Embassy of Afghanistan - Speeches, Remarks & Interviews

Originally published on Mar 27, 2018 , Hindustan Times

 

Afghan envoy says terrorism continues to spread from Pakistan

Ambassador Shaida Mohammad Abdali has accused Pakistan of dragging its feet in going after terrorists even after the world community has endorsed Afghanistan’s position on terrorism.

 
Rezaul H Laskar 
Hindustan Times
Shaida Muhammad Abdali is Afghanistan’s ambassador to India.
Shaida Muhammad Abdali is Afghanistan’s ambassador to India.(Sameer Sehgal / HT File Photo)

The Afghan envoy to India, Shaida Mohammad Abdali, says the lack of political will in some countries of the region to mount a coordinated drive against terrorism could have significant ramifications. He accuses Pakistan of dragging its feet in going after terrorists even after the world community has endorsed Afghanistan’s position on terrorism.

Following are excerpts from an interview:

Q. After a spate of terror attacks across Afghanistan, what is the current security situation?

A. Terrorism is an unresolved phenomenon…and terrorism is changing its face, its name and tactics. We are in a situation that makes us all worried, that after years of our counter-terrorism efforts, we have still not been able to curb the problem as we should have. Which I think is nothing but the lack of political will because terrorism is not an indigenous issue, it is a created issue.

Therefore, it’s policies that matter, not the result of policies — the result is the number of terrorist groups that we hear of under different names. We hope that the fight against terrorism will change from tackling the symptoms to the problem itself.

Over the last 16 years, Afghanistan has always asked the world community to focus on the mindset behind terrorist groups in our region. We believe our international allies were consistently misled by the false promises of the war against terrorism. The world community’s outlook has changed but we’re still not there in terms of what we’d like to see – clearly go after the real elements that breed terrorism.

Q. Which country are you referring to?

A. The state sponsorship of terror. No one can shy away from the fact that terrorism continues to spread from within Pakistan. Some may put it that it’s a capacity issue, some may say this is something that will take much longer than one expects. But whatever the reason, it is the responsibility of the government and state to stop the use of its soil against anyone. States have their responsibilities.

The fact of the matter is that terrorist groups still have found the place to live freely and to cross and to then hurt others.

We hope the world community, especially after they acknowledge the problem, today will no longer waste energy and time on rhetoric but on action — what we say we do.

Q. Has the US pressure on Pakistan had any impact?

A. Unfortunately, on the contrary, we have been on the receiving end. After the announcement of (US President Donald Trump’s) South Asia policy, the attacks intensified, and cross-border terrorism increased. That has just one message for me personally — to look at this as if (it’s a) “no” to a call that don’t use terrorism. The ball is in the world community’s court and we have to respond.

Q. What about the rise of the Islamic State in Afghanistan?

A. Many would say the Daesh (another name for Islamic State) of Syria and Iraq has always been there in the Middle East, but in Afghanistan, 80% or more are Taliban converted to Daesh. Taliban have changed their allegiance to Daesh…it is nothing but the continued deception of the world community by presenting terrorism under various labels, to grab attention and to use them.

Q. What about the reports of some Indians joining IS in Afghanistan?

A. It is quite possible. These terrorist groups, they look for people, hire them and use them. The other day I was reading in the newspaper about the presence of al-Qaeda and Daesh in Kashmir. No society would be immune to the kind of problem that we’ve seen in Afghanistan. That’s why we say that we should not be ignorant of the problem that is hurting Afghanistan more and not others, (people) would think this is not a serious issue for others.

If today 100 or so Indians can be hired by Daesh, isn’t it possible that they will add to this number in the years to come? They will, if India and others in this region will not start cooperation based on the interests of everyone — which is to have a safe region. That political will is required and I don’t believe it exists now.

I don’t have doubts about India but I doubt countries including Pakistan, because we don’t see the action that must be (taken against) terrorist groups there. We still see lingering, dragging feet on going after those terrorist groups for whatever reasons.

Q. Steve Coll’s new book, Directorate S, refers to former Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani’s demand that Afghanistan should end India’s influence in the country. Your reaction.

A. It’s quite distressing to see the expectations of this nature from one neighbour to another neighbour. Can any country in our region accept a demand like this from a neighbour? Can Pakistan accept, for example, Afghanistan’s demand to cut its ties with China? No way, and we will never ask.

That’s the basics of the problem. On the one hand, we talk of sovereignty and we say countries are sovereign in decision-making and then ask to cut off ties with a neighbour.

