As part of its Ambassador Lecture Series, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) in collaboration with the India International Center (IIC), hosted Ambassador Abdali to deliver a lecture and take part in an interaction at IIC on Friday, July 5, 2013. The topic of the said interaction was: “Winning or Failing in Afghanistan, Implications for Regional Stability & Global Security”. The event was chaired by Ambassador T. C. A. Rangachari, former Indian Ambassador to Algeria, France and Germany and currently the Director of Academy of International Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia.

In his lecture, Ambassador Abdali gave account of the recent economic, political, security developments, the status of the peace process in Afghanistan, and Afghanistan – India relations.

Most of the interaction focused on the recently opened Taliban office in Doha. On the subject of this office, Ambassador Abdali said: “The Taliban flag hoisted in their Doha office and the sign board of the so called ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ was an attempt to divide Afghanistan, but this attempt failed like it did in the 90’s and will fail in the future too. The Government and people of Afghanistan, regardless of their political affiliations or beliefs, took a united stand by raising a concerted voice against this attempt and succeeded in bringing down the Taliban flag and sign board”.

The lecture was followed by a Q&A session. In reply to a question on what Afghanistan expected from the world, Ambassador Abdali said: “Afghanistan expects partnerships, not interference. No one can dictate our relations with anyone”. He welcomed India’s position on peace talks, as well as that of Russia China and others’.

On Afghan – US relations, while thanking the Government and people of the United States for their generous assistance to Afghanistan, Ambassador Abdali said that Afghanistan supports US presence in the country beyond 2014 provided Afghanistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are respected. He added that Afghanistan strongly seeks a political settlement to the ongoing problem in the country, but cannot compromise on the shared gains of Afghanistan and the international community in the last 12 years. He further noted that Afghanistan’s relations with its international partners have so far been tactical and operational, but the fulfillment of their commitments in the framework of partnerships beyond 2014 is strategic and we are working on building such relations.

On the role of major regional powers in bringing stability to Afghanistan, Ambassador Abdali said that major regional powers like India, China and Russia should make shared efforts to bring stability to Afghanistan and thus, ensure regional stability. In response to a question on the impact of improved relations between India and Pakistan on Afghanistan, he said that the improvement of relations between India and Pakistan will certainly have its positive impacts to help improve the situation in Afghanistan.

In response to a question on the current economic crises in the region, Ambassador Abdali said that regional economic integration is the only way out of the economic crises the region is facing and Afghanistan is working vigorously to implement major projects with other countries in the region, for regional economic integration. Below is the link for the whole speech:

Remarks of HE Ambassador Abdali at IPCS 7-5-13

Remarks By

 

Ambassador of Afghanistan to India

H.E. Shaida M. Abdali

At

International Conference on Regional Development, Sustainability and Socio-Economic Development in Jammu & Kashmir

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 18, 2013

Kashmir University, Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir, India

 

 

Thank you for the kind, generous introduction.

Minister Muhammad Akbar Lone,

Vice Chancellor Talat Ahmad,

Vice Chancellor S. K. Sopory,

Distinguished Scholars,

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please allow me to extend the warm greetings of the Afghan people and government to the people and government of Jammu & Kashmir. I am quite delighted to be here on my very first visit, as Ambassador of Afghanistan to India, and look forward to many future opportunities like today to return to this beautiful, picturesque Indian State. Indeed, on hearing the word “Kashmir,” one is rightfully reminded of what Emperor Jahangir once said about this awesome land: “If there is paradise on Earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.”

I would like to thank Kashmir University and its related academic departments for organizing this important international conference, and for honoring me to be a guest and participant. The range of topics of development for discussion in the conference is quite comprehensive in detail and substance. I look forward to learning from presentations of research on the various aspects of sustainable development of Jammu & Kashmir today and tomorrow.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I was going through the book of abstracts on issues of development relating to the State of Jammu & Kashmir, I was struck by the many commonalities Afghanistan shares with the State. It is true that each region of the world and the countries therein have their distinct contexts, as far as how and whether they have developed.

At the same time, however, the development challenges they confront are strikingly similar.  And that is why the classification of countries along the continuum of least developed, developing, and developed makes sense, in accordance with which policies, reforms, and resource allocations are to be made. It also helps us ask analytical questions about causes of development and lack thereof in any given context, be it at a national or sub-national level, while looking for relevant lessons to be learned.

Back in the year 2000, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was internationally recognized as a vehicle to advance the sustainable development agenda. This is in part based on the experience of those developed countries, which have been able to address issues of extreme poverty, universal primary education, gender equality, health-care, environmental security, and so on. In this context, it seems to me that MDGs presupposes the existence of an enabling environment, especially in terms of protective security, where the eight plus goals might be implemented overtime. But that is not the case with every country or regions in a country.

