Originally published on December 11, 2017 ,  Governance Now

 

“We want India to support us on the security front also”

 

(Photo: Arun Kumar)
(Photo: Arun Kumar)

 

Close on the heels of the new US policy towards Afghanistan, India gave a new meaning to its strategy towards the country when it took the Chabahar route to supply wheat to the insurgency-hit landlocked nation. In conversation with Shankar Kumar, Afghanistan ambassador Shaida Mohammad Abdali talks about these developments and praises India’s effort for peace in the region. He also subtly lashes out at China for its OBOR initiative in the disputed areas (read Pakistan-held Kashmir). Edited excerpts: 

How do you see India-Afghanistan relationship in the fast changing geopolitical situation of South Asia?

Afghanistan-India relationship is on a high trajectory. At any given time, it is only growing; its foundation is very strong; it is exceptional; it has a broad spectrum of engagement -- from politics to economy to trade to security and others. Given the geopolitics of the region and fast changing global scenario, India is taking centre stage of the development. It is not just engaging with Afghanistan, but also with [other] nations of the region and beyond for the safety and security of the region. India is no longer a small power, it is a major power and we want continuance of its leadership in the region for its benefit.

Recently, India sent wheat to Afghanistan through Iran’s Chabahar port, bypassing Pakistan. Do you think this has sent a strong message to Pakistan?

Absolutely, the development sent a sound message to Pakistan that anyone can delay development but cannot stop it. For the past 14 years, Afghanistan has been trying its best for an alternative route for trade and commerce. Luckily, India offered an answer to Afghanistan’s quest for that alternative through Iran. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want Pakistan to become a route for our trade and commerce [with the outside world]. We want the whole region to be well connected so that anyone can take benefit out of it. But it can’t be achieved without cooperating sincerely with each other and without fighting terrorism. We have always been asking all our neighbours including Pakistan that we should focus on building relationship in a way that it brings peace and stability everywhere in the region. Therefore for us, to work in multiple ways to achieve peace in the region is a goal, but unfortunately the situation in the region is such that even trade and commerce have become hostage to terrorism, sponsored, given space and used for political purposes [by Pakistan]. It [terrorism] will benefit none. It is dangerous, which has hurt everyone including Pakistan. 

In order to achieve peace in Afghanistan, would Kabul engage with the Taliban?

Afghanistan has a roadmap for peace in the country. It has a peace process based on conditions. We have always put forward those conditions. We like to resolve the problem politically; we don’t want war, rather war has been imposed on us. Afghanistan has been compelled to defend its interests. We want this conflict to end through political settlement and hope that Pakistan genuinely cooperates with Afghanistan’s peace process and the Taliban are presented to the table for negotiations. Afghanistan has peace and reconciliation mechanism in place. Yet the main reason for the lack of move on peace front is the lack of political will to resolve terrorism in the region.

That means Kabul will not compromise with its conditions while engaging with the Taliban?

Not at all. You see, our constitution whose acceptability also forms part conditions for talks, incorporates aspirations of all Afghan nationals. It is based on Islamic values. Therefore, there is no question of anyone objecting to it. Yes, it is manmade constitution. But it is open to an amendment for which there is a certain laid down procedure.

Has any overture been made in the recent past for talks with the Taliban?

It is an ongoing process. Individual contact [between Taliban leaders and Afghan government officials] has always been there, but frankly speaking, we have not been able to convince the parties involved for peace talks in the country.

That means you are not seeing any breakthrough coming on the peace front?

We have not given up hope. But it depends on the other side also. Afghanistan is deep in a situation which can’t be resolved unless Pakistan supports it. Pakistan has to wholeheartedly support the Afghan peace process.

Recently, Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai said that ISIS has made its presence felt inside the landlocked nation. Is it true?  

You see, it [ISIS] is an additional phenomenon. Terrorism is manifested in a number of ways; in a number of names and we hear about 20 terror groups’ presence [inside Afghanistan]. So ISIS is part of a group or system that is involved in terrorist activity. This is a new phenomenon and that’s why we have said that Afghanistan’s problem is a global phenomenon as such requires global action. Terrorism in this part of the world has state support. Therefore, it can be resolved only when there is genuine support [for the move] at the state level.

While outlining his government’s policy towards Afghanistan in August, US president Donald Trump said India should support Afghanistan on the security front also. Do you agree?

