REMARKS BY

THE AMBASSADOR OF AFGHANISTAN TO INDIA

H.E. SHAIDA M. ABDALI

AT

2013 GREEN CARPET PREMIERE “FRONTIER GANDHI

 

 

 

 

LEH-INDIA

SEPTEMBER 14, 2013

 

 

Mr. Anand Sahay,

Ms. Teri McLuhan,

Mr. Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

First of all, please allow me to extend my sincere gratitude to the organizers of this magnificent event, and for graciously inviting me to be a part of this unforgettable experience. I too wish to thank Ms. Teri McLuhan for putting so much dedicated effort into producing what has been an overdue documentary on “The Frontier Gandhi: Padshah Khan, a Torch for Peace.” I look forward with profound enthusiasm to viewing the documentary, and to learning from the lifetime achievements of a great man in the history of Afghanistan and the Subcontinent.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

“A Torch for Peace” captures the essence of what Khan Abdul Ghafar Khan shared with the non-violence philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi against colonial oppression, as well as all forms of ethno-sectarian prejudice. His moral struggle for furthering the cause of peace and co-existence transcended the man-made boundaries of nationality, race, religion, ethnicity, culture, or language. He saw these boundaries more as a bridge that should cement the human kind together towards pursuit of unity, peace, and prosperity for all.

As you know, Khan Abdul Ghafar Khan and Mahatma Gandhi lived and led by example, as did Prophet Mohammed (PBU), who promoted religious tolerance and social justice against all forms of extremism that undermined the universality of values that distinguish humans as the rational and logical creation of the Almighty from the rest of his creation devoid of such endowments. And in this selfless struggle for the good of all humans of his time and region, “the Frontier Gandhi” made many sacrifices, which the documentary amply illustrates.

However, he was not alone in his dedicated endeavors. He had acquired the grassroots support, commanding a large, dedicated following of people across ethno-sectarian and gender landscape, who stood by Padshah Khan, as he spread the message of his non-violent struggle for freedom from fear, freedom from exploitation, and freedom from colonization and subjugation. His message was so powerful that it resonated well with other visionary, selfless leaders of his time, especially Mahatma Gandhi, who not only endorsed the non-violent call of Padshah Khan for peace and co-existence but morally supported him.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The legacy of Padshah Khan remains instructive, as the countries of our region strive to address the challenges confronting our nations. Despite separation of our nations by artificial boundaries, the common problems facing us as humankind increasingly render man-made constructs irrelevant and obsolete. Indeed, the changing trends of our global village require the governments in our region to operate well above their narrowly defined interests.

Of course, what happens in Afghanistan affects people in Pakistan and affects people in India alike, and vice versa. We see this pattern in the problems of extremism and terrorism that commonly destabilize each of our three countries and thereby the whole region. In turn, regional instability harms the common interests of our three nations, however, each separately seeking security, peace and prosperity, which they cannot attain on their own.

To address this dilemma, we must look back into the legacies of Mahatma Gandhi and the “Frontier Gandhi” for timeless guidance and inspiration. And this documentary helps remind us of how the leaders of today must work hand in hand to address the many challenges of our time and of our region, including radicalism, sectarianism, and prejudice that fuel instability everywhere.

Thank you.

Remarks

By

HE Shaida M. Abdali

Ambassador of Afghanistan to India

 

“2014: Way Ahead for India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan”

 

 

South Asian Free Media Association-India Chapter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Delhi, July 23, 2013

 

Excellencies,

Distinguished Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

First of all, I would like to thank the South Asian Free Media Association-India Chapter for organizing today’s timely seminar on a topic of great importance to all three countries, and to South Asia as a whole. Indeed, this is a prime example of the seminal role free media can and should play to promote substantive and results-oriented dialogue among key stakeholders in maintaining regional security, stability, and prosperity. And no countries other than Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan share a greater common interest in sincerely cooperating with one another to bolster and uphold peace in our region. This Seminar can further advance the consensus among our three countries that stability and prosperity in one country directly contribute to those of the other two and vice versa.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

We are fast approaching 2014, a pivotal year for Afghanistan and the region as a whole. Although physical transition is taking place in my country, it will have regional implications. And those implications entail both challenges and opportunities, which call for sincere, results-oriented cooperation throughout the region, particularly among our three countries. The one challenge that worries us all is how to work together to ensure regional stability, following the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan. If we begin addressing this challenge now, we should be able to benefit from the many opportunities that would naturally flow from a stable Afghanistan in the post 2014 period.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

The new democratically elected government of Pakistan under the visionary leadership of HE Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has taken initial, bold steps towards honest cooperation with Afghanistan and India. The Afghan people and government welcome with great optimism the Prime Minister’s call for a new policy that sees the end of interference in the Afghan affairs now and beyond 2014.