I know of these demands, we have heard for years of a desire that we should have no ties with India. The Afghanistan that I know and belong to will never ever surrender to anyone’s demand of this nature, whether this is vis-à-vis India or any other nation.

This is a futile exercise — whichever country thinks Afghanistan will one day come round and bow and surrender and say we will do whatever you say. We did not bow to Russia, we did not bow to Britain.

Wrap up this demand and allow Afghanistan to live in peace with all neighbours. We have no designs on or bad feelings for any country, but a sovereign right to be friendly with countries that we have been historically tied to so strongly, including India…In no way Afghanistan will think of decreasing, let alone cutting off, ties with India. The relationship is not designed against anyone.

Q. What is the current status of the peace process with the Taliban?

A. Afghanistan, in the last three years, has shown to the world that it is sincere about what it says. It had two agendas under the current government – that we will have two channels of contacts for peace. One, a state-to-state relationship with Pakistan and two, contacts and talks with the Taliban.

We started with Pakistan, unprecedented steps were taken by President (Ashraf) Ghani to show that we were sincere to resolve the problems with Pakistan. I don’t want to go into details of how many visits took place, how much we waited and the mechanisms that were established, like the quadrilateral of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US.

The quadrilateral – I clearly see a reason for India to object. We have explained and India has always understood and accepted Afghanistan’s position. What was delivered after months and years of meetings of the quadrilateral – there was nothing but continued war.

Everything that Pakistan said, we did it, at immense political cost in Afghanistan. I must tell you we failed.

The latest peace offer to the Taliban could not have been imagined a year ago – that we would offer everything from holding passports, to having a political party in Afghanistan and with no conditions for talks. They have always asked for everything that we have offered, such as removing them from the blacklist and we offered them an office in Kabul and accepting them as a legitimate political party.

 

 

Originally published on May 04, 2018 , ANI

 

Afghan Ambassador to India Shaida Mohammad Abdali
Afghan Ambassador to India Shaida Mohammad Abdali

2018 bloodiest year for Afghan Media: Afghan Ambassador to India

ANI | Updated: May 04, 2018 19:14 IST

New Delhi [India], May 04 (ANI): Afghan Ambassador to India Shaida Mohammad Abdalion Friday dwelled upon the killing of nine journalists in the war-torn country's capital city Kabul in dual blasts on Monday.

"This was the bloodiest year for Afghan Media. This was an attack on global media. More importantly, this attack was on Afghan youth," Abdali said at a condolence meeting held here to pay homage to killed journalists.

"Afghanistan, in terms of security, is a challenge but at the same time, it is not the most dangerous place. We are trying our best to protect media," the Afghan diplomat added.

Earlier on Monday, two suicide bombers killed almost 30 people in the double bombing in Shash Darak area of Kabul city. Nine journalists were also killed in the incident.

The second attacker impersonated as a member of the media fraternity.

According to the reports, the journalists who have been killed have been identified as Agence France-Presse's (AFP) photographer Shah Marai, Radio Free Europe's Ebadullah Hananzai and Sabawoon Kakar Tolonews' Yar Mohammad Tokhi, 1TV's Ghazi Rasooli and Nowrooz Rajabj, Mashal TV's Saleem Talash and Ali Salimi, Shamsad TV's Mahram Durani.

The condolence meet was jointly organised by South Asian Women in Media and Foreign Correspondents' Club here. (ANI)

Originally published on Mar 01, 2018 , Firstpost

Resolving India's energy woes hinges on peace with Taliban, says Afghan Ambassador Shaida Abdali, but hopes Pakistan will respond

In a landmark speech, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani opened the door to even revising Afghanistan's Constitution if the Taliban renounces violence. His speech came at the start of a conference in Kabul, where representatives of 25 countries, including India and Pakistan, are in attendance. The road map has been drawn up after consultations with those countries.

Pakistan's response — in deeds rather than words — will be crucial to determining whether this initiative will lead South Asia towards greater stability and cooperation or more fissures and violence. The Taliban's sanctuaries in Pakistan have allowed them to outlast all efforts against them since the US-led war on Afghanistan started at the end of 2001.

File image of Shaida Abdali. Courtesy: Twitter/@ShaidaAbdali

File image of Shaida Abdali. Courtesy: Twitter/@ShaidaAbdali

Economic priorities

The pipeline to bring gas from Central Asia to India would be the first project to benefit if the Taliban responds positively to the ground-breaking offer, Afghan Ambassador to India, Dr Shaida Abdali, said in an exclusive interview, a couple of hours after Ghani's speech ended in Kabul.

