Embassy of Afghanistan - News

Originally published on February 4, 2016,  Hindustan Times

 

Pakistan key to Afghanistan peace process: CEO Abdullah Abdullah

 

As Afghanistan pushes ahead with the slow, tortuous process of trying to engage with the Taliban, CEO Abdullah Abdullah believes Pakistan holds the key to a successful outcome.

After all, Taliban leaders and some groups are based in Pakistan as the fighting continues and Afghanistan tries to convince all stakeholders that terrorism and radicalisation will not serve the interests of all countries in the region, he said.

“Pakistan is the country which can do the most in terms of influencing the Taliban’s attitude, I think Pakistan has the most influence,” Abdullah said during an interaction with a group of journalists.

“Though there is no country that can control the attitude of every single Taliban fighter, in the overall picture, Pakistan is the country which has most influence.”

Days ahead of the next meeting in Islamabad of the quadrilateral process involving Afghan, Chinese, Pakistan and US officials, Abdullah said the “main obstacle” to the nascent peace process is that the Taliban have given no indication that they will renounce violence, sever links with terror groups and become part of the political set-up.

Besides, the Taliban were “more divided than ever” following the revelation last year that their supreme leader Mullah Omar had died in 2013. The process had been further complicated by the emergence of the Daesh or Islamic State and its rivalry with the Taliban, the 55-year-old Abdullah said.

  

“We are keen to pursue the peace process,” he said. But the complexities were evident because the Taliban launched a war for two years in the name of Mullah Omar and Taliban representatives made contacts with the government in his name even though the supreme leader had been dead during this period, Abdullah pointed out.

After the news of Mullah Omar’s death became public, there had been no further contacts with the Taliban and the quadrilateral process is now working on a roadmap to take things forward.

Abdullah was quick to dismiss any suggestion that India was in the dark about the peace process simply because it had no formal role in it. He said there were other forums, such as the 6+1 group on Afghanistan, that help Kabul keep New Delhi “appraised of all developments”.

Describing India as a strategic partner, he said: “India is a trusted friend who has stayed together with us and contributed to the well-being of millions of Afghans.”

He added: “India’s position is that the process must be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned and India is fully in the picture...I don’t think there is a desire to keep any country out (of the process).

Abdullah praised India’s role in development and infrastructure projects, such as the construction of hospitals, the Salma Dam, the new parliament building and the push to connect Afghanistan with Iran’s Chahbahar port, and made a special note of New Delhi’s recent decision to provide four Mi-35 gunship helicopters.

Abdullah refused to comment on reports of a link between the near-simultaneous attacks on the Pathankot airbase and the Indian consulate at Mazar-e-Sharif and Pakistan’s accusation that Pakistani Taliban fighters operate from Afghan soil but said: “We know what’s happening, we have suffered for years because of the activities of groups which we know where they are based.

“The issue is that there are enough lessons for all of us. There is one big lesson that these terrorist groups, regardless of who created them, who helped or supported them, (they) will turn against the states.”

Originally published on February 4, 2016,  The Hindu

India in the loop on Taliban talks: Abdullah

 
 
Afghanistan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah gestures during an interview with “The Hindu” in New Delhi on Thursday. Photo: R.V. Moorthy
Abdullah doesn’t rule out possibility of link between Pathankot and attack on Indian mission.

India has been kept in the loop on “each and every development” in the Taliban reconciliation process, Afghanistan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah said in New Delhi on Thursday, ahead of the next round of talks in Islamabad on February 6, 2016.

In his first interview on the Pathankot attacks that occurred at the same time as the attack on the Indian mission in Mazar-e-Sharif in early January, Dr. Abdullah said he could not rule out both attacks being launched by the Jaish-e-Mohammad, but said it was “too early to make a judgement” on any link between them or to the transfer of Mi-35 helicopters by India to Afghanistan just a week prior to the attacks.

Dr. Abdullah said that the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Kabul on Christmas had “re-energised” the strategic partnership agreement (SPA) between India and Afghanistan, and the SPA commission headed by the Foreign Ministers, that hasn’t met since 2012, would meet soon to take ties forward.