 

To that end, this past Sunday, HE Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, visited Kabul, and delivered an invitation from HE Prime Minister Sharif to HE President Hamid Karzai to visit Pakistan. The President accepted the invitation “in principle,” however, asked that a substantive agenda with specific objectives on supporting the peace process and effectively fighting terrorism be prepared, before the visit could take place.

 

HE Foreign Minister Dr. Zalmai Rasool also met with HE Aziz and expressed our hope to make considerable progress with the new government of Pakistan in all areas, including in the fight against terrorism and extremism and the networks and systems supporting them. HE Aziz offered to use his country’s influence and contacts with the Taliban, in support of the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. This is a welcome offer of assistance, which Afghanistan had been seeking. The two sides also      emphasized the importance of expanding transit trade, a following a meeting of the Coordinating Authority to address issues related to the Afghanistan and Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement (APTTA).

 

Indeed, achieving substantive results in the above areas of mutual concern and interest will directly contribute to HE Prime Minister Sharif’s other objectives. A peaceful, stable Afghanistan will create markets for Pakistani products and skilled labor, while allowing energy pipelines, such as the TAPI pipeline, to be built across Afghanistan, providing Pakistan and India with energy to fuel their booming economies. And the many cross-country investments towards regional economic cooperation will raise the stature of Pakistan with the international community. When this happens, the image of Pakistan will globally improve away from frequent association of the country with negative perceptions.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

We too welcome HE Prime Minister Sharif’s commitment to reviving the Composite Dialogue with India. The two countries have vast human and economic potential, which can and should be unlocked to benefit their respective nations, as well as the rest of the region. Both countries realize that making substantive progress towards normalization of bilateral relations with a focus on economic cooperation will go a long way in ensuring regional stability and prosperity.

 

The Afghan government and people have consistently called for good neighborly relations. From decades of imposed war and destruction, we know that the pursuit of zero-sum designs would help no nation in our region, except creating further mistrust and suspicion that often lead to conflict, misery, and human suffering that have beset our region for too long.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Many countries led by the United States have made vital contributions towards institutionalization of peace, democracy, and freedom in Afghanistan. They have lost thousands of their military forces and hundreds of their civilian workers in order to maintain international peace and security, which was compromised on 9/11. Twelve years on, with continued international aid, the Afghan people have made significant progress towards their aspiration for a peaceful, democratic, and self-reliant country free from the dark forces of extremism and terrorism.

 

Let me assure you against the 2014 myth of Afghanistan falling apart after the withdrawal of NATO forces from our country. On June 18th, we took over from NATO the complete leadership and ownership of all military operations across Afghanistan. The Afghan people have welcomed this last phase of security transition, with a positive impact on security conditions in all areas which have come under the protection of the Afghan forces.

 

We welcome the appropriate role, which NATO has adopted: to train, advise, and equip our strong 350,000 force, ready and willing to defend our country against any state-or non-state aggression. As the press frequently reports, our forces daily frustrate the enemy’s complex terrorist attacks on civilians in Afghanistan.

 

Parallel to the security transition, the Afghan government is striving to ensure the success of our democratic political transition process through implementation of a legitimate presidential election next year on April 5, 2014. This past week, HE President Karzai signed into major law electoral reforms on the structure and appointments of the Independent Election Commission to dispel any concerns about fairness of the electoral process.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

As I recently said, the implications of winning in Afghanistan through regional cooperation are quite clear: a sovereign Afghanistan at peace internally and at peace with others focused on win-win objectives towards a region where every nation would be secure and prosper through economic cooperation. This is the world in which we live today, a world which is increasingly interdependent and where zero-sum goals have proven a failure and a disaster. Sincere, results-oriented cooperation is the call of our peoples in the region and beyond, and Afghanistan stands ready to do our part for the good of all.

 

In the post 2014 period, we look forward to working with India and Pakistan to deepen regional cooperation towards achievement of our common objectives.  We hope that the new government in Pakistan will soon begin delivering on its new foreign policy objectives to engage constructively with its neighbors. This must begin with a firm recommitment to facilitating the Afghan-led peace process to end the war in Afghanistan, paving the way for meaningful regional economic cooperation.

 

At the same time, we renew our call on the international community to stay the course in Afghanistan. Our gains of the past 12 years should be consolidated through implementation of win-win objectives, which have been outlined in the Bonn, Chicago, and Tokyo Conferences, as well as through regional initiatives such as the Istanbul Process.

 

Thank you.

 

***END***

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.