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Joint effort needed to tackle terrorism: Afghanistan Ambassador at Jamia Millia Islamia

During a talk on 'Afghanistan: From Transition to Transformation', Afghanistan Ambassador reiterates international commitments, warns against premature troops disengagement, obliquely answers about Taliban

New Delhi: Despite good progress made in areas of security, political and economic stability Afghanistan continues to expect and seek help from the international community. This was observed by Afghanistan’s Ambassador to India, Mr Shaida Mohammad Abdali. He was delivering a talk on “Afghanistan: From Transition to Transformation”, organized by the Centre for Afghanistan Studies, Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia at Tagore Conference Room, Dayar-e-Mir Taqi Mir on Thursday, 12 March, 2015.

The Ambassador started by paying tribute to Rabindranath Tagore after whom the conference room has been named who, according to the ambassador, had planted the seed of a deepening relationship between Afghanistan and India by writing the short story Kabuliwala. He said he was glad to see many young Afghan boys and girls who would be leading the country in near future.

Mr Abdali said that from a decade of transition Afghanistan had entered a new phase of “transformation” in which it has witnessed some success in terms of political, military, security and economic transition. Although this progress is not very tangible, that cannot be denied.

Prof. Shri Prakash is seen at the right of Ambassador Shaida Mohammad Abdali
Prof. Shri Prakash is seen at the right of Ambassador Shaida Mohammad Abdali

Without dwelling on what Afghanistan had gone through in the last more than three decades, Mr Abdali outlined the areas where Afghanistan has moved on a new phase which he called the ‘transformation decade’ and what the country has achieved in the last few years. These ‘achievements’ among others include political transition in the form of elections which he termed “historic through peaceful transfer of power” in which millions of Afghans, around 40 percent of them being women, turned out to vote. This transition is based on the institution capacity of the country which has taken shape during 13 years and which includes security and military transition as well. But it is not out of the woods and therefore to ensure that Afghanistan becomes self-reliant and realizes its potential, it needs commitment from both the Afghan government and the international community.

The second transition is also the political transition but in the dual form of political means and peace efforts which had not been a success so far. It is an ongoing process, based on internationally agreed upon red lines, which calls for “end of violence” and joining of the mainstream Afghanistan population for a tangible result.

The third is the economic transition which is overshadowed by security issues but “We tackle it as parallel to the political process to ensure that the country makes progress economically”. He said that despite huge resources which remain untapped, Afghanistan continues to seek commitment from the international community and various international forums for its own benefit and for the benefit of its neighbouring South Asian and Central Asian countries. However, due to the issue of terrorism, insecurity continues with “external roots” and that exploits Afghanistan’s vulnerabilities which impede its progress. Added to it are some new phenomena like the rise of the ISIS which is trying to replace the old security threats and is reaching out to Afghanistan’s borders.

Many of these are not Afghan-centric issues rather global security concerns, he said and added that it was therefore important to look how these [threats] were affecting South Asia and Central Asia and how they should be addressed. He emphasized on recognizing the geo-political significance of the Afghanistan and spill-over effects of any security threats to the region. He cited the example of the brutal killing of schoolchildren in Peshawar. In his very weighed and calculated words, Mr. Abdali said that Afghanistan’s security was also a security challenge for Pakistan which calls for joint measure between the two neighbours.

A former Deputy National Security Advisor to the former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Mr Abdali said that there were two options to deal with this situation; a win-win or a zero-sum narrative adding that Afghanistan was at the centre of a region which can facilitate a make or break situation where a make would be win-win and break would be zero-sum. However, a zero-sun solution could be negative and therefore a regional support was required. He saw its possibility with organizations like the SAARC and, or SCO and other regional and international organizations. He said, “Afghanistan views SAARC as the most vital organisation that can create a positive atmosphere among South Asian and Central Asian countries”. Against this backdrop the Ambassador made a special mention of India’s long-historic relations with Afghanistan which had further strengthened after the signing off the strategic agreement in 2011 which includes cooperation in almost all aspects of life.

Mr. Abdali, who has also served as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives and has been Special Assistant to Karzai, mentioned about the Istanbul Process by which he saw progress coming through CBMs (Confidence Building Measures). He urged to learn from the failed approaches and build constructive partnerships between Afghanistan and its neighbours to avoid repetition of past failures. He talked about different Strategic Partnership Agreements (SPAs) and important bilateral agreements, international conferences on Afghanistan like London Conference reiterating commitments to the country, and the expectations from the region and beyond.

So far as withdrawal of the international troops from Afghanistan is concerned, he said that even when the troops are withdrawn, “it does not mean we say good-bye” to one another. If troops are withdrawn it shows the strength we have developed. It is a success story. It shows our generated capacity over the years. Moreover, international communities’ commitment to Afghanistan continues to exist. Post-2014, mainly the US forces in a size of 10000 to 12000 will stay for at least another decade to train, assistant and advise Afghanistan’s national security forces.  And there is a similar arrangement for some NATO forces. The perception that troops’ withdrawal will create vacuum is untrue. Afghanistan is not going back to a ‘neglect era that occurred in the 90s’. Today it has secured a long-term international security support in the form of strategic partnership agreements. He, however, warned against any “premature disengagement in Afghanistan”.  

Prof. Shri Prakash, Officiating Director of the AIS presided over the proceedings of the talk which among others had the Press Secretary of the Embassy, Mr. Zubair Juenda and Secretary for Education and Cultural Affairs Mr. Safiullah Delawar, Prof. Ajay Darshan Behera, Dr. Mathew Joseph, Dr. K. N. Tennyson, Dr. Angira Sen Sharma, Dr. Shalini Chawla, faculty members and students, and especially a good number of students from Afghanistan enrolled in different courses of the university.

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