In particular he said the transfer of four Mi-35 helicopters to Afghanistan had “boosted the morale and combat operations”. Significantly, Dr. Abdullah wouldn’t rule out the possibility of links between the Pathankot attack on January 2, 2016, and the assault on the Indian mission in Mazar-e-Sharif on January 3, 2016 as well as whether Pakistan-based group Jaish-e-Mohammad had carried them out in retaliation for the Indian helicopters being sent to Afghanistan. The helicopters marked the first such lethal military hardware transfer by India, and they have already been put into combat fighting terrorist groups in Helmand Province, officials said.

When asked about the possibility of any link in the two attacks, given the evidence, Dr. Abdullah said he couldn’t give a comment, but wasn’t ruling it out. “Yes, all of this evidence is available, but I cannot make that judgement, because there are two levels to this. (At one level) these terrorist groups and their aims and goals are known. But at the other, details of the attacks and any linkages must be discussed by the countries directly not in the media.”

On the subject of the Taliban talks, Dr. Abdullah said that would be “no pre-conditions for talks with the Taliban” as and when they would be resumed, holding that the only “red-lines” announced by former President Hamid Karzai, which insisted on the Taliban giving up violence and accepting the constitution were meant to be outcomes of the talks, and not pre-conditions.

“If the outcome anyway violates our constitution that is an absolute redline. If the groups want to continue links with terrorists but join the political mainstream the same time, that is an absolute red line too. Or if they want deny the rights for men and women, then that wont be allowed. But there will be no pre-conditions for talks with the Taliban,” Dr. Abdullah told The Hindu.

On the widely held perception that India has opposed talks with the Taliban, and that it was blind-sided by President Ashraf Ghani’s announcement of an intelligence partnership with the ISI, Dr. Abdullah said this was a misconception of the media.

“That’s how you see it from the outside. Within, India is kept in the loop throughout, because India has a stake in the stabilisation of the country and India has helped with stabilising Afghanistan,” he told The Hindu.

During his visit to Delhi, where Dr. Abdullah met Mr. Modi, NSA Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, he discussed the upcoming meeting of the “Quadrilateral Cooperation Group” (QCG), made up of U.S., China, Pakistan and Afghanistan that are facilitating the talks with the Taliban. The meeting on Saturday is expected to lead to a resumption of the direct talks with Taliban leaders that were called off when it emerged that former leader Mullah Omar had been dead for several months, if not more.

In the interview to The Hindu, Dr. Abdullah accepted that the last round of talks with the Taliban, held in July 2015, that were abruptly called off after it emerged that Taliban chief Mullah Omar had been dead for several months were a sham, but that it was necessary to keep engaging Pakistan. “Absolutely it was (a sham)”, Dr. Abdullah said adding “but we have a problem at hand, and it doesn’t matter if we are disappointed or hopeful, we have to make the right efforts (towards reconciliation with the Taliban”.

Earlier, in a media interaction Dr. Abdullah had explained that there had been no attempt to keep India out of the QCG talks, but the countries in the Quadrilateral either “had influence over the Taliban, or influence over the situation in Afghanistan.”

While the U.S. has stayed a complete pullout from Afghanistan until the security situation improves, Pakistan for its “heavy influence over the Taliban”, and China “for its influence over Pakistan” were integral to the process, Dr. Abdullah said.

 

Originally published on November 20, 2015,   NDTV

India to Deliver Helicopter Gunships to Afghanistan: Sources

 
India to Deliver Helicopter Gunships to Afghanistan: Sources
 
 
Indian Air Force attack helicopter gunships -- delivered to Kabul -- will soon be flying in the skies of Afghanistan targeting the Taliban.

Four Russian-made Mi-25 attack helicopters, with the Indian Air Force, will be delivered within the next two months, sources tell NDTV.

After meetings Indian officials in Delhi, Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai told NDTV a deal with India is crucial, since 2015 by far, has been the most "violent year".

"We have had the most casualties. We see daily violence in about 20 provinces, so, it is important to have that covered," he said.

 
This is a marked shift in policy followed from the UPA government's tenure -- of not providing Kabul any lethal weapons or equipment. India has been training around 1,000 Afghan army and other security officers and men a year.

In April, New Delhi supplied military transport vehicles and three small unarmed Cheetal helicopters.

