Address by H.E. Mr. Taro Aso, Prime Minister of Japan
at the Friends of Democratic Pakistan Ministerial Meeting and the Pakistan Donors Conference
April 17, 2009
Your Excellency Asif Ali Zardari, President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,
Honorable Representatives of Participating Countries and International Organizations,
It is indeed my great pleasure to welcome President Zardari and to be able to hold the Friends of Democratic Pakistan Ministerial Meeting and the Pakistan Donors Conference in Japan.
I would like to warmly welcome all participating countries and international organizations.
(Threat of Terrorism and International Solidarity)
Seven and a half years have passed since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the world is still facing the threat of terrorism. Even now, tragedies are being repeated in Islamabad, Lahore, Mumbai, and Kabul. Terrorism is posing a threat to the international community, and we cannot help but acknowledge that efforts to eradicate terrorism are now at a crucial stage.
Fortunately, the international community has already started to move towards strengthening further cooperation. In regard to Afghanistan that is facing a lot of problems, following the recent international conference at the Hague, countries are now seriously making their contribution in the region. President Obama recently announced the U.S.'s new strategy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan. I am convinced that meetings today too will offer another excellent opportunity to further advance international efforts for solidarity.
(Pakistan's Role and Efforts)
Pakistan has played a vitally important role in efforts of the international community to counter terrorism and extremism. I would like to express my heartfelt respect to the leaders and people of Pakistan, who have confronted the inhumane act of terrorism while making enormous sacrifices. Yesterday, when I met with President Zardari, he made it very clear that he would demonstrate his leadership on economic reform and counter-terrorism, overcoming various differences in opinion among Pakistanis at all levels. I believe that we will hear further encouraging remarks from the President today. I am convinced that the strong commitment by Pakistan itself will strengthen the resolve of the international community to support the civilian government of Pakistan, which continues to face difficulties.
(Assistance to Pakistan)
The strong solidarity demonstrated by the international community towards Pakistan in 2005, when the country was severely hit by major earthquake, is still fresh in our memories. As part of international efforts to support Pakistan, Japan mobilized all of its measures available, such as the dispatch of Japanese Disaster Relief Teams and Self-Defense Force, reconstruction of bridges, and formulation of a master plan for the reconstruction of urban areas. The international community must show its solidarity by pledging concrete assistance. Pakistan is a country with potential for economic growth, but is facing various developmental issues such as lack of infrastructure in transportation, energy and agriculture, poverty in areas including the border region, and human resource development. I strongly hope that all of you will join in enlarging this circle of support. Japan has decided to provide Pakistan with assistance worth of up to 1 billion dollars over the next two years.
I would also like to say a few words on Afghanistan, which is closely connected to Pakistan.
In the short term, it is crucial for the stability of Afghanistan to hold a free, fair, and smooth presidential election in August, and I think the support of the international community is necessary. In addition to supporting the election itself, Japan, with a view to facilitating the preparations for the election, will provide support in the area of security including provision of salaries of the entire 80,000 Afghan police personnel for six months.
In the mid to long term, it is necessary to help Afghanistan realize its self-reliance. Again, close cooperation among the international community is needed. Japan has provided approximately 1.78 billion dollars of aid to Afghanistan through the construction of the Kabul International Airport terminal, repair and construction of over 500 schools, training of approximately 10 thousand teachers, and so forth. Japan will continue to provide further support.
Without the stability of Pakistan, there can be no stable Afghanistan, and vice versa. The stability of the border region of the two countries is the key to success, and I would like to stress the need for the international community to support both Pakistan and Afghanistan as they work out their own comprehensive strategies vis-a-vis the border region.
(Broad-based Regional Perspective)
Last, but not least, I would like to point out the importance of a broad-based, regional perspective, when we talk about support for Pakistan and Afghanistan. This approach is to aim at development from a broad-based perspective, engaging the countries of Central Asia and Iran as well. From Iran, Foreign Minister Mottaki is in attendance.
Three years ago when I was Foreign Minister, I presented a vision of making this region a "corridor of peace and stability," which seeks to complete distribution route from the Arabian Sea to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. Japan will continue to coordinate with related countries and international organizations towards making this vision into more concrete picture. The role of Iran in anti-narcotic measures and refugee assistance is also important. It is very encouraging that this regional approach is now gaining wider support.
Today's meetings are an important opportunity to strengthen a new solidarity between Pakistan and the international community. I would like to close my remarks with high hope that we will be able to see great achievement here today. Thank you very much.
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