Work on the Afghan leg of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline begun last week. The 1,800-kilometre pipeline could potentially bring 33 billion cubic feet of gas to the energy-starved subcontinent for a period of over 30 years.

Last-ditch initiative

Asked if Ghani's speech was a "last-ditch attempt", Abdali nodded, but preferred to call it a "never-before offer" and a "golden opportunity".

 

Recent terrorist attacks in Kabul have signaled that the Taliban may not be positively inclined to respond. In fact, many observers see the government and its backers in the US and other countries as running out of options. US president Donald Trump had announced a roadmap for Afghanistan last year, in which he named India as a key partner.

Indicating that the Taliban's strength hinged on Pakistan's support, Abdali said, "We hope our neighbours, particularly Pakistan, will respond."

 

Calling Taliban's attacks an "engineered way of declaring a war against its neighbours", Abdali said even Pakistan acknowledges that they come from there. Speaking of a "lack of sincerity", Abdali said, "We want an end to their sanctuaries. If Pakistan thinks it can block the region from integration, it should already know by now (that blocking) is not a viable option. We have already moved beyond."

He spoke glowingly of the recent progress on the Chabahar port in Iran, the very successful visit of Iran's president, and the fact that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also supported the Chabahar project. Chabahar is close to Pakistan's Gwadar port but is located on the Iranian coast. It is the alternative route through which trade and possibly oil supply could be routed between Central Asia and India.

Unparalleled bond with India

Referring to what he called India's "unmatched support" since 2001, Abdali spoke of New Delhi as a "special friend", one that "will go for the long haul". India has invested heavily in building roads and hospitals in Afghanistan during this period, and has earned immense goodwill among Afghans in various parts of the country.

India is a part of what is called the 'Kabul Process', through which the proposals announced on Wednesday were forged. This is the second conference in the 'Kabul Process'.

Following intense consultations which followed the initial conference, Ghani has offered a mutual ceasefire, an exchange of prisoners, and the possibility of constitutional reform. Abdali confirmed that his government was open to calling a Loya Jirga (grand council) of representatives from across the country, like the one that drafted the current Constitution.

Afghanistan is due to have elections for a new Parliament later this year, and for a new president next year. Abdali said that those elections would go forward, although the presidential elections could be delayed a little, depending on the response to the latest initiative.

Originally published on February 28, 2018 , Express Computer

We are stepping up collaboration in technology with India: Afghan Ambassador to India Shaida Mohammad Abdali

 

What comes to your mind when you hear Afghanistan? Perhaps Taliban, terrorism or a war-torn country, struggling to balance itself and its relationship with India, Pakistan and the US. But this is not the full story. After the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001, much has changed in Afghanistan—be it construction, communication, key infrastructure, education and security—there is gradual improvement. In all these sectors, India is playing a crucial role. So far, it has committed $3 billion and now governments of both the countries are stepping up their collaboration in technology, specially in the areas of e-governance, smart cities, ICT in education and election management.

In an interview with Mohd Ujaley, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to India Shaida Mohammad Abdalishares his views on importance of good relation between Indian and Pakistan for the region, India’s role in rebuilding Afghanistan and how his country is now collaborating on tech front with India. He said, “We are keen to explore India’s technology prowess, specially in areas of governance, education and election management.”

India is contributing in rebuilding effort of Afghanistan, at what level this partnership is being replicated in technology space?

There is deep gratitude of people of India and government of India for all they have done for Afghanistan for last many years. Especially after collapse of Taliban regime in 2001, much has changes in Afghanistan. Not only in technology space, also in other fields like construction, communication, establishing of key infrastructure, education and security. In all these areas, India has played defining role. We have done it under the strategic partnership agreement that we signed in 2011. This agreement is the guidelines for the two countries to continue the engagement.

India’s assistance particularly in education is considerable given the fact that it was our priority. Having suffered for decades, we needed an impactful education for our youth. India got on this early. Today, we have thousands of students who have studied in India and have return to Afghanistan. As a matter of fact, around 16 thousand graduates returned to Afghanistan from India after completing various courses.

Today India has developed so much in technology. It is contributing within the country and beyond. On this, we are keen to indulge with India, because it is the technology that makes one smart rather than too much of affords in other field. If we invest meaningfully in technology, it will achieve more things in easier manner. India recently announced $1 billion aid for Afghanistan, in addition to $2 billion, it has already invested. The new $1 billion investment, we have decided to use it for irrigation, rehabilitation and training. In training, technology is an integral part. We want our youth and government officials to become digital savvy and sophisticated in technological areas. So, we have launched number of programmes. One of them is Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme for Afghanistan men and women. Under this programme, government officials and others from Afghanistan come on regular basis for computer and vocational training in India.