 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In Afghanistan, a lack of security has prevented all forms of development from happening for too long. To begin with, our country was one of the least developed countries of the world even before the advent of destructive conflicts of the past three decades imposed on our people. That is why we strongly believe that had Afghanistan not been exploited as a proxy battlefield of the Cold War (1980s) and its aftermath (1990s), development of our country could have gradually taken off.

Through sustainable investment in education, we could have slowly built a productive labor force, and harnessed it to exploit our natural resources. The revenues generated from export of our natural resources could have been spent to build our country’s infrastructure, which in turn would have contributed to a sustainable economic growth in Afghanistan. These were the objectives of our former governments before the Communist Revolution of 1979, which unfortunately ushered in over two decades of destructive insecurity in Afghanistan. This tragedy foreclosed any hope of sustainable development in the country.

 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The fall of Taliban in 2001 ushered in a new era of hope for reconstruction and sustainable development of Afghanistan. At numerous international conferences, we presented to the international community a number of long-term blueprints for development of our country. Based on many lessons learned over the course of almost a decade, in 2010, we presented to the international community the Afghanistan National Development Strategy. This Strategy takes into consideration the MDGs, among other sustainable development benchmarks. And it addresses the specific needs of Afghanistan within a sequenced framework for implementation, with long-term international financial and technical support.

 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On our achievements in the areas of social and economic development, I am glad to report that access to education and health care has increased manifold across Afghanistan. More than 8 million children (40 % girls) have gone back to school, and some 80% of our people have access to some kind of basic health care, which was nonexistent under the Taliban.

At the same time, each year, thousands of students go on to pursue higher education at public and private universities across Afghanistan. And many others have gone to India and other countries for higher education. The net impact of these achievements has contributed to a high rate of economic growth year after year, currently estimated at 8 percent.

 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The key challenge on our path to sustainable development remains insecurity with external roots. This is a predicament that we share with Jammu & Kashmir, whose process of development has also been harmed by external security threats. In the past twelve years, many government and private sector employees and workers working on our reconstruction and development projects have been targeted by terrorist attacks. Such attacks have discouraged domestic and private investment in Afghanistan, which is a key driver of economic growth.

Of course, our economy is primarily undermined by such attacks, but, as we know from the past, when Afghanistan is destabilized, it will entail spillover consequences for the rest of the region. We have brought this fact to the attention of our neighbors time and again, stating that the future of our region lies in economic cooperation geared towards integration. Achieving this rests on open borders and increased people to people contacts in all spheres of life. Indeed, this is the demand and the call of our globalizing era.

 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My country is going through a transition period where Afghans increasingly take over the task of securing and developing our country. In the Tokyo Conference last July, the international community and our government committed to a long-term partnership based on mutual accountability.

In the next five years, some 16 billion dollars will be provided in international aid to ensure economic stability in Afghanistan beyond 2014 and into a decade of transformation focused on sustainable development of the country. This effort is bolstered by major bilateral contributions from the friendly government and people of India, whose most effective assistance has helped build critical institutional capacity and infrastructure in Afghanistan.

We remain indebted to India for sharing part of its own bread with Afghanistan, and look forward to learning from the country’s reservoir of development experience and expertise, including from those of Indian States, like Jammu & Kashmir, with the kind of development challenges we share in Afghanistan.

I wish you all a very successful conference with many productive sessions today and tomorrow.

 

 

Thank you.

 

Indo-Afghan relations: A Perspective on Political, Economic and Security Situation in Afghanistan

The Honorable Prashant Girbane,

Dr. Dilip Padgaonkar,

Excellency’s

Distinguished Media Representatives

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please allow me to thank the International Center for inviting me to have a dialogue with you today. This is my second time to visit this beautiful City of knowledge and multicultural diversity, where more than two thousand Afghan students are busy studying and learning. I do look forward to many more visits to Pune in the future, and maintaining a regular working relationship with the Pune International Center.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Indo-Afghan relations are multidimensional rooted in centuries of shared history, shared civilization, and shared cultural and traditional commonalities. The last decade of Indo-Afghan relationship is only a continuation of our centuries-old ties, ties that have been tested time and again, and proven to be solid as rock and deep as ocean. Even though our governments naturally understood the depth of our ties and capitalized on them to work with one another on the reconstruction and stabilization of Afghanistan, we took another joint step forward to formalize our understanding of Indo-Afghan shared destiny.

