The memorable portrayal of a pathan ‘Sher Khan’ by actor Pran in Bollywood movie ‘Zanjeer’ on Friday found its way into diplomacy as Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned it to underscore how Indians view Afghans as true and magnanimous friends. And not just Sher Khan, the character ‘Kabuliwalla’ in story by that name penned by Rabindranath Tagore too figured in Modi’s speech to Afghan Parliamentarians, as did the successes of Afghan cricket team to highlight the strong cultural and people-to-people bond between the two peoples.
Here’s the full text of the speech:
Your Excellency President Ghani
Your Excellency, Chief Executive Dr. Abdulla Honorable Speaker of Wolesi Jirga and the Chairman of Meshraon Jirga,
Distinguished Members of both Houses
Eight centuries ago, a famous son of Balkh Province, one of the greatest poets in human history, Jalaluddin Rumi, wrote, “Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that gives flowers, not thunder”.
This is the wisdom of this magnificent land and a great nation.
A land where legends are born - of poetry and beauty, of valour and honour, of pride and generosity, of the warmest embrace of friendship and the strongest resistance for freedom.
And, in this century, the great Afghan people have waged an epic struggle of courage and resolve to shape their future with vote and debate, not gun and violence.
A country with an abiding faith in the tradition of Jirga has chosen the path of democracy. And, it has done it against challenges that would have defeated a lesser people.
It is a tribute to the countless, nameless Afghans who laid down their lives and sacrificed their future.
To the leadership of former President Hamid Karzai Saheb,
who led the nation with wisdom and determination from the dark days of despair to a future of hope.
To President Ghani and CEO Dr. Abdullah for their vision and statesmanship that can only come from great patriots.
To you, Members of Parliament, for braving violence to take your seat in this House in trust of your people.
So, I stand here, on behalf of 1.25 billion friends in India, in admiration for your achievements, in gratitude for your friendship and in solidarity for your future.
And, today, I am humbled and honoured to join President Ghani and all the Members of the Afghan Parliament to dedicate this new abode of democracy to the Afghan nation.
We could not have chosen a more special day than the birthday of one of the tallest leaders of our time, former Prime Minister and Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji. Eleven years ago, he dreamt of this project in partnership with Karzai Saheb.
And, we are deeply touched that you have chosen to name one of the wings in this building the Atal Block.
This Parliament House brings together our two nations through the vision of our leaders, the labour of our people and the stones of our lands.
And, the Atal Block unites us in spirit, because Atal means hero in Pashto and in Hindi it means to be firm. It captures the spirit of Afghanistan and of our friendship.
This Parliament Complex is a small tribute to your progress as a nation and a democracy. And, it will stand as an enduring symbol of the ties of emotions and values, of affection and aspirations that bind us in a special relationship.
Our ties are as ancient as history.
Over the mighty Hindu Kush and through the forbidding Khyber Pass, monks, merchants and monarchs have linked us through knowledge, culture, religion,commerce and kingdoms.
In the shifting contours of history, there were times we have been one. There were times we saw wars. But, through the ages, we have always enriched one another.
In the timeless Buddhist symbols of Aynak and Bamian and in the majestic monuments of Delhi, in our culture and art, in language and literature, food and festivals, we see the imprint of our timeless relations.
We owe to ancient Afghanistan the gift of one of the great characters of Mahabharata, Gandhari.
In the achievements of Mauryan Empire or Shershah Suri, we see connectivity that we now aspire to rebuild.
The words of poet Ahmed Shah Durrani may have expressed the longing of an Afghan King in Delhi, I forget the throne of Delhi, when I remember the mountain tops of my Afghan land.
But, in the heart of every Indian and Afghan, there is boundless love for each other. We love each other’s culture and cinema, music and poetry, food and festivals. And, now we admire each other’s cricket.
We are delighted that the Afghan National Cricket Team has found its home ground near Delhi and is practicing for next year’s World Cup. And, i congratulatethe Afghan Under 19 team that just beat Zimbabwe in its first home series.
We are just as proud that Afghans see India as a natural destination for education, health or a family home.
Indians remember the support of Afghans for our freedom struggle; the contribution of Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, revered as Frontier Gandhi; and, the important footnote of that history, when, exactly hundred years ago, the first Indian Government-in-Exile was formed in Kabul by Maharaja Mahendra Pratap and Maulana Barkatullah.
King Amanullah once told the Maharaja that so long as India was not free, Afghanistan was not free in the right sense.
This is the spirit of brotherhood between us.
And, when you began a new journey in a new century,we were proud to stand with you and walk with you.
Our partnership has helped rural communities get schools, minor irrigation, health centres, welfare for children and opportunities for women.
Together, we have built roads that have brought regions closer;
power transmission lines and power stations that light up Afghan homes;
satellite links that bring education, medical advice and communication to Afghan people.
And, we are helping the security forces become more mobile.
The institutions we are establishing together are helping rebuild agriculture and mining in Afghanistan, and make advanced medical care available in Kabul.
Nothing is more important for a nation than its human resources. So, we are pleased that our scholarships and training programmes are empowering Afghan youth with modern education and professional skills; Afghan government with resources to develop their country; and, the Afghan Security Forces with the capacity to secure their nation.
Power and water will flow out of Salma Dam soon. The Stor Palace will again stand as a symbol of your priceless heritage. Our scheme of 1000 scholarships every year for Afghan students in India will continue. We are pleased with the response to our special scholarship scheme in agriculture science.
Today, I announce 500 scholarships for the children of the martyrs of Afghan security forces.
As we have stood with you in our efforts to rebuild your country, you have guarded and protected our people as your own. We have faced daily threats, but we feel secure in your midst.