Sure. Afghanistan has a multifaceted relationship with India, but it is largely in economic and civil areas. A country has potential in one area and others have in other areas. India is so far helping us in the infrastructure sector and capacity building. But no cooperation is excluded from a package of assistance. We want India to support us on the security front also.

How do you view the new US administration’s policy toward Afghanistan?

There is much more clarity in the US strategy towards Afghanistan. The Trump administration has rightfully asked India to do more for Afghanistan because of its close relations with Kabul and because of the goodwill that exists between the two countries. Hence, the new US policy towards Afghanistan is clearer than the previous strategy. But we would like that the US strategy is implemented at political, economic and security level to make it complete.   

Have you sought supply of more helicopters and weapons from India?

There is a joint security group between the two countries which meets regularly. They do talk based on their priorities. India has supplied us with four helicopters. We have sought more. India has agreed on a range of issues, including help in availing spare parts for helicopters.

Is India also involved in providing training to Afghanistan’s defence personnel?

Yes, India is providing training to Afghanistan’s military personnel. So far, 4,900 Afghan defence personnel have been trained in India. Currently, 300 personnel are undergoing training in India.

China shares boundary with Afghanistan and hence wants peace to prevail in the landlocked country. But despite strong relationship with Pakistan, China has not been able to leverage its influence on Islamabad in curbing sponsored terrorism. Your comment?

Yes, we want China to leverage its influence on Pakistan, given that Beijing has a direct stake in Afghanistan’s peace and stability. Not only it shares boundary with Afghanistan but also has investments in the country. Therefore, if spillover effect of Afghanistan’s instability hits South Asian countries it will equally hit China.

In which area has China made investments?

China has made investments in coal mines and iron ores of Afghanistan. But so far no [extraction] work took place because of the prevailing security situation there. Nonetheless, we want Afghanistan to become a place for positive engagement.  

What’s your stand on China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative?

Afghanistan has always sought goodwill [from other countries]. For the sake of economic development, Afghanistan has been advocating for peace and seeking cooperation from the countries of the region. Afghanistan successfully finalised the Chabahar port because of this [economic development]. We also want any initiative to be a kind of tool which doesn’t exclude anyone out of economic prosperity. We hope for comprehensive approach to all activities, including business and trade.

For years, Afghanistan requested Pakistan for a transit route for supply of goods from India. Unfortunately, Pakistan has not been cooperating. Hence, there comes our stand that unless we take everyone along, whatever initiatives we put forward, they will not achieve success. Trust is pre-requisite to any trade and commerce at regional or global level. Therefore, it is important that trade and business should not be used as political tool for any purpose, especially where there is dispute and tension. 

 

 

Originally published on Nov 26, 2017 ,  Diplomacy & Beyond

 

“India Has A Substantial Role To Play In Afghanistan”

 

India substantial role play Afghanistan
Hon. Ambassador of Afghanistan to India, Shaida Mohammad Abdali

In an interview with Diplomacy & Beyond, Ambassador of Afghanistan to India, Shaida Mohammad Abdali, shares his vision on the issues related with furthering of relationship between India and Afghanistan. He also talks about the works undergoing between both nations in the fields of trade, investment, education and infrastructure development. Here are the edited excerpts…

 


His Excellency, India and Afghanistan have long shared bilateral relations in the fields of economy, trade and culture. How do you see this deep relationship acting as a constant tie that binds both nations in a close knit?

It’s a very special relationship. The bonding invites lots of attention from both sides. The foundation for developing strategic relations with the rest of the world, post Taliban era, began with India. Post-Taliban, India immediately offered help to build Afghanistan’s infrastructure, roads, schools, computerisation, and training of different institutions. Common interests and consistent high level visits from the two sides have further strengthened the bilateral relations. India has played a significant role in bringing peace to Afghanistan. This has been much appreciated by the countries across the world. No one can shy away from the fact that India has a substantial role to play, along with world powers such as the US, in development of Afghanistan. We are extremely grateful, India has done a lot.

Salma Dam, or officially known as India-Afghanistan Friendship Dam is landmark construction project by India and Afghanistan. What are your views in terms of benefiting the local people of Herat; supplying more power to the region and to strengthening the existing friendship between the nations?