In October 2011, our two governments signed the Afghanistan-India Strategic Partnership Agreement, the very first such Agreement we have ever signed with any of our near or extended neighbors in the region. The people of Afghanistan overwhelmingly endorsed this historic Agreement, encompassing comprehensive cooperation between our two nations. More specifically, the Agreement provides for security and defense, political, socio-economic, and cultural cooperation between Afghanistan and India, along with relevant mechanisms of implementation.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The overarching mechanism of implementing the Agreement is the Council for Partnership chaired by our two Foreign Ministers, who met in New Delhi last year. As we speak, we are now working on forming joint working groups along the sectors, which I mentioned, to set our shared priorities, based on the objectives of the Agreement, in line with the National Priority Programs of Afghanistan. This effort is aimed at building upon the $2 billion in critical assistance, which the people and government of India have so generously provided Afghanistan with, in the last 12 years.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

With the support of India and the international community, we have made significant progress in the area of political development. Over the past decade, we have systematically built or r ebuilt the central and local institutions of the state. Our state institutions have increasingly gained the capacity to deliver basic services to our people across the country.  India has been an integral part of this journey of ongoing success, and has built the Parliament of Afghanistan, a national project of immense importance and a sign of India’s firm commitment to institutionalization of democracy and peace in our country.

In the area of economic growth, India is leading the implementation of two regional confidence building measures (CMBs) to further expand regional commerce and trade with Afghanistan, as well as promoting and facilitating cross-border regional investment in Afghanistan. This vital economic effort by India stems from our shared interest in results-oriented economic cooperation towards an integrated region where everyone would prosper.  Moreover, India has made significant contributions to construction or reconstruction of Afghanistan’s infrastructure, which has boosted our economic growth.

We are thankful to India for the building of the Zaranj-Delaram highway, connecting Afghanistan internally and with Iran’s Chahbahar port, giving us an alternative route to sea for easy and unhindered movement of goods.  As a result of the combined assistance of the international community, including that of India, the World Bank recently reported that our real GDP growth rose from 7.3 to an estimated 11.8 in 2012, while inflation dropped to 6.4 percent. And we are confident that India’s $11 billion investment in the minerals sector of Afghanistan would further enable us to grow a productive economy, slowly helping us achieve economic self-reliance in the years to come beyond 2014.

It is worth mentioning that there are numerous investment opportunities in every sector in Afghanistan. Last June at the Delhi Investment Summit on Afghanistan, our Ministry of Commerce and Industries presented to potential investors a detailed list of “Investment Opportunities in Afghanistan,” which is available online. At the Summit, we informed some 320 participating business representatives of 25 different markets for investment in the following sectors:

  • Energy
  • Minerals
  • Transport
  • Agriculture
  • Small and Medium-Sized Industries
  • ICTs, Finance, Health Services, and Construction

With the exception of a few “first movers” in each of these sectors and their related markets, most of our markets remain under-invested. The government of Afghanistan, in partnership with our allies, frequently encourages regional and international investors to visit Afghanistan and see for themselves the countless, highly profitable investment opportunities in the country.

Last November, President Karzai focused his State Visit to India on encouraging the Indian business community to explore investment opportunities in Afghanistan. Meeting with a group of business leaders in Mumbai, the President even promised to roll out a red carpet for major Indian firms, if they made a move to enter Afghanistan’s virgin markets.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the area of security and defense, we have an expanding relationship with India. India has firmly committed to Afghanistan’s long-term stabilization well beyond 2014. Our shared desire to expand bilateral security and defense cooperation stems from the prevalent threat of narco-terrorism in the region.

We need to enhance our security and defense cooperation, and hold strategic consultations against any impending offensive conventional or unconventional threat to our two countries’ national security interests. The Afghanistan-India Strategic Partnership Agreement provides for such proactive security and defense cooperation between our two countries, and we stand ready to do our part in partnering with India to ensure a more stable and peaceful region, one where zero-sum calculations are permanently replaced by win-win cooperation in the region.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the areas of social development and cultural cooperation, Afghanistan has made notable progress, and India has played a seminal role in these two important sectors in the last 12 years.  More than 6,000 Afghan students are busy studying across India, thanks to the 500 scholarships, which the Indian government annually provides us with. The expertise and skills developed through this partnership with India has already helped fill many capacity gaps across the public and private sectors in Afghanistan.

We have also benefited from India’s contributions to the health-care sector. This includes medical services and equipment through the reconstruction of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health in Kabul, as well as the provision of free medical consultation and services to over 30,000 Afghans monthly, through Indian Medical Missions in five Afghan cities.