Referring to the coalition drawdown and the vacuum created with the need for helicopter gunships, the Afghan minister said, ""Two and a half years ago, we had about 150,000 coalition forces. To support them, we had over 200,000 military contractors."

But the major counter-terrorist operations, supported by the world's leading militaries, came to rest on Afghan shoulders since the beginning of 2015.

"We now have to develop our own capabilities. This is why we are reaching out to our friends and allies," the minister said.

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has been under pressure for his policy of engaging more with Islamabad rather than Delhi, on security issues, sources told NDTV. With Taliban attacks at an all-time high, he is seen as needing to mend fences with New Delhi.

In an interview to NDTV in April, President Ghani had acknowledged, "The past is past. We are engaged in a comprehensive understanding of our mutual interests and we will act and build on those mutual interests".

Asked if more lethal weaponry has been sought, Minister Hekmat Karzai said, "We have been assured that India is going to look at our requests, and proceed accordingly."

But, as of now, sources say -- apart from the attack helicopters -- those requests will not necessarily lead to a further supply of military equipment that can be used in the battle against the Taliban.

 

Originally published on October 2015,  INDIA EMPIRE

 

In an interview on bilateral trade and economic relations, tourism and business opportunities and Indian community in Afghanistan, Ambassador of Afghanistan to India, Mr Shaida Mohammad Abdali talks to India Empire’s Assistant Editor Misha Singh. Mr Abdali is also concurrently accredited to Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives. In his earlier assignments, he provided the President with policy and oversight advice on national security issues. He administered the National Security Council meetings and chaired the Deputies Committee Meetings of the National Security Council, which facilitated strategic coordination and communication among Afghan and international stakeholders to help address Afghanistan’s security and development needs. Internationally he has been honoured with the CCI Technology Education Excellence Award in 2014 for initiating and promoting education ties between India and Afghanistan; the Honorary Texan Award in the United States of America; the World Green Diplomacy Award in New Delhi in 2013; a gold medal for fostering diplomatic relations between Afghanistan and India by Amity University; and a Life Time Achievement Award by the Lions International Club; and recently Outstanding Achievements Award As the Ambassador of Afghanistan by National Defense University, thereon his image is permanently displayed at the International Hall of Fame

Please let us know about Afghanistan’s bilateral trade and economic relations with India…

Well in the outset let me brief you about the overall outline of the strategic partnership with India which concludes various areas of co-operation. Particularly the economic relationship is very crucial and this is not new, Afghanistan has been a traditional economically integrated country throughout the history. We are trying to expand this relationship as much as possible. We have been working on very strategic economic projects with India which will not only contribute to the economies of India and Afghanistan but the economies of the entire region.

Of course the transit trade agreements that are going to happen in the near future are on the top of the agenda for both countries. This would further promote our economic ties. Currently, we do not have many routes for business. But certainly there are businesses going both ways, large number of business from India go to Afghan and lots of Afghan businesses come to India. There are around 100 Indian companies in Afghanistan, although most of them are in Joint Ventures with Afghan companies in sectors such as services and construction. So, we are very optimistic that Afghan -India relationship will go high and high with the passage of time because of the will in the two countries to be connected socially, culturally, politically and economically. We are making efforts to include India in APTTA (Afghanistan Pakistan Transit and Trade Agreement), hopefully when that happens it will largely help in terms of connectivity between our countries and the businesses will flourish.

Have there been any developments in the bilateral relations of two countries after President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to India?

Definitely. Regardless of the Government or the leadership Afghanistan’s relationship with India is set strong. It only unfolds in an extensive way with the passage of time. Both countries have continuity in relationship with new count rather trying to promote it further. When the President was here he concentrated more on economic aspect of the relationship because the economy matters in terms of our joint goal that we are pursuing for people’s prosperity, development and stability. All of this depends on wellbeing of the people; if they prosper that will definitely have an effect on all the other aspects as well. So, the President’s visit was a very successful one, he discussed issue that I have earlier referred to like connectivity, business and APTTA. The visit was also because the two countries have a strong desire to further expand the relationship. I had proposed to President that we should open some other representative offices to further promote trade which included Consulate General in Hyderabad and an honorary consul’s office in Kolkata. I am glad that he sent a team to assess the feasibility in the context and the idea will soon be realized. I am also thinking of appointing a Commercial Attaché in Amritsar which is the connecting point, so that we have our representation there. This is because if in case any issue related economic or commercial activities arises in Amritsar, he/she would be on the spot to resolve and address the issue. Also, to promote visits of the businessmen from India, Afghanistan is considering extending Multiple Entry Visa for Indian businessmen on long term basis. So, we are constantly working on expansion of our ties with India.