It is a signatory project that is one of the largest infrastructure development projects in Afghanistan. Its work had begun sometime long back that shows how a project that was inaugurated decades back wasn’t given upon even after many years getting passed. Over $200 million were spent on this project. Not only electricity, locals can also avail irrigation benefits from the Salma Dam. In fact during our Foreign Minister’s visit to India in mid-September
both countries agreed on ‘New Development Partnership’ and in this context, as per the priorities and request of the Government and the people of Afghanistan both sides agreed to take up 116 High Impact Community Development
Projects to be implemented in 31 provinces of Afghanistan including in the areas of education, health, agriculture, irrigation, drinking water, renewable energy, flood control, micro-hydropower, sports infrastructure and administrative
infrastructure.

The bilateral trade between India and Afghanistan is strong and growing in spite of many difficulties. Despites no direct land access, India is the secondlargest destination for Afghan exports. In this regard, what more prospects do you see in Indo- Afghan bilateral trade?

The potential is huge. We are on a high trajectory and aim at much higher trade levels than what are at present. We continue to trade with India, but the route that passes through Pakistan is not very reliable. Therefore, we have been working on alternate routes such as Chabahar port. We are very much focusing on such regional routes so as to increase the bilateral trade. Once it is fully operationalised, the trade volume will rise. At the end of September, Afghanistan-India Business Summit was organized and we have a number of other initiatives in focus, given the current environment.

Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s visit to Afghanistan in December 2015 and Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani’s visit to India in September 2016 are landmarks in the history of Afghanistan-India relation. How do you see these visits are further strengthening the India-Afghanistan relations?

Since being elected as prime minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi has visited Afghanistan twice. It clearly shows how strategically the bilateral relationship is poised. In fact, last time he was in Afghanistan he inaugurated new Afghan Parliament built by India in Kabul. In short, I can say, the future of this alliance is very bright.

India is a favorite destination for aspiring Afghan students to pursue higher education. What more can
both nations do in order to promote the existing ties in education sector?

Human resource is the most fundamental need of any nation today. Given Afghanistan’s scenario, at present, where it is undergoing reconstruction, good human resource is much needed. India, in context of helping Afghans attain education, has done a praiseworthy work. For any country to develop fast, it primarily needs education. In rough fi gures, around 60,000 Afghan students have graduated from India so far. We are very appreciative of India for this particular assistance. For a country such as Afghanistan that has around sixty percent of its youth under 25 years, India’s help in education sector is immense. His Excellency, in Afghanistan, thousands of Indian people are working in reconstructing the infrastructure in various sectors. On the other hand, India is home to millions of Afghan origin people as well Afghan nationals living in different parts of India.

How do you see Indian and Afghan diaspora serving as a strong thread in strengthening bilateral and cultural relations between the countries?

Foundation of the relationship between two nations is based on people-to-people contact either via trade or education sector. Further deepening of contact can be achieved through increased movement of students on both sides of the border. Youngsters in both nations can be ambassadors of this alliance worldwide. Not only will this help in development of Afghanistan but help in strengthening of the bilateral relations as well.

What is your message for the readers of Diplomacy and Beyond?

My message is that all should work towards enlightening people about the long standing relationship between the two nations. The media have a big role to play in this regard by focusing on the very foundation of the association. It should be achieved by writing about the old ties which are alive till today, and analyzing what values we share. It will be a colossal service towards strengthening this bond.

 

 

Originally published on ,  CNN News 18

 

Trump's New Afghan Strategy 'Comprehensive One', Says Afghan Ambassador to India

 

 

 

Remarks

By Ambassador Abdali

 

India-Afghanistan Culture Week Festival

29th November, 2017

New Delhi

H.E Dr Mahesh Sharma, Minister of Culture, India  

H.E Prof. M. Rasool Bawari

Excellences, Ambassadors of Friendly Countries

Distinguished Scholars, Lecturers

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

The Embassy of Afghanistan in New Delhi is honored to inaugurate the first India-Afghanistan Cultural week Festival in the presence of a distinguished audience, and cultural elites from both India and Afghanistan in Gandahara Hall, which was recently inaugurated by the Afghan President. We are also glad to have scholars with us today from different universities of Afghanistan and India to commemorate the eternal relations between India and Afghanistan. I welcome you all to this festival.

Distinguished Scholars,

One of the most ancient and epic phenomenas of India which is reputed globally, the Mahabharata which contains the practices of residents of Bharat or ancient India at the first step and includes the neighboring regions at the second step.