I can confidently say that the level of people-to-people contacts between Afghanistan and India is unprecedented. Aside from thousands of Afghan students studying in India, nearly 1,000 Afghans daily visit India. Most visiting Afghans are patients, seeking medical treatment at the Indian private hospitals. This means that stability in Afghanistan, with the assistance of India and the international community, has paid off in various ways: in our patients being treated at home or India, in our two countries’ ties further growing, and in the financial ability of our people directly contributing back to India’s rising economy in the region. Indeed, this is the kind of win-win relationship Afghanistan seeks with every one of our near and extended neighbor, and we are thankful to India for supporting this noble effort without prejudice across our much promising region.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’d like to conclude with a caution, however. Afghanistan’s gains of the past 12 years in the sectors, which I discussed, remain fragile. Above all else, the consolidation of our shared gains require regional leadership and ownership, and India is best positioned to work with us and our common allies to lead the stabilization and sustainable development of Afghanistan in the years following the withdrawal of international troops. At the same time, we welcome increased regional dialogue among India, China, and Russia, each with an interest to see Afghanistan stabilize, so that the region’s agenda of economic cooperation can be fully realized.

With that, I thank you and look forward to your questions.



***********************************************************END***********************************************************

 

 

The Maulana Azad Academy,
New Delhi - February 21, 2013

 

Guests of Honor,

Secretary General Qasmi,

Distinguished Scholars,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

I am truly honored and humbled to share the stage with some of India’s leading statesmen and scholars to remember and remind ourselves of the legacy of the great Maulana Azad. I would like to thank the Maulana Azad Academy for organizing this major International Seminar on the legacy of an eminent personality, and for inviting me to be a part of it.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Last November here in Delhi, HE President Karzai gave a lecture on “A Maulana for Our Times.” The President eloquently highlighted some of Maulana Azad’s notable lifetime achievements, which reflected the challenges and tribulations of the era in which he lived, led by example, and spearheaded a principled, just struggle to achieve greater peace, harmony, and prosperity in the whole Subcontinent.

 

Through multiple roles as a writer, poet, educator, theologian, politician, and a shrewd diplomat, Maulana Azad promoted and strove to instill in the societal mindset such timeless values as humanism, unity, tolerance, and co-existence.

 

He understood and interpreted religion—as it is divinely intended—to be a guide for humanity to internalize the above values and to lead a life infused with moral virtues, compassion towards one another, and self-restraint against harming others. Maulana Azad embodied these values in his lifetime struggle for the freedom and independence of India, a legacy that will live on and is frequently celebrated, as we do today.

 

Indeed, Maulana Azad did not just preach. But he employed the medium of education as a non-violent means to mobilize, organize, and prepare people towards achievement of institutionalized peace, freedom, pluralism, and democracy in the Subcontinent. He firmly believed that if this were achieved, every citizen’s rights—regardless of race, creed, or color of skin—would be automatically ensured and protected.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

The thirst for acquiring literacy and education has never been as widespread in our plural, diverse society for the same reasons and causes, which Maulana Azad championed. I am delighted to tell you that Afghanistan is one of the key beneficiaries of Maulana Azad’s legacy. The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), which Maulana Azad founded, enables hundreds of Afghans each year to acquire education in different fields across India.

 

The education, which young Afghan men and women have obtained in India over the past 11 years, is directly strengthening the institutions of democracy, while fueling Afghanistan’s economic growth. At the same time, educating young Afghans in India has brought our peoples even closer to one another, in the spirit of the vision of Maulana Azad, who vehemently opposed social distance, disunity, or division.

 

I have no doubt that the many interactions Afghan students have with young Indians immensely contribute to mutual cultural understanding, as well as to an awareness of our two nations’ many commonalities and shared interests. This should naturally offset the effects of artificial barriers promoted and propagated by the self-defeating forces of radicalism and extremism—which the absolute majority of the Subcontinent peoples reject.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

I think one of the key legacies of Maulana Azad is his utter rejection of using religion as an “instrument of political power and not what it is—a value system meant for transformation of human soul.” Failure to heed this timeless and universal legacy has already affected the stability and prosperity of our region. In turn, this has prevented the unlocking of the vast human and natural resources potential of the Subcontinent to ensure prosperity for all.

 

Indeed, the consequences of neglecting his legacy are clear in the twin problems of extremism and terrorism that unfortunately find institutional support in our region. Terrorist attacks in the name of religion continue to kill and maim dozens of innocent civilians in Afghanistan and the region. Indeed, this is a manifestation of what Maulana Azad had warned about to come, if Islam were used to promote political and strategic goals in the region. This directly runs counter to the teachings of the Holy Quran and deeds of Prophet Muhammad (PBU), which the great “Maulana Azad for Our Times,” frequently made clear.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Let me conclude by saying that at no time is the legacy of Maulana Azad worth revisiting as much as now to address the many challenges confronting our region. I look forward to the insights of other distinguished speakers into the legacy of Maulana Azad, and wish you a very successful Seminar in the next couple of days.

 

Thank you.