To every Afghan, who has risked or lost his life so that his Indian guest is safe, I convey the eternal gratefulness of India.
To Indian diplomats, officers, engineers and doctors, who serve here with pride, to the families of our Indian martyrs, I express the gratitude of Indians and Afghans.
There are some who did not want us to be here. There were those who saw sinister designs in our presence here. There are others who were uneasy at the strength of our partnership. Some even tried to discourage us.
But, we are here because you have faith in us. You never doubted the sincerity of our commitment and the strength of our friendship. And, you have seen the fruits of our partnership.
You have judged us by what you see, not what others tell you, including about the mysterious Indian consulates.
You know that India is here to contribute not to compete; to lay the foundations of future, not light the flame of conflict; to rebuild lives, not destroy a nation.
You know, as we do, that Indians and Afghans have always stood for each other, never against another.
You have been at the crossroads of history. And, your history tells us that you will never let yourself become a theatre of competition; or serve the designs of others.
For you live by the creed extolled by poet Kushal Khan Khattak that Nation’s honor and nation’s fame on life they have a prior claim.
So, with your faith and at your pace, India will continue to build Afghan capacity for governance, security and development, so that you can build a future that Afghans so richly deserve.
We will do this from the responsibility that comes from our friendship. But, we also do this with a commitment to peace and stability in our region.
We know that Afghanistan’s success will require the cooperation and support of each of its neighbours. And, all of us in the region - India, Pakistan, Iran and others - must unite, in trust and cooperation, behind this common purpose and in recognition of our common destiny.
When Afghanistan becomes a haven of peace and a hub for the flow of ideas, commerce, energy and investments in the region, we will all prosper together.
That is why we are working to improve your connectivity by land and sea, including through Chahbahar in Iran.
That is why I hope that Pakistan will become a bridge between South Asia and Afghanistan and beyond.
I hope that the day will come soon when energy from Central Asia will power prosperity in our region; when a Kabuliwala can once again come across easily to win Indian hearts; when we in India can relish the wonderful fruits of Afghanistan; when Afghans do not have to pay an enormous price to buy their favourite products from India.
For this has always been the course of this region’s history. And, it must be the path to its future.
But, brave and tireless as the Afghans are in defending their nations, Afghanistan will succeed only when terrorism no longer flows across the border; when nurseries and sanctuaries of terrorism are shut; and, their patrons are no longer in business.
Terror and violence cannot be the instrument to shape Afghanistan’s future or dictate the choices Afghans make..
For, the fire that is lit in Afghanistan, can never be contained, within these boundaries.
Afghans have the wisdom to seek peace with neighbours, but also the courage to defend their freedom.
And, Afghans of all persuasions must have the right to seek peace among themselves.
Too much blood has flown down Kabul River. Too many tragedies have darkened the mountain slopes. Too many dreams have burnt in the fire of a senseless conflict.
You can be Pushtoons, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Hazaras. You can be Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs.
But, you are proud Afghans who can come together as one nation and one people.
You may have fought in the name of religion; or in the cause of identity.
But, it is now time for Afghans to come together in peace.
As a wise Afghan said, A tree with a bitter seed, Fed with butter and sugar, Will still bear a bitter fruit.
You have a glorious tradition of pluralism and respect for diversity and beliefs.
Those waging war from outside must seek a path to this building and this hall. Those seeking territory through gun must seek power through ballot. Those who have destroyed homes must now rebuild their nation. For, this is your land and these are your people.
And, it must be on your terms, on your genius, through your own process and your own spirit of brotherhood.
Not driven by the calculations or ambitions of others.
And, the future you build in peace and through dialogue must preserve the hard-won progress of the last decade and half. It must have a place for every Afghan. It must have space for everyone’s aspiration. And, it must be a nation, where every citizen is secure of her rights and confident about her future.
And, as Afghans take responsibility for their future, the world must stand with them in solidarity and support.
We must do that for the soldier from a foreign land who laid down his life in an Afghan village that he had never heard of and for a people he had never known; and, for the enormous sacrifices that Afghans have made for a life that others take for granted.
We must support Afghanistan without time lines because the new clouds of extremism and terrorism are rising, even as the old ones continue to darken our skies; and, because Afghans are not only fighting for their future, but are standing up for all of us and a safer world.
The world will be a better place when we can experience the real wealth of Afghan people in their diversity and rich heritage.
It is time for all Afghans, everyone in the region and the rest of the world to come together.
The sacrifices must not go in vain.
The flame of hope should not die.
No girl that steps into the world should slip into darkness of denied opportunities.
No son should face the choice of gun or refuge in a distant land.
No mother should fear bringing a child into this world.
No leader should lose a brother because he spoke for Afghan freedom to choose friends.
No one kneeling in prayer in a mosque should be killed in the name of religion.
No elder should look back on his youth wasted in conflict, and see the same future for his grandchild.
Every youth in Afghanistan should see a future in which IT stands for information technology, not international terrorism.
For, the promise and the opportunities of the 21st century belong to Afghan youth as much as anyone else in the world.
For India, this is a deeply held commitment.
Your suffering is our pain. Your dreams are our duty. Your strength is our belief. Your courage is our inspiration. Above all, your friendship is our honour.
And, as Hindi cinema’s most famous Pathan character, Sher Khan in Zanjeer sang,
Yaari hai iman mera, Yaar meri zindangi. Friendship is my faith, the friend is my life.
This is the creed of Afghans and Indians.
I am confident that
Hope will return to your homes,
Laughter in your schools,
Life in your streets
Prosperity in your cities
unity in your society