This epic phenomena is the interpretation and spiritual nature of the human kind itself which is struggling in a numerous scenes of life, pays fruitful efforts in some and vice versa in others. Mahabharata is a fight and struggle between two sides which carries out the first stage to the peak and the violent ending, defeat and failures for both at the end. 

What we have learnt from Mahabharata, Ramayana and etc is the man made understandings and equality while this is what we haven’t been able to practice most of the times.  East, as per Alama Eqbal is stuck into its own captivity and can’t read its glorious image in the past to bring out a specific interpretation as its guide and teacher for the life, and step forward to the future under its shadow.

We Afghans, who have continuously been part of the Eastern history are indeed honored and proud of being merged into the history with today’s most nations in Asia and have paid joint efforts in various parts of our lives. One of these efforts is building up civilizations in Asian countries such as India, Iran and Central Asia. Throughout the Vedic, Buddhist and finally Bakhtari civilizations, we have historical relations with ancient India and modern India, and the historical and epic phenomenas witness these relations.

Distinguished friends

Throughout recent 1,400 years, two cultures and two nations have had various joint destinies and these commonalities have indisputable relations with our spiritualties. 

Travel of thousands of scholars to and from Ghazni, Balkh, Kandahar, Hari or Herat, Farbyab, Badakhshan and Seestan explains the strength of our relations with India and its other mythological aspects.

Abu Rayhan-Al-Bironi, who traveled to India from Ghazna and his acquaintance to Indian culture and religion made us understand each other, get to know each other’s countries, spiritualties and finally each other’s strength and weakness, and Al-Beroni, the elite of Ghazna was able to do it easily. He wrote a book named as Ma Lalhind or Hindustan which has obtained its value throughout the years and is one of the most significant resources for the scholars of India and the world.

The true Sufis and mystics make an important subject of today’s discussion who have left their vital role in regards to our spiritual relations. The mystics such as Soharwardi, Roshania or  Roshanian, Cheshti, Naqshbandi as well as Indian mystics and their efforts such as Bakti Movement, Guru Nanak Teachings and thousands of other movements caused us to live in a spiritual and close coordination, and convey the illustrious lessons of spirituality along with the human kind values to each other, listen to them and present them with whatever we have.  These voices were of unity and honesty which is still prominent from Punjab to Gulbarga-and from Ajmir to Delhi and Bengal.

Poets and admirers make another important segment of this relationship which has made India and Afghanistan associated in their valuable written works. Amir Khusraw Delhlawi Balkhi, Abul Ma’ani Mirza Abdul Qadir Bedil and thousands of other Dari Persian names, as well as Bayazeed Roshan, Khushal Khan Khatak, Hamid Mashokhail and Kazim Shaida in Pashto are the everlasting names in literature who are the pride of India and Afghanistan. Khusraw, Bedil and Bayazeed Roshan and Khusal Khatak are the live examples who are playing the role of a bridge for the current and future generations, and were able to get their caravans from the heart of India towards Balkh, Bukhara, Kandahar, Herat and even Asfahan to join the great voice of Maulana Balkhi who say:

کز نیستان تا مرا ببریده‌اند        وز نفیرم مرد و زن نالیده‌اند

Distinguished Guests

And finally, in today’s world, Indians and Afghans have been two Asian countries whose joint fight against British empire’s cultural and political captivity and domination is known to all.  Living in a joint cultural stronghold, these people were able to leave permanent memories and art to their future generations. If, from the one side Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghafar Khan (Frontier Gandhi) held the invincible sword of non-violence and fought against colonialism; on the other side, Rabindranath Tagore combined both the nations writing the everlasting novel “Kabuliwala”.

Kabuliwala plays the best role portraying the feelings of Indians and Afghans towards each other and has brought up another piece of description of the joint literature and cultural aspects of the two nations in 20th century.

Today, our cultural relations are to the extent that is rare throughout the history of the world, as you distinguished scholars will surely shed light on it today, and this is the responsibility of our generation to thrive and further boost these relations using the existing educational and cultural facilities, and events such as today. Here, I would like to acknowledge with deep appreciation the cooperation of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), The Afghan Ministry of Culture and Information and the India-Afghanistan Foundation for making today’s event happen. I very much hope that we will continue with such joint academic and cultural events in the future.

I thank you once again for your presence and wish you a very productive day!

Originally published on Nov 26, 2017 ,  Economic Times

 

Afghan envoy on Chabahar, 'Quad' revival, India's big ICJ win and more | Economic Times