H.E. Ambassador Dr. Bashir Mohabbat's Speech on the Occasion of the 99th National Day of Afghanistan.

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

All our beloved friends,

On behalf of the people and Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, myself, all our diplomats and staff, I would like to extend to you all our thanks for joining us this evening to celebrate the 99th National Day of the prized jewel of the Heart of Asia – my beloved Afghanistan. We welcome you, joining us here tonight in the Rumi Balkhi Hall, named for one of the greatest Afghan born poets & theologians, Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi Balkhi, who wrote very profound words precisely fitting this occasion:

“This - being human - is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival. …
Welcome and entertain them all! …
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”

Nothing could be more true – each of you; each country, group, university, and organization you represent are welcomed guests to our home away from home in Japan’s capital of Tokyo, and we are so appreciative of you.

You in the international community have been our guides, our supportive friends, helping us along the road to progress, peace, and prosperity. You have helped us to gather the footing to lead the charge in an Afghan-owned and Afghan led momentum towards a brighter future, and all the promises it holds for this and every generation of Afghans to come.

Notably of course, I would like to express the deepest gratitude to our gracious host country, the noble people and Government of Japan, who have demonstrated genuine friendship to Afghanistan, time and again, through their guidance and resolute efforts to bring about global peace and prosperity. Through their comprehensive programs and benevolent assistance which supports the development and rebuilding of social, political, and economic foundations, Afghans – like citizens of many other countries who have benefited from Japan’s altruism – now live fuller, richer, healthier and happier lives. This year Japan honored Afghanistan with an official visit by H.E. Mr. Masahisa Sato, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, showing the continued interest for warm relations between our two countries.

Seventeen years ago, Afghanistan laid the foundations for democracy. Since then, multiple local and national elections have taken place. Last month, despite difficulties from enemies of progress, Afghans participated in the voting process which went well. Among the more than 2500 candidates for Parliament, and among them 400 were women. By next year’s April Presidential elections, we hope to mobilize and motivate even more Afghans to participate in the democratic process.

One of the key priorities of our Afghan Government has been the economy. Afghanistan has experienced a GDP growth forecast to reach around 3.27% by 2020. A central fiscal policy objective has been raising domestic revenues and the resulting constant increase has been a shooting star, up 13% increase in government revenues. We have witnessed continued increasing GDP growth, increased international investments, development potential in conjunction with our infrastructural improvements, and continue to develop the human capacity, our most precious natural resource, of our young workforce who, with an increased quality of life, are eager and ready to work. With 47% of our population under 15 years of age, we have a strong prospect for sustaining our economic growth well into the future.

The agricultural sector is the largest provider of jobs to the Afghan people with over 75% of people having jobs being related to agriculture. Agriculture is the backbone of our society and we continue to cultivate its development as much as our most delicious, international award winning saffron, fruits and nuts. With tremendous generosity, Japan has recently promised to provide $10 million dollars for irrigation, and water management in 3 provinces; Kabul, Kapisa and Bamiyan. It is exciting to know that in light of the ongoing drought that more than 16,000 farming families will benefit by this project. We are also so very close to being self-sufficient in our rice production, bringing us closer to addressing the problem of hunger. Projects such as these have allowed my country and her people to flourish!

Afghanistan is abundant with natural resources, both agricultural and non-agricultural—from mineral ores and precious stones, talc to gold, copper to lithium, Saffron, abundant fruits & nuts, natural gas, handmade goods, cashmere—and with nearly 25.2% of total exports accounting for non-agricultural goods, substantial economic growth and a multitude of investment opportunities can be created in its emerging market which serves as a hub for trade in the region. We can provide a better future to the citizens of Afghanistan through mutual trade cooperation.

In the World Bank’s most recent DBI Report released last week, Afghanistan was listed as one of the top reformers in the world; an ‘Ease of Doing Business’ score ranked the highest ranked improvement out of 190 countries; A record number of business reforms the past year; and improved its ranking by 16 positions. We are on the move, and that move is UP!

Regional partners have been working even more closely with us on collaborative and mutually beneficial projects to ensure peace and prosperity. In February, work began on the Afghanistan portion of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project which will put it on schedule to be completed and operational in 2019. In addition to receiving 5.22 billion-cubic-meters of gas annually, Afghanistan would get around $400 million each year from transit revenue. Air Cargo Corridors have been inaugurated between Afghanistan and India, Turkey, Kazakhstan, China, Russia, UAE, and now Europe marking significant trade enhancement for Afghanistan’s economic and human capacity development by bringing more Afghan goods to consumers in the global market despite being landlocked, as well as to become self-reliant. The Lapis Lazuli Corridor Agreement between Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey is a visionary proposal for ending the geographical isolation of Afghanistan; gives Afghanistan gives a direct link to transport goods to Europe via road, rail and sea; and will be synchronized with other trade routes that transit Eurasia. This agreement, one of the most important in the region, brings with it trade expansion, regional connectivity, as well as resolves transit & trade problems. The Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries says 80 percent of goods to Europe will be done by railway and also across the Caspian and Black seas by ship. In doing so, Afghanistan may eliminate economic and transit dependency further bolstering the upward momentum of the domestic economy and those of our regional partners.

World leaders again met in Afghanistan’s capital this year for the second Kabul Process to build further upon the peace process. Again, with the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned consensus being reached, the peace building process was defined in absolute terms and with the National Unity Government making a generous offer to those who have opposed or worked against the peace. H.E. President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani initiated yet another step in progressive peace by establishing an Advisory Board which will comprise representatives of all 34 provinces, political parties, women, civil activists, and interested parties. After being selected, they will convene in Kabul and jointly work with the government as a cohesive technical team on accelerating the peace process set forth in the Kabul Process.

This was followed by the Tashkent Conference on Afghanistan where 22 nations came again together to establish a broad and firm regional and international consensus on the issues of peace, security and regional connectivity. They acknowledged that “peace and security in Afghanistan are essential for ensuring stability and prosperity in the region and for bringing an end to the many years of violence and suffering of the Afghan people”. The realization that an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process requires close regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics cooperation, and regional economic cooperation and connectivity to optimize the peace and prosperity is a major step.

Furthering the momentum of peace, November 27th & 28th begins the Geneva Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan. This will show the solidarity of the international community with the Afghan people and the National Unity Government in their efforts for peace and prosperity; and for the Afghan government to renew its commitment to development and reform. This is a crucial moment for the government and international community to demonstrate progress and commitment, a reform agenda, and maintain the momentum for elections and opportunities for peace.

Step by step, heart by heart, we are active participants in helping to create the peace we want to see in Afghanistan and in the world. Peace is not merely something you wish for; it must be something you work for and something you give to others and share in the process. Working together with the future in mind, there is no limit to the peace we can achieve.

For the past ninety-nine years, and the next ninety-nine to come, a zillion zillion thanks.