What are the tourism opportunities in Afghanistan that you can let our readers know about?

Afghanistan used to have one of the highest revenues long time back in the 60’s and 70’s from the tourism sector. It is a beautiful country but we have to work together towards the promotion of the tourism industry in the two countries. We need to see how Afghanistan and India can work together on the tourism sector so that people of our country visit Indian and vice versa and also attract tourists from rest of the world. There are so many shared cultural and historical sites that we have in our two countries and we have a co-relationship with one another. So, because of the shared history and values we have to work together for mutual benefits in the promotion of tourism sector of our two countries. So, tourism sector is one of the focused areas of Afghanistan but we hope that there would be conducive and secured environment in order to attract tourists from all over the world.

How do you view the contribution of the Indian community in Afghanistan?

The Indians residing there are Afghans and we have basically no division when it comes to our shared goals and common values. We are blessed with a very diverse community in Afghanistan and Afghanistan without its Indian community or Afghan Hindus will be incomplete. I am always honoured to receive the Afghan Hindu community in Delhi when they are residing here and they come and celebrate with me. We celebrate all the National Days or occasions together here. So, the contribution of Indian community is as crucial as any other community in Afghanistan. They are Afghans, they contribute to the economy of Afghanistan and we hope that they will continue to do so.

Please outline for us the presence of Afghanistan’s companies in India, and Indian companies in Afghanistan…

As I mentioned earlier there are around 100 Indian companies in Afghanistan, they have tie-ups with Afghan businesses there. We are making constant effort to promote the joint business ties. We have begun promoting women business relationship in the last few months. When our first lady was here and the Afghan businessmen were here, we had a big event with FLO. We are also going to sign a MoU in the near future with women business community here and women business community of Afghanistan. So, we are not only promoting the businesses led by men but also the businesses led by women. There is also an exhibition that was organised by us where we invited the businesses from Afghanistan to showcase their products in India. The exhibition was organised under the SAARC umbrella. So, the effort to promote the presence of Afghan companies in India and also the ones who wish to open their office in India are taking place. There are a lot of companies that have contacted us for opening their offices in India, so we are also thinking of building an Afghan complex, where the products will be made available because there are so many Afghan’s living in India. There is large group of Afghan traders here in India basically dealing in dry fruits and fresh fruits sector and this is the business we have been having traditionally with India. But of course we need to promote it and promote other Afghan businesses in India in a more fashioned manner. We need to focus on the value addition services like the packaging and processing.

Please talk us through capacity building and training programmes in Defence and Security…

Well, that is an ongoing process. Army and police officers are being trained on a regular basis. This is under the Strategic Partnership Agreement that we signed in 2011 and it will go on. This is an ongoing co-operation in various areas which are envisaged in the agreement that we have, so all the areas of co-operation that exist in our framework will go on also without the agreement.

What kind of Line of Credit has been offered to Afghanistan by the Indian Government?

There is a programme; it is being conducted from our businesses there in various sectors both on large and small scale. But, this needs a further push in order to make it more visible. This is presently in a preliminary stage, we definitely want this to be lot bigger and overstitched in order to bring more and more businesses under the Line of Credit Programme as well.

Please tell us about the investment opportunities in Afghanistan for Indian exporters.

Afghanistan announced the New Investment Incentive Policy for attracting investment on long term basis in various sectors. These sectors include industry, construction, export promotion, agriculture and mining, wherein the investor would be provided 5 years rent free location, concessional electricity and import of machinery without tax. There are also a lot investment opportunities in sectors like healthcare, minerals, infrastructure, energy and minerals, transportation or logistics, banking, textiles and renewable energy.

What role is Chabahar Port in Iran likely to play in India-Afghan trade relations?

Chabahar Port in Iran is likely to significantly boost the volume of trade between India and Afghanistan by providing shorter route for transporting goods between the two countries besides providing direct access to Central Asia.

 

 

 

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