We are now focusing on technology more than anything else. Recently, attorneys from Afghanistan came and got trained for three months in finger print technology in India. They were from 40 to 50 provinces in Afghanistan. Now, they all are applying those learning after returning to Afghanistan. This is just an example, we all are going to engage and learn more from India.

For examples, elections management is one area where we feel that we can learn a lot from India. Afghanistan is heading for two crucial elections – President and Parliamentary – in next two years. India’s method to use technology in elections, specially the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) have been very cost effective and we are deeply looking into this to adopt it in Afghanistan. We will be sending our teams very soon. We have already discussed with India to establish a collaboration between election commission of India and election commission of Afghanistan. The collaboration will enable training for Afghanistan Election Commission officers in India, so that they can go back and prepare our next election according to the system India has, which is highly tested one.

How soon are you going to establish this collaboration?

We already had number of delegates exchanges. Since, we recently announce redress for election in Afghanistan, we will now step up this effort, more than what we did in the past. We have already discussed and agreed that India and Afghanistan will collaborate on election. Now the planning is under process so that we start systematically in which particular field training should start first and other later. So a lot is happening on this front.

How is the response of India’s Election Commission to this collaboration?

They are absolutely positive about it. They want to help us. It has been decided at the highest level that India will be contributing in election reform. Not only this, we are also looking at the vocational training programmes. New officers, officials and new graduates from Afghanistan will be trained in vocational courses in India. They will also be given year long training programme.  So we have a big scheme of technological cooperation between India and Afghanistan for investment.

Recently, India has decided to build 100 Smart Cities. Those cities will be technologically rich. Is Afghanistan also partnering on this with India?

Definitely, we are building new cities and certainly we are planning those cities according to the needs of the people and the way other cities in the world are developed. To this end, we also have a bilateral treaty. We visited many states in India and together we have developed an Idea that we will create the concept of sister cities. So far, 12 cities of Afghanistan have principally agreed with various states in India to have sister city relationship. Cities like Delhi-Kabul, Hyderabad–Jalalabad and Kolkata–Mazar-i-Sharif  among others have been chosen based on their commonality and hopefully, we will sign an official agreement soon. This would mean that they would share the best practices and key learning from one another.

Yes, reform and old city to be amended on the context of new city is the difficult task but you have new city rising in many parts of India. We are looking at our old city to have proper planning as per the need of the people and at the same time building new city in collaboration with our friends and allies particularity India.

In 2006, India rolled out National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) to make all government services accessible to the common man, over the years this has significantly changed the speed of e-governance in India. Is Afghanistan also looking to leverage e-governance?

The ITEC programme that I mentioned you have an element of e-governance. Afghanistan is very much looking at India’s e-governance programmes. Because paperless world is the reality. Technology intervention in the government improve transparency and it is a weapon to fight corruption. Afghanistan has made lot of progress in this segment. Through our technological cooperation, it will be an important factor in Afghanistan development in e-governance.

Most of the big technology companies usually go to the market where it finds stability and substantial business. How Afghanistan is attracting big technology firms?

Look, Afghanistan is a great market for technology companies and there are number of reasons for that. Afghanistan’s 65% population is below 25 years of age. These youth interest is unbelievably high in technology, media and communication. One of the biggest achievement of the Afghanistan in last 15 years is in the communication field. We had nothing till 2001 when Taliban was ruling, today we have 20 million mobile users in Afghanistan, this signifies the interest of a nation in the technology. Similarly, you can see interest in other medium like TV channels and internet.

Once, we had only one state TV station, today we have more than 60 TV channels, more than 200 newspapers and use of social media has grown like anything. So the market is huge in Afghanistan because of youth, they are attached to technology, the way any other nation is around the world, perhaps ours is more because they are young and fresh. They want to learn things via internet. People who have invested in Afghanistan have made millions of dollar. I remember one telephone company earlier on in 2002 invested $45 million and in no time that company had investment of $200 million in Afghanistan.

Countries seem to be going back to fencing. Neighbours like US–Mexico, Ireland–United Kingdom and Afghanistan–Pakistan are mulling to cement the border. Do you thing fencing is a solution in today’s tech-savvy world?

