impressed by China’s development achievements.
“We would very much like to focus on China’s huge market. China, for instance, has a huge demand for marble. Afghanistan has over 40 varieties of marble,” the president said, adding that by exporting goods to China, Afghanistan will promote its own economic development, which in turn is conducive to social stability.
Ghani said his country and China have witnessed increasingly frequent people-to-people exchanges in recent years. Statistics have shown that China has trained over 2,300 Afghans specializing in various fields since 2015, and the number of trainees is set to be at least 1,000 for this year.
On top of that, China granted scholarships to over 150 Afghan students in 2017, and currently there are 307 Afghan students studying in China.
Ghani said the two countries are expanding the scale of people-to-people exchanges, since doing so will contribute to enhancing mutual understanding and trust. – XINHUA