Fencing border is no solution. Fencing border would mean that your are dealing with the symptoms of the problem, not the root of the problem. Now, terrorism has become so sophisticated that you cannot stop it by simply creating walls or creating fences. Fighting terrorism and creating security would mean that we should focus at the root level, that we stop the nurturing of the terrorist who would want to cross over to the country.

I don’t believe fencing the border would solve problem anywhere in the world. Today, it is the connected world. How would one defined the global world if we start creating borders and fences? In fact, word is borderless because of existing facility like mobile and internet. So, I believe it is very outdated effort to think that fencing will create security. The best approach would be to look at the reason for the security challenges. Basically, the terror networks were given support by the states, after training, they cross over to other country. We need to get rid of those centres rather than fencing the border.

You recently wrote a book – AFGHANISTAN PAKISTAN INDIA: A Paradigm Shift. It is quite unusual for a serving ambassador to do so because many things that you have discussed is being dealt by you. What was the reason behind it?

You are right. Book writing is normally considered for those who retires. But I believe in thinking outside the box which is needed in today’s condition. We are living in a precarious situation, especially on the front of insecurity and its treatment. We have dealt with these challenges diplomatically but with this book I gave an idea that we should be speaking of the issue at hand while one is officially designated to deal with it rather than hiding it and share it with the world when one is no longer with official responsibility.

You said that it is unusual. You are right, it is unusual but the things that we used to do usually have not delivered the intended result, therefore unusual steps need to be taken. If you recall, since last three decades, we are dealing situation on economic development to security mechanism to range of other issues but we have not been able get out of this precarious challenge in the region. In fact, the situation has become more volatile.

That draw me doing something which was unusual. Because it was important for me to be frank. I have written about countries relationship with one another, their problems and challenges and existing treaties which have potential to strengthen ties but we have not pay attention to them. So, in that book I have been very frank about my own experience in last 15 years in the government.

Also, I can see situation in this region becoming more and more difficult. That is why it is important to think differently and experiment with new ideas. When you speak out while you are in position, you are heard more.

In your book, you have mentioned about the importance of good relation between India-Pakistan in the region but on most of the challenging issues like terrorism or Kashmir, we don’t see any consensus. In fact, in last few years, they have become an integral part of vote bank politics on both side of the border. Is there anyway that we could get out of this?

I have not only written about the need for good relationship between Indian and Pakistan but also the role these countries have to play in harmonisation in the region. I have analysed the impact of the improved relation among these three country. I have also analyse the challenges that we face and at the same time the treaty that exist which we can use to address some of the issues.

I believe that unless we diffuse the situation that has kept us apart, we will not be able to see prosperity, peace and the development in any of these countries. Currently one may be better than the other politically, economically or in any other manner, but because of spillover effect, the impact of what currently going in one country on the other is inevitable. I know some of the issues can’t be solved overnight but we have to take steps to resolve our issues.

I understand the conflict that we have at the borders and number of other difficulty that we face but I have suggested some very easy steps which should not have any reference to any other difficulty but to improvement in the life of people of these three countries. Economic trade and business, we must separate them from political issues or security reservation. If we put these things apart, we will be able to move on issue which are doable. I know, there are issues which cannot be touched, but there are many things that can easily be handled. It will at least open the door for a relationship that shall ultimately evolved towards complete resolution.

We have number of cases globally and I have refer to those cases of the wars in Europe, the difficultly that world power and neighbour have among one another like France and Germany. They fought two world war but today you can see how closer they are. If those countries after having difficulties for year and with cost of billions, could resolve and live together peacefully, why can’t we?

I still believe that we cannot continue on the path that we are on without thinking of ways and means that we have to start at some point and removing the gap that exist, between our states.

I want everyone to be beneficiary of that outcome, which I will continue to insist upon that we need to open up and we need to talk.  This is something, we see happening. For example, Chabahar Port, I know some may not like it, but ultimately this is not only going to connect people of three countries but the entire region, it will pass through Middle-East and Afghanistan, so we need to think about the positive aspect of the relationship.

 

Contacts

Embassy of I.R. of Afghanistan
New Delhi

5/50F, Shantipath
Chanakyapuri
New Delhi-110021
Phone: +91-11-2410 0412
Fax: +91-11-2687 5439
 delhimfa.af

Consulate General of I.R. of Afghanistan
Mumbai

115, Walkeshwar Rd, Walkeshwar,
Malabar Hill, Mumbai,
Maharashtra 400006
Phone: +91-22-2363 3777
Fax: +91-